Returning Home Through Narrative

Helen Olsen Agger (Author)

Dadibaajim narratives are of and from the land, born from experience and observation. Invoking this critical Anishinaabe methodology for teaching and learning, Helen Agger documents and reclaims the history, identity, and inherent entitlement of the Namegosibii Anishinaabeg to the care, use, and occupation of their Trout Lake homelands.

When Agger’s mother, Dedibaayaanimanook, was born in 1922, the community had limited contact with Euro-Canadian settlers and still lived throughout their territory according to seasonal migrations along agricultural, hunting, and fishing routes. By the 1940s, colonialism was in full swing: hydro development had resulted in major flooding of traditional territories, settlers had overrun Trout Lake for its resource, tourism, and recreational potential, and the Namegosibii Anishinaabeg were forced out of their homelands in Treaty 3 territory, north-western Ontario.

Agger mines an archive of treaty paylists, census records, and the work of influential anthropologists like A.I. Hallowell, but the dadibaajim narratives of eight community members spanning three generations form the heart of this book. Dadibaajim provide the framework that fills in the silences and omissions of the colonial record. Embedded in Anishinaabe language and epistemology, they record how the people of Namegosibiing experienced the invasion of interlocking forces of colonialism and globalized neo-liberalism into their lives and upon their homelands. Ultimately, Dadibaajim is a message about how all humans may live well on the earth.


  • HONORABLE MENTION, Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award (2021)
  • WINNER, Indigenous History Book Prize, Canadian Historical Association (2022)
  • WINNER, Ontario CLIO Prize, Canadian Historical Association (2022)
  • WINNER, Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction, Manitoba Book Awards (2022)
  • NOMINEE, Manuela Dias Book Design Award, Manitoba Book Awards (2022)
  • WINNER, Indigenous History Award, Ontario Historical Society (2022)


Dadibaajim is brilliant in its unapologetic incorporation of Anishinaabemowin and its prioritizing of Anishinaabe way of being in the world. It contributes to important decolonial work and challenges settler histories and discourse.”

– Brittany Luby and Margaret Lehman of the Manomin Project

Dadibaajim is the product of a lifetime of reflection, and the distilled narrative we are presented shares an invaluable part of our Anishinaabe—and larger human—story that might have otherwise never been told. This work brings new value and appreciation for the role and positionality of our senior and traditional Elders, our Indigenous languages, and knowledge building customs and protocols that are inherent to the community.”

– Brian McInnes, author of Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow

“Pursuing a decolonial framework, the author reveals the deep divide between Western and Indigenous epistemologies, in this case, the Anishinaabe from Trout Lake epistemology – and how world views are connected to life on the land. Her work is timely and innovative, for though other scholars have talked about this divide, Agger actually reveals this divide through the depth and nuance of the local language. This incredible work will prove invaluable for researchers, writers and teachers.”

Jury’s Comments, 2022 Indigenous History Award

“One of the many strengths of this book is the extensive use of Anishinaabemowin. I would highly recommend Dadibaajim to anyone looking to read a text that embraces an Indigenous language, reclaims identity… and fills the void in the literature about the Namegosibii Anishinaabeg.”

Leslie McCartney, Oral History

About the Author

Helen Olsen Agger is Anishinaabe and holds a PhD in Native Studies from the University of Manitoba. She is the author of Following Nimishoomis: The Trout Lake History of Dedibaayaanimanook Sarah Keesick Olsen.

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