Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

WIEBE, RUDY (b. 1934)

Canadian author Rudy Wiebe was born on October 4, 1934, near Fairholme, Saskatchewan, four years after his parents emigrated from Russia. Growing up in a German-speaking community, Wiebe did not learn English until he attended school.

Wiebe's best-known novels are set in the Canadian Prairies and explore the lives of Mennonites, his own people, as well as those of historic First Nations and Métis leaders and contemporary Canadians who struggle to understand their regional, cultural, and personal history. Peace Shall Destroy Many (1962) describes a community in Saskatchewan during World War II. The Blue Mountains of China (1970) traces the migrations of Mennonite refugees from Russia to China, South America, and Canada, where a contemporary Mennonite demonstrates his faith by carrying a cross beside the Prairie highway. In his next two novels, The Temptations of Big Bear (1973) and The Scorched-Wood People (1977), Wiebe focuses on events culminating in the 1885 rebellion that led to the arrests of Native leaders Big Bear and Poundmaker and to the execution of Louis Riel. The Temptations of Big Bear, which won the 1973 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, is often considered Wiebe's masterpiece. Among his other works are A Discovery of Strangers (1994), an epic novel about the first Franklin expedition into the Canadian Northwest, which also won a Governor General's Literary Award for fiction; collections of short stories, including River of Stone: Fiction and Memories (1995); a novella about Albert Johnson called The Mad Trapper (1980); a play about the Prairies called Far as the Eye Can See (1977); essays; and the autobiographical work, Playing Dead: A Contemplation Concerning the Arctic (1989), in which Wiebe meditates upon the power of stories to create identity and a sense of place.

Wiebe has taught English and creative writing at the University of Alberta since 1967. In 1987 he was awarded the Royal Society of Canada's Lorne Pierce Medal.

See also NATIVE AMERICANS: Big Bear / RELIGION: Mennonites.

Sherrill Grace University of British Columbia

Grace, Sherrill. "Western Myth and Northern History: The Plains Indians of Berger and Wiebe." Great Plains Quarterly 3 (1983): 146–56.

Van Toorn, Penny. Rudy Wiebe and the Historicity of the World. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1995.

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