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  1. Jon Whyte Bio read by Carole Harmon
  2. Ensemble Reading of "Minisniwapta" with Intro by Jon Whyte
  3. Full Lenght Reading of "Paley"

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Jon Whyte, Bard of Banff image
Jon Whyte, Bard of Banff image
Jon Whyte (1941-1992) was a Canadian author whose soul work was poetry but who also wrote books of history about his beloved Canadian Rockies. Unlike many Canadian artists who pursue more promising careers in America, Europe, or in academia, Jon Whyte chose to root his life and work in the Canadian west, its people and history, especially the mountains, and in particular the Bow Valley. He was born in Banff and lived most of his adult life in that small mountain community.

When Jon died in 1992 at age 50 his career as a writer was flourishing. He had been awarded the Writer’s Guild of Alberta’s Stephen Stephansson Award for Poetry in 1983 for Homage Henry Kelsey. His epic narrative poems, based on people and events, had been published and were in print. I mention this because this is sadly no longer true. Copies of some books may still be sourced on the internet, and of course through libraries.

Many of Jon’s poems were broadcast on radio by CBC, Alberta Anthologies, and performed at the Banff Centre of the Arts. Recordings of some of these programs are available in the Archives of Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, in the Jon Whyte fonds.

Jon was instrumental in igniting and spreading culture in Banff and the Bow Valley as manager of Banff Book and Art Den in its early days, in helping found Summerthought Publications, also in Banff, and as a long running columnist for the Banff rags: Summit News and Banff Crag and Canyon.
Jon was an environmental activist, acting as the town conscience on many topics in his column Where People and Mountains Meet. After Jon’s death a selection of these essays, compiled by Brian Patton, were published by Altitude Publishing as Mountain Chronicles.

Jon was a Board member, then Curator Of Heritage Collections at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies which was founded and endowed by his aunt, artist and philanthropist Catherine Robb Whyte.

In 2000 Red Deer Press published Jon Whyte: Mind Over Mountains, a compilation of Jon’s best known work, edited by Henry Vandervlist. Although no longer in print, copies may still be found online. In her remarkable foreword to Mind Over Mountains, Myrna Kostash, Jon’s friend and fellow writer, summed up Jon’s life and his early death most fittingly:

“Of all the people I know, Jon was the one who most hugely enjoyed his own life—books, friends, conversations, wordplay, dictionaries, food, treks, beasts, ghosts, lore—so much so that his joy spilled over into the lives of any who drew near him…he died too young, he deserved more time, he was hauled away in the middle of a thought, a passion, a meal, and we will never know what it was he was about to tell us, show us, summon us to…he would have made an extraordinary old man. Let us imagine him.”
A (not comprehensive) list for treasure hunters:
Three: 3, Charles Noble, J.O Thompson, Jon Whyte - Summerthought, 1973
The Agony of Mrs. Stone - Matrix Journal, 1977
Homage Henry Kelsey: A poem in five parts - Turnstone Press, 1981
Gallimaufry - Longspoon Press, 1981
The Fells of Brightness Vol. 1: Some Fittes and Starts - Longspoon Press 1983
The Fells of Brightness Vol. 2: Wenkchemna - Longspoon Press,1985
The Fells of Brightness: Minisniwapta: Voices of the River - a poem for radio
Mind Over Mountains, a compilation of Jon’s most well known work, edited by Henry Vandervlist, 2000

Jon’s non-fiction books include:

Lake Louise, A Diamond in the Wilderness, with Carole Harmon, Altitude Publishing,1982
Rocky Mountain Madness: A Historical Miscellany, Jon Whyte and Edward Cavell, Altitude Publishing, 1982 (still in print in a smaller format with black-and-white images)
Indians in the Rockies, Altitude Publishing, 1985
Carl Rungius: Painter of the Western Wilderness, Jon Whyte and E.J. Hart, Glenbow-Alberta Institute and Douglas & McIntyre, 1985

Bio written by Carole Harmon, 2022

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