Author Darrel J. McLeod will talk about his memoir Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. As a small boy in remote Alberta, he was immersed in his Cree family’s history, passed down in the stories of his mother, Bertha. There he is surrounded by tales of joy and horror: of the cruelty she and her sisters endured in residential school to the smells of moose stew and wild peppermint tea. After a series of tragic losses, Bertha turns wild and unstable. Darrel struggles to maintain his grades while changing homes, witnessing domestic violence, caring for his younger siblings, and suffering abuse at the hands of his brother-in-law. Meanwhile, he begins to question and grapple with his sexual identity—a reckoning complicated by the repercussions of his abuse and his sibling’s own gender transition. Mamaskatch, “It’s a wonder!” in Cree, is a heartbreaking account of how traumas are passed down from one generation to the next, and an uplifting story of one individual who overcame enormous obstacles in pursuit of a fulfilling and adventurous life.
Darrel J. McLeod is Cree from treaty eight territory in Northern Alberta. Mamaskatch won the Governor General's Literary Award (Canada). Before deciding to pursue writing in his retirement, he was a chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. He holds degrees in French literature and education from the University of British Columbia. He lives in Sooke, British Columbia.