National Treasure #128: Richard Wagamese

I did not speak my first Ojibwa word or set foot on my traditional territory until I was twenty-six. I did not know that I had a family, a history, a culture, a source for spirituality, a cosmology, or a traditional way of living. I had no awareness that I belonged somewhere. – Wagamese, writing in Response, Responsibility and Renewal: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey

A toddler left in the bush with his siblings while his parents went on a drinking binge in Kenora, Richard Wagamese was abused in foster care, and adopted into a home that forbade him contact with his First Nations heritage.  He was on the street at 16, abusing drugs and alcohol and in and out of jail.  

Reconnecting with his family in 1978 and then with his Ojibwe community, he turned his life around, working as a print reporter and native affairs columnist.  In 1991, he won a National Newspaper Award for his column, the first Aboriginal person to do so.

Starting in 1994, he published 12 books and won several awards, most notably the 2013 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature for his novel, Indian Horse.


Thanks to Tom Watson for suggesting Richard Wagamese for this list.

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