Book Review: Namwayut
Sometimes the path to peace is through a struggle with self. This was so for Chief Robert Joseph, a survivor of a residential school for Indigenous children in Canada.
For him, the scars of childhood trauma were deep and the journey to healing arduous. Yet, Chief Joseph persisted and is now recognized as a global leader for peace and reconciliation.
Chief Joseph tells his story of survival and redemption in Namwayut. While this book is a memoir, it’s so much more than that. Namwayut is a guide, charting a path to reconciliation, with storytelling a part of that path. Joseph explains why telling the uncomfortable stories about what happened in the residential schools is important for survivors.
After having their identities ripped away from them, survivors need to know that they are seen, heard, and acknowledged. Truth-telling leads to a transformation of minds, thoughts, and attitudes. One of the main themes running throughout Namwayut relates to the fact that healing and reconciliation are public matters. They cannot be achieved alone. Chief Joseph highlights the importance of knowing each other and recognizing that we are on a shared journey.
The word “namwayut” in Chief Joseph’s native language (Kwak’wala) conveys the deep understanding that we are all one. The path to reconciliation as articulated by Joseph calls for a mindset that embraces our oneness. This mindset includes the idea that we need each other, that life isn’t just about the individual self. Chief Joseph emphasizes this idea by showing in multiple ways how there’s just one Creation, one humanity.
It’s only within the context of this oneness that we’re able to understand how reconciliation means something for all of us. We’re all beneficiaries; we’re all contributors. We need to walk the path to reconciliation together. Doing so allows us—individually and collectively—to enter a place of freedom and healing.