First Nations author Richard Wagamese dies

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      A celebrated Canadian First Nations novelist and former journalist has died in Kamloops.

      Richard Wagamese, an Ojibwe from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario, was 61.

      Recently, the B.C. Books Prizes announced that Wagamese was on the shortlist for the Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award for Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations.

      The prize will be presented on April 29 to the publisher and author of the "best book in terms of public appeal, initiative, design, and content".

      His 2012 novel Indian Horse won the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

      "I believe that storytelling in and of itself is a truly redemptive thing,” Wagamese told the Straight in 2012, “and it allows us to create the one story that is told forever about our time here.”

      Indian Horse was centred around a character named Saul Indian Horse, a former residential-school student, hockey enthusiast, and recovering alcoholic.

      Another of his books, One Story, One Song, won the 2011 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature.

      Wagamese spent part of his childhood in foster homes and was later adopted by a family that separated him from his Native heritage. Much of his writing in later years addressed the pain of separation within First Nations families, though in person he was cheerful and gracious.

      His first novel, For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son, was anchored by many aspects of his own life. 

      He never attended residential schools but he told Georgia Straight books critic David Chau in 2012 that his mother and his aunts and uncles were sent to them.

      "Richard Wagamese’s writing is exceptional not only for its sensitivity but for a warmth that extends beyond the page," Chau wrote at the time. "With a finely calibrated hand, he explores heritage, identity, nature, salvation, and gratitude in works that quietly celebrate storytelling’s vitality and power to transcend."

      Wagamese also wrote for the TV show North of 60. Prior to becoming a novelist was a journalist with the Calgary Herald, with his articles often appearing in the Vancouver Sun and other Southam publications of that era.

      In 2015 he was the recipient of the Matt Cohen Award from the Writers' Trust of Canada for his lifetime of work.