In Memoriam: Hugh A. Dempsey (1929–2022)

The Heritage House team was sad to hear of the death of Hugh A. Dempsey, on May 24, 2022, in Calgary, Alberta. Hugh was 92 years old, a prolific author of more than twenty books, as well as a dedicated historian and researcher. He will be greatly missed.

Hugh was the associate director of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and later chief curator emeritus. He was the editor of the quarterly Alberta History (formerly Alberta Historical Review) for 60 years.

In a wonderful biography published in Alberta Views, Donald Smith called Hugh “the dean of Alberta historians.” He worked tirelessly as a researcher, editor, author, and archivist to collect and record the stories and history of the people of Alberta, particularly the First Nations from the region.

In 1950, Hugh attended the Indian Association of Alberta (IAA) convention as a reporter and met Pauline Gladstone. She was the daughter of IAA president and Blood tribe member James Gladstone. The pair fell in love and Hugh and Pauline married in 1953.

Hugh joined the Glenbow Foundation in Calgary in 1956, first as an archivist, then as curator/director from 1967–1991. Upon his retirement, he remained as a chief curator emeritus. Hugh was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1975. He received honorary degrees from the University of Calgary in 1974 and the University of Lethbridge in 2019.

Hugh began writing books about Indigenous topics, after listening to many stories shared at gatherings such as the IAA convention. His father-in-law, James Gladstone, was an invaluable ally as both a translator and community member, ensuring respect and appropriate protocols were followed. Hugh was made an honorary chief of the Kainai Blackfoot in 1967.

Hugh wrote more than 22 books and edited more than a dozen more. Many of his books were about the Blackfoot (Siksika) and Blood (Kainai) nations. Heritage House is honoured to have worked with Hugh on three of his books— Maskepetoon: Leader, Warrior, Peacemaker (2010), The Great Blackfoot Treaties (2015), and Napi: The Trickster (2018).