Exclusive: Read an excerpt from Wab Kinew's upcoming memoir


CBC Books is excited to reveal the cover and an exclusive excerpt of Canada Reads host Wab Kinew's memoir, The Reason You Walk. The Reason You Walk chronicles the year 2012, when Wab's father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Kinew goes to Winnipeg to revisit his own childhood and travels to a reserve in Northern Ontario, where he discovers more about his father's past and his troubled upbringing in a residential school.

An excerpt from The Reason You Walk:

"If you have walked to the centre of the Sundance circle, then you will understand the beauty of what happens there.

How the leaves of the cottonwood shake in the breeze. How the prayer flags of every colour swing and sway from the branches. That a chorus of cicada can provide a soundtrack that fits so perfectly with the sweltering heat. How it feels to have hundreds of supporters standing on the edge of the circle watching you.

The hot sand was starting to burn my feet. The sun had burrowed deep into my skin, turning it a dark carmine-brown. The sweat, now dry, left a thin layer of salt on my body. We had been dancing and fasting in this circle since long before dawn.

Chiefs and headmen formed a procession walking to the south side of the arbor, where I stood.

They took my father's war bonnet from its perch and raised it to the sky. The dozens of eagle feathers splayed around the head dress like a halo, each telling the story of an act of valour. The intricate patterns of glass beads caught the light of the sun. The PA system crackled.

They brought the war bonnet down from the sky, and placed it on my head. War whoops and ululations rose up from those around the circle. They had made me a Chief.

The Sundance leader drew a treaty medallion from a box and placed it in my hands. He reminded me of the significance of the treaty relationship - the commitment to share the land with newcomers. I nodded and thanked him, surprised at how heavy the medal was in my hands.

My gaze turned to the earth. It had been two years since I was last here. I had strayed off the red road I had been taught to walk as a boy. I had turned my back on my father. I had hurt many people, including those closest to me.

As the son of a hereditary Chief, I had always known that I would someday rise to this rank. However, I assumed this day would come far in the future. Perhaps, after I had achieved something great. Instead, it came as I was at one of my lowest ebbs.

My community, my family and my father responded by giving me a second chance. That which was broken, they tried to make whole once again.

That day, more than a decade ago, marked a passing of the torch from Ndede - my father - to me. It was not the only time that he would pass something to me which I would commit to carry forward into the future.

In the last year of his life, my father would embark on a remarkable journey of hope, healing and, eventually, forgiveness.

More than any inheritance, more than any sacred item, more than any title, hope, healing and forgiveness form the legacy he left me to carry forward. His own life showed me that what we ought to do during our time on earth is to take that which has been broken, make it whole again and love one another.

This is at the heart of sacred ceremonies for Indigenous people. This is what we seek, no matter where we begin life.

This is the reason you walk."

From The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew ©2015. Published by Penguin Canada.