Monday October 05, 2015

Wab Kinew: Aboriginal people 'finding our muscle,' but too many left behind

Wab Kinew's new memoir is The Reason You Walk.

Wab Kinew's new memoir is The Reason You Walk. ( Penguin Random House Canada)

Listen 27:31

In his new memoir, broadcaster Wab Kinew describes the pain and spiritual ecstasy of a sun dance. In a ritual called "piercing," he writes how wooden pegs are inserted into cuts in his back, and dragged attached to weights until they burst from the skin.

In The Reason You Walk, Kinew is not afraid to open past wounds. Some are as physical as the scars left by the sun dance -- and others are harder to pin down. He writes vividly of the abuse his father Tobasonakwut Kinew suffered in residential school -- and the distant, sometimes angry man Kinew knew growing up. 

Kinew tells As It Happens host Carol Off that he was inspired to reconnect with his father in 2012, when it was clear his father didn't have much time left:

"My father received a terminal diagnosis with cancer and I knew that our relationship all my life had been challenging. I decided that I wanted to make things right."

Kinew also connects his personal journey to understand his father with the fact that many Canadians are awakening to the history of aboriginal people.

"It is this strange mix of the personal journey of discovery, reconciliation, and forgiveness, that's taking place at the same time as the whole country is engaged in this journey of discovery of what happened during the residential school eras," he says. 

In a wide-ranging conversation, Kinew explores his personal struggles growing up, and why he thinks aboriginal people are increasingly finding their voice in Canada. But he also expresses frustration.

"On one hand, we're becoming doctors and lawyers and rising up through the ranks of Canadian society, but a lot of our little brothers and sisters are carrying a slop pail or they're living in the inner city idolizing criminals and drug dealers."

Hear the entire interview, including a reading from The Reason You Walk by clicking the Listen button above.