Remembering Richard Wagamese
I remember seeing Richard Wagamese speak. He spoke about how libraries change lives. About how when he was experiencing homelessness, the local library was his refuge. How the librarian took him to see an opera. Many tears were shed while he spoke – not by him, but by the people in the room. Happy, sad, confused, frustrated, empathetic – there was a whole range of emotion in the room, and he spoke to them all.
I think often about the concept of reconciliation, and how many of our public institutions, including libraries, are part and parcel of colonial ideologies. I think often about how the value and importance of oral histories are trumped by the perceived privilege and precedence of the written word. And how indigenous knowledge and epistemologies are often left out of our public discourses. Is reconciliation truly achievable when we continue to live, work, play and learn in the very social structures and institutions founded within colonial systems?
Richard gave me hope that day. I still don't know what reconciliation looks like, exactly, but watching Richard speak gave me a glimpse into what it could be. Reconciliation starts with relationship building. And getting to know someone means trying to understand "where they're coming from" – what they think, how they think, and why they think that. I will never hear Richard speak again, but perhaps you can come to know a little bit of that person, and the gift he had for connecting with people, through his written work.
Perhaps your road to reconciliation will start here.