Basil Johnston


"This absolutely riveting, partly because of the wonderful oral nature of Johnston's writing here, and partly because it is told from a native point of view."
The Globe and Mail

"As Dave McLeod and his family struggle in the constant battle of assimilation, of maintaining a unique culture, of finding work outside the reserve, with language and inter-marriage at the focal points, Johnston holds true to his notion that Dave can be read as a symbol of larger problems in society...Crazy Dave is an anecdote to all those blockbuster titles about the rich and famous."
The Toronto Star

Key Porter CAN/99
Minnesota Historical Society Press/US/2002


A Memoir

This is the story of Rosa McLeod and her son David. Life didn't hand them many miracles. Born in 1876, she was the daughter of a proud Native tradition, a Pottawatomi Indian whose grandmother had fled Wisconsin with others in the 1830s to seek sanctuary with the Ojibway further north in what became Canada.

David, her youngest son, suffered from Down's Syndrome, called variously mentally retarded or "Mongoloid."

Through the lives of these two impoverished and marginalized souls we see how they fit in the larger world of the Indian reservation and the country during the two World Wars. We also see bravery, laughter, love and outrageous injustice

In one heartbreaking episode, David, dressed in the remnants of a soldier's uniform, given to him by his older brothers, becomes lost in a neighboring Canadian town during WWII. Speaking no language intelligible to the drunken louts in the tavern, David is mistaken for an invading Japanese spy, and is shackled beaten and jailed. The absurdity makes you laugh and the injustice makes you weep.

Basil Johnston, the distinguished and much honored Native author and scholar offers a portrait of life on the Cape Croker Indian Reserve through the experiences of his grandmother Rosa, his unfortunate Uncle David, and their neighbors and tormentors that will amuse, enrage, illuminate and inspire.

Basil Johnston is the author of eight books, the recipient of the Order of Ontario, an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto. He lived at the Cape Croker Reserve until his death in 2015.