Richard Wagamese

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Richard Wagamese
Richard Wagamese at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival in 2013
Wagamese at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival in 2013
Native name
Mushkotay Beezheekee Anakwat (Buffalo Cloud)
Born(1955-10-14)October 14, 1955
Minaki, Ontario, Canada
DiedMarch 10, 2017(2017-03-10) (aged 61)[1]
Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Occupationnovelist, poet, television writer
GenreFirst Nations literature[2]
Notable worksIndian Horse
Notable awardsBurt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature (2013)

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955 – March 10, 2017) was a Canadian author and journalist. An Ojibwe from the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in northwestern Ontario,[3] he was best known for his 2012 novel Indian Horse, which won the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature in 2013, was a competing title in the 2013 edition of Canada Reads, and was adapted into a feature length film in 2017.[4]


Wagamese described his first home in his essay "The Path to Healing" as a tent hung from a spruce bough.[2] He and his three siblings, abandoned by adults on a binge drinking trip in Kenora, left the bush camp when they had run out of food and sheltered at a railroad depot. Found by a policeman, he would not see his family again for 21 years.[5] He later described the adults in his family. "Each of the adults had suffered in an institution that tried to scrape the Indian out of their insides, and they came back to the bush raw, sore and aching."[2] His parents, Marjorie Wagamese and Stanley Raven, had been among the many native children who, under Canadian law, were removed from their families and forced to attend certain government-run residential schools, the primary purpose of which was to separate them from their native culture.[6]

After being taken from his family by the Children's Aid Society, he was raised in foster homes in northwestern Ontario before being adopted, at age nine, by a family that refused to allow him to maintain contact with his First Nations heritage and identity.[7] Of this experience he wrote: "The wounds I suffered went far beyond the scars on my buttocks."[2] He was moved to St. Catharines, Ontario. The beatings and abuse he endured in foster care led him to leave home at 16,[5] seeking to reconnect with indigenous culture.[8] Then, he lived on the street, abusing drugs and alcohol, and was imprisoned several times.[5] Wagamese was an intergenerational Survivor of Residential Schools.[9]

He reunited with his family at age 23. After recounting his life to this point, an elder gave him the name Mushkotay Beezheekee Anakwat – Buffalo Cloud – and told him his role was to tell stories.[2]

Later, he lived outside Kamloops, British Columbia,[1] and was granted an honorary doctorate from the city's Thompson Rivers University in 2010.[10] Wagamese was married and divorced three times and had two sons.[2]

Wagamese died on March 10, 2017 at his home in Kamloops, British Columbia.[11]


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.

Richard Wagamese, [5]

In 1979 Wagamese began his first job as a newspaper author, working at New Breed, a First Nations publication.[11] He later worked as a writer for the Calgary Herald.[10] He won a National Newspaper Award for writing in 1991.[12] He won the Native American Press Association Award twice and won the National Aboriginal Communications Society award for his work as a newspaper writer. His newspaper columns can be found in The Terrible Summer publication.[9] Wagamese stopped working full-time in journalism in 1993 but continued to write as a freelance journalist for publications such as the Globe and Mail.[11]

His debut novel Keeper 'n Me was published in 1994.[13] The book was co-winner with Roberta Rees's Beneath the Faceless Mountain of the Georges Bugnet Award for Novel at the 1995 Writers' Guild of Alberta's Alberta Literary Awards gala.[14]

He has since published five other novels, a book of poetry, and five non-fiction books, including two memoirs and an anthology of his newspaper writings,.[1] He also wrote for the television series North of 60.[5]

In 2012 he was given an Indspire Award as a representative of media and communications.[15] In 2012 he also served as the Harvey Stevenson Southam Guest Lecturer in journalism at the University of Victoria. In 2013, he won the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize and the inaugural Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature.[9] Other awards include Kouhi Award for outstanding contributions to the literature of Northwestern Ontario and In 2015 he received the Writers' Trust of Canada's Matt Cohen Award for his body of work.[16]

In the same year, Canada's Super Channel announced that it was funding a film adaptation of Indian Horse, to be directed by Stephen Campanelli and written by Dennis Foon.[17] Following Super Channel's filing for creditor protection, the film Indian Horse instead premiered theatrically at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.[18]

His final novel, Starlight, was published posthumously in 2018,[19] and a new collection of stories and non-fiction writings, One Drum, is slated for publication in 2019.[20]

Published works[edit]

Book Awards & Honours
Keeper'n Me. Anchor Canada. 1994. ISBN 978-0-385-66283-3.
The Terrible Summer. Warwick Publishing. 1996 ISSN 978-189569637
A Quality of Light. Doubleday Canada. 1997. ISBN 978-0-385-25606-3.
For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teachers His Son. Anchor Canada. 2003. ISBN 978-0-385-65953-6.
Dream Wheels. Anchor Canada. 2007. ISBN 978-0-385-66200-0. 2007 Canadian Authors Association MOSAID Technologies Inc. Award for Fiction[21]
One Native Life. Douglas & McIntyre. 2008. ISBN 978-1-55365-364-6. Included in The Globe and Mail's 2008 Top 100 Books of the Year
Ragged Company. Anchor Canada. 2009. ISBN 978-0-307-37263-5.
One Story, One Song. Douglas & McIntyre. 2011. ISBN 978-1-55365-506-0. 2011 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature[3]
The Next Sure Thing. Raven Books. 2011. ISBN 9781554699001.
Runaway Dreams. Ronsdale Press. 2011. ISBN 9781553801290.
Indian Horse. Douglas & McIntyre. 2012. ISBN 978-1-55365-402-5. 2013 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature[22] ; Shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award[9]
Him Standing. Orca Book Publishers LTD. 2013. ISBN 9781459801769.
Medicine Walk. McClelland & Stewart. 2014. ISBN 978-0-7710-8918-3. 2015 Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Award[23]
Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations. Douglas & McIntyre. 2016. ISBN 978-1-77162-133-5. 2017 Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award[24]
Starlight. McClelland & Stewart. 2018. ISBN 978-0771070846.
One Drum. Douglas & McIntyre. 2019.


  1. ^ a b c "Ojibway Author Richard Wagamese Dead at 61". CBC News. Archived from the original on March 28, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lederman, Marsha (March 25, 2017). "Ojibway Author Found Salvation in Stories". The Globe and Mail. p. S12. Archived from the original on March 28, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Indian Horse is a dark ride". Calgary Herald, February 28, 2012.
  4. ^ "Newfoundland novel wins Canada Reads". Toronto Star, February 15, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e Walker, Susan. "Stories That Heal". Literary Review of Canada. Archived from the original on March 29, 2017. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (March 20, 2017). "Richard Wagamese, Whose Writing Explored His Ojibwe Heritage, Dies at 61". New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2017. Print version March 27, 2017.
  7. ^ "Aboriginal author details his peace in series of essays". Winnipeg Free Press, February 19, 2011.
  8. ^ "Just like Canada, a strong marriage is built on equality". Calgary Herald, September 29, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d "Ojibway author Richard Wagamese dead at 61". CBC News. March 11, 2017. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Wagamese, Richard: Biography". WordFest. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c "Ojibway author Richard Wagamese found salvation in stories". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  12. ^ "Writer wins national honor". Calgary Herald, April 14, 1991.
  13. ^ "Travels with Raven `a rare pleasure'". Calgary Herald, February 26, 1994.
  14. ^ "Rees, Wagamese share novel win at Writers Guild of Alberta gala". Edmonton Journal, May 14, 1995.
  15. ^ "Indspire awards honour a community's leaders; Meet some of the leading lights of Canada's vibrant indigenous culture". The Province, February 27, 2012.
  16. ^ "Andre Alexis wins Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize". Telegraph-Journal, November 5, 2015.
  17. ^ "Super Channel Announces Projects Funded for Development". Broadcaster, September 14, 2015.
  18. ^ "Film adaptation of Richard Wagamese's novel Indian Horse to screen at VIFF 2017". The Georgia Straight, August 23, 2017.
  19. ^ "Richard Wagamese’s final novel ‘a captivating and ultimately uplifting read’". Toronto Star, August 10, 2018.
  20. ^ "Richard Wagamese's final book, One Drum, to be published in Oct. 2019". CBC Books, May 31, 2019.
  21. ^ "Wagamese wins Authors award for Dream Wheels". The Globe and Mail, May 7, 2007.
  22. ^ "Richard Wagamese". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  23. ^ "2015 Banff Mountain Book Competition Awards". Banff Centre. Archived from the original on March 29, 2017. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  24. ^ "Embers: One Ojibways's Meditations". Douglas & McIntyre (2013) Ltd.