George Kenny signs books and shares stories

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:20

Lac Seul’s George Kenny recently shared short stories and poems from his book Indians Don’t Cry at a book signing at Chapters in Thunder Bay. “The writing is about my family, my relations and about the natural world at Lac Seul,” says Kenny, who wrote the book in the 1970s. “(My book has) real examples of how Anishinabe people are people, just like anybody else in the world. They enjoy the life they have and everything else that is part of their life.” Kenny shared a variety of stories during three reading sessions throughout the evening, including a story about his father’s vision quest on an island on Lac Seul at age 14. “According to oral history from the Elders at Lac Seul, my father fasted for 10 straight days,” Kenny says, noting his father wasn’t allowed to eat during his vision quest, but was allowed to drink water from Lac Seul. “When you deprive your brain of food nutrients, you are liable to see all kinds of strange things.” Kenny says his father saw forest fires and the destruction of natural resources in the Lac Seul area. “And he had seen piles of ashes everywhere where the forests had been,” Kenny says. “So the medicine man gave him the name Ashes, Pingwuu.” Indians Don’t Cry was first published in 1977, with a second edition published in 1982 with eight additional poems and two additional stories. It was republished in 2014 under the University of Manitoba’s First Voices, First Texts imprint with a side-by-side Anishinabemowin translation by Patricia M. Ningewance and an afterword by the late scholar Renate Eigenbrod. Kenny’s book also includes a story about his community’s reaction to their children being taken away to residential school. “The women were crying inside their homes because their children had been taken away,” Kenny says. “They were left without their children for that year, for that winter, so it was natural for them to be so upset and crying. I remember that, even though I was a boy. I remember being in the village, I said: ‘There’s something missing here, there’s no kids, there’s no children.’ That was a terrible time.” Kenny’s son Mike Auksi, who recently played in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships for Team Estonia, also spoke during the book signing about how his father supported him over the years, including when he quit drinking in 2002. “Connecting more closely with my father and my Ojibwe heritage was key at that time,” Auksi says. “I was sober by Jan. 1, 2003. And I wouldn’t have done it without my dad, without Mary (Kenny’s partner), without all my aunties.” Kenny wants to publish more of his stories in the future; he carries a storage device with stories about his experiences with his parents around with him wherever he goes. “I’d like to publish them online as e-books,” Kenny says. “Even though we were taken away to residential school for part of the year, we were still home with our parents the other part of the year.” Kenny plans to hold another book signing with Ningewance in Sioux Lookout in November.