Full disclosure here… I am a huge fan of Richard Wagamese! He could probably have written a book about the inside of a carburetor and I would have eaten it up. So, no surprise then, that I was thrilled to see a publication of a manuscript he was in the midst of writing before he died.
There is nothing that disappoints in his book One Drum except that he wasn’t able to bring it to a natural end. It is described as ‘Stories and Ceremonies for a Planet’ but it is more than that. In this awakening that is happening across our land with respect to the need and desire to understand the rich history our Indigenous ancestors have bestowed upon us, this book brings to life the ancient stories that have defined the indigenous way of being in the world. The artwork and photography that accompanies the teachings are breathtakingly beautiful! And, as an aside, it was comforting and delightful to hear the stories told again by instructors in the Indigenous Canada course sponsored by the University of Alberta.
Wagamese wrote about the struggles he had in his youth as a result of being raised away from his culture, subject to the abuses and cruelties that have become, unfortunately, commonplace for generations of Indigenous youth. He describes the wisdom of the elders that guided him on his healing journey, the slow, patient way they led him to discover his own truth. In his desire to share his healing experience with others, he was in the process of writing about the seven foundational teachings of the Ojibway Grandfathers; Humility, Courage, Respect, Love, Honesty, Truth and Wisdom. Before he died, he was able to share with us the background and the ceremonies ascribed to the first four.
Our modern society has become obsessed with self-help books and memoirs of people who have broken through dark times and moved into the light. Richard Wagamese has gifted us with a very small but exceedingly powerful Indigenous history book that is also a spiritual offering and a ‘self-help’ guide, if one should be inclined to listen to the intent of his words. I am not sure that I will ever be able to complete the ceremonies he describes, but the powerful intentionality of his words will resonate with me for a very long time.