Book: Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity

Author: Darrel J. McLeod

Review by: Kirk Duguid, acting consul general of Canada in Atlanta

Kirk Duguid

In “Peyakow,” award-winning Cree author Darrel J. McLeod shares weaves stories of his personal traumas with his professional journeys through adulthood, a remarkable trajectory that has taken him from school teacher to principal to a civil servant who acted as a chief treaty negotiator and later as representative of an Indigenous delegation to the United Nations. 

Peyakos takes us back and forth across Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Argentina and Switzerland. The title of the book is Cree for “He Travels Alone,” something with which I can certainly identify, having lived around the world – including in many places visited by McLeod.

I was particularly intrigued by his cross-cultural references to food, customs and language. Embracing not just Cree terms, but other First Nations languages, as well as French and Spanish, demonstrates his appreciation for different cultures. At the same time, McLeod is consistent in his struggle to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples, working to help achieve true equality.

I chose to read this book at this time in response to the horrors revealed earlier this year: The discovery of unmarked graves of potentially thousands of children who had died at Canada’s residential schools over a period of 120 years. While nobody can simply “make it better,” on a personal level, I decided that I needed to read firsthand perspectives from those who have been directly impacted.

[pullquote]Even though “he travels alone,” he is always accompanied by the spirit of his family.[/pullquote]

With “Peyakow,” I found a story with which I could identify on several levels – having also worked as a teacher, as a civil servant and as a traveller – yet with haunting details that opened my eyes to the terrors experienced by so many and for generations. I appreciate McLeod’s insight, his brutal honesty and throughout it all, the inspiration he shares. Even though “he travels alone,” he is always accompanied by the spirit of his family.

McLeod’s first book “Mamaskatch” – meaning “Shared Dream” – recounts his early years and was awarded the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction.

Editor’s notes: Global Atlanta will receive a 10 percent commission on any purchase of this book through the links on this page. also contributes 10 percent of the purchase price of each book to independent booksellers around the United States.

Each year, Global Atlanta asks influential readers and community leaders to review the most impactful book they read during the course of the year. This endeavor has continued annually since 2010. 

See last year’s full list of books on BookShop here, and all 2020 reader picks here. 

All books were chosen and reviews written independently, with only mild editing from our staff.