Reclaiming Cree Dignity
“McLeod reflects on his adulthood as a queer, Cree man working to improve life for other Native people in Canada in his moving latest … The result is a heartwrenching meditation on love, loss, and identity.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
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Following his award-winning debut memoir, Mamaskatch, which masterfully portrayed a Cree coming-of-age in rural Canada, Darrel J. McLeod continues the poignant story of his adulthood.

In Mamaskatch, McLeod captured an early childhood full of the stories, scents, and sensations of his great-grandfather’s cabin, as well as the devastating separation from family, ensuing abuse, and eventual loss of his mother that permeated his adolescence. In the equally potent Peyakow, McLeod follows a young man through many seasons of his life, navigating an ever-turbulent personal and political landscape filled with loss, love, addiction, and perseverance.

Guided internally by his deep connection to his late grandfather, in a constant quest for happiness, McLeod strives to improve his own life as well as the lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond. This leads him to a multifaceted career and life as a school principal, chief treaty negotiator, executive director of education and international affairs, representative of an Indigenous delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, jazz musician, and, today, celebrated author.

Weaving together the past and the present through powerful, linked chapters, McLeod confronts how both the personal traumas of his youth and the historical traumas of his ancestral line impact the trajectory of his life. With unwavering and heart-wrenching honesty, Peyakow—Cree for “one who walks alone”—recounts how one man carries the spirit of his family through the lifelong process of healing.

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9 × 6 × 0.5 in
13.5 oz

Darrel J. McLeod

Darrel J. McLeod is the author of Peyakow and Mamaskatch, which received the Govenor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction. He is Cree from treaty eight territory in Northern Alberta. Before deciding to pursue writing in his retirement, McLeod 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.

Praise and Prizes

  • “McLeod reflects on his adulthood as a queer, Cree man working to improve life for other Native people in Canada in his moving latest … The result is a heartwrenching meditation on love, loss, and identity.”

    Publishers Weekly
  • “A former teacher with extensive training in French and a natural politician, McLeod quickly fell into a succession of roles involving the negotiation and renegotiation of treaties. Particularly newsworthy are his investigations over a long period of Native children victimized by the residential school system, forcing a pro forma apology on the part of the Canadian government that acknowledged ‘that the existence of the schools was profoundly disrespectful of Aboriginal people.’ Every such acknowledgment, every line of every treaty, came at the cost of considerable legal, linguistic, and cultural wrangling … Sheds welcome light on little-known aspects of the interaction of Indigenous peoples with politically dominant outsiders.”

    Kirkus Reviews
  • “Darrel J. McLeod’s Peyakow takes the reader on his personal odyssey and reveals the history of a country with a dark colonial mindset regarding Aboriginal people … Peyakow is a page turner. Take the time to read and understand the history of Indigenous people in Canada through books such as this.”

    ABC BookWorld
  • “[Peyakow] presents the Native experience in raw vignettes from the life of the author – the lowest lows and the highest highs … In a blend of drama, tragedy, and comedy, Peyakow is an epic tale of one man’s journey to find his culture and to help his people. For anyone interested in how a Native person navigates through current day Canada, this book is rich with personal experience and wisdom.”

    Alberta Native News
  • Peyakow is an autobiographical continuation of Darrel J. McLeod’s life that follows his raw debut memoir of growing up, Mamaskatch. In this one, McLeod focuses a lot on his time working in branches of Canadian Government, often an emotionally taxing job; many of the white folks in government have varying degrees of racism against First Nations citizens, particularly directed at anyone seeking compensation and acknowledgement of the cultural genocide that severely impacted nations across the continent. Meanwhile, many Indigenous people attempting to work with the Canadian government on these issues see McLeod as “working for the enemy”… and after seeing how some politicians act behind the scenes, McLeod can’t help but wonder if sometimes they were right. This book is more than just politics, though—Peyakow, ‘the one who walks alone,’ is also an ongoing history of family ties as well as trauma, the complexities that come with it, and McLeod’s continuing personal journey of connecting with his Cree heritage, and combining it with his identity as a gay man. McLeod’s work both as an activist and as a writer is incredibly impactful, and the life he’s lived certainly hasn’t been easy. Peyakow leaves the reader with a lot learned, and a lot to think about. Unflinching, honest, and powerful.”

    Andrew King
    Secret Garden Bookshop