Injichaag: My Soul in Story
Anishinaabe Poetics in Art and Words
This book shares the life story of Anishinaabe artist Rene Meshake in stories, poetry, and Anishinaabemowin “word bundles” that serve as a dictionary of Ojibwe poetics. Meshake was born in the railway town of Nakina in northwestern Ontario in 1948, and spent his early years living off-reserve with his grandmother in a matriarchal land-based community he calls Pagwashing. He was raised through his grandmother’s “bush university,” periodically attending Indian day school, but at the age of ten Rene was scooped into the Indian residential school system, where he suffered sexual abuse as well as the loss of language and connection to family and community.
This residential school experience was lifechanging, as it suffocated his artistic expression and resulted in decades of struggle and healing. Now in his twenty-eighth year of sobriety, Rene is a successful multidisciplinary artist, musician and writer. Meshake’s artistic vision and poetic lens provide a unique telling of a story of colonization and recovery.
The material is organized thematically around a series of Meshake’s paintings. It is framed by Kim Anderson, Rene’s Odaanisan (adopted daughter), a scholar of oral history who has worked with Meshake for two decades. Full of teachings that give a glimpse of traditional Anishinaabek lifeways and worldviews, Injichaag: My Soul in Story is “more than a memoir.”
- WINNER, Works in an Indigenous Language Award, Indigenous Voices Awards (2020)
“This is the story of an Anishinaabe journey across time and space. This is more than an autobiography of trauma, it is a celebration of resilience.”
– Margaret Noodin, Associate Professor, English and American Indian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
“I would highly suggest reading this beautiful bundle of words and images. Never have I understood more how important language is to the life of a culture. Thank you Rene for this gift to the wider community.”
“Where Elder Meshake is obviously shaped by his experience as an Ojibway boy and man in Canada, the soul-instory that he documents for the present and future focuses on life-giving Anishinaabe ways, the significance of relationships, endurance, good life, and creating. This is not so much a purposeful partitioning off of painful subjects as it is a broad teaching in itself: Anishinaabe life, lifeways, personhood, and the future are much more dynamic and omnipresent than ongoing colonization and its effects.”
“Humor is not identified as part of Rene’s thematic approach but is integrated as part of his worldview or his approach to life. The memoir does not shy away from extremely painful topics and memories. But what some call ‘Indian humor’ is ever present as he demonstrates survival and resilience, as well as resistance as an Indigenous man living in a hostile colonial environment. Injichaag: My Soul in Story is a hopeful memoir rooted in Anishinaabe knowledge and told in story with humility and generosity.”
About the Authors
Rene Meshake is an Anishinaabe Elder, visual and performing artist, award-winning author, storyteller, flute player, new media artist and a Recipient of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Kim Anderson is a Cree/Métis writer, a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Relationships, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. She has published six books, including Life Stages and Native Women: Memory, Teachings and Story Medicine and Indigenous Men and Masculinities: Legacies, Identities, Regeneration.