TRU president shares thoughts on passing of Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese, seen here on campus for the annual Storyteller’s Gala on Feb. 25, 2015. (FILE PHOTO)

Following the death of Richard Wagamese on March 10, TRU’s president Alan Shaver has shared a letter of remembrance with the TRU community.

I regret to share the news of the passing of nationally known novelist and TRU Honorary Degree recipient, Richard Wagamese (Buffalo Cloud), on March 10, 2017, at the age of 61.

Anishnaabe from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario, Richard was awarded a TRU honorary degree in 2010 in recognition of his award-winning career as a storyteller and author. Without the benefit of a formal education beyond Grade 9, he became the first Aboriginal Canadian to be honoured with a National Newspaper Award for his column with the Calgary Herald (1991).

Richard’s work has contributed to non-Aboriginal people’s understanding of the experiences of Aboriginal people from both a historical and a contemporary standpoint. During his 38-year career he published 13 works, including the acclaimed novel Indian Horse, which has been incorporated into the curricula of TRU and several other universities’ English courses. In 2015, he received the Matt Cohen Award from the Writers’ Trust of Canada in honour of his distinguished lifetime contribution to Canadian literature. He is also listed in Canadian Who’s Who.

Paul Michel, TRU Executive Director of Aboriginal Education, remembers how talented and accomplished Richard was. An inspirational, spiritual and dynamic storyteller who always shared his emotional truths as an Indigenous person in Canada, he had a magical, transcendent and powerful way of connecting with his audience. Many of his works so affected his listeners that they were motivated to learn about the profound effects of Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal peoples at residential schools.

Richard was always supportive of TRU, and his storytelling gifts will continue to resonate strongly within our hearts, minds and spirits. He was a mentor and role model for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike and volunteered at friendship centres, high schools, TRU and numerous other universities, promoting culture, identity and writing.

Richard invited me into his home and I got to know him as a warm and engaging person. In February 2015, I attended his featured talk at the TRUSU Storytellers Gala, and was transfixed and deeply moved by his life story. In January 2016, he spoke about Truth and Reconciliation at a talk hosted by Aboriginal Education. I was very sad to hear of his passing.

On behalf of the TRU community, I extend sincere condolences to Richard’s family and other loved ones, and to his friends and colleagues. A public celebration of Richard Wagamese’s life will be held on [Saturday, March 25th at the Irving K. Barber Centre from 11:30 am – 2:00 pm]. In Richard’s honour, the campus flags will be flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on March 25th, 2017.


Alan Shaver

President and Vice-Chancellor

Note: This article has been updated to reflect a change to the location and time of the memorial for Richard Wagamese.