Black Water: Family, Legacy and Blood Memory
A son who grew up away from his Indigenous culture takes his Cree father on a trip to their family’s trapline, and finds that revisiting the past not only heals old wounds but creates a new future.
The son of a Cree father and a non-Indigenous mother, David A. Robertson was raised with virtually no knowledge or understanding of his family’s Indigenous roots. His father, Don, spent his early childhood on a trapline in the bush northeast of Norway House, Manitoba, where his first teach was the land. When his family was moved permanently to a nearby reserve, Don was not permitted to speak Cree at school unless in secret with his friends and lost the knowledge he had been gifted while living on his trapline. His mother, Beverly, grew up in a small Manitoba town with not a single Indigenous family in it. Then Don arrived, the new United Church minister, and they fell in love.
Structured around a father-son journey to the northern trapline where Robertson and his father will reclaim their connection to the land, Black Water is the story of another journey: a young man seeking to understand his father’s story, to come to terms with his lifelong experience with anxiety, and to finally piece together his own blood memory, the parts of his identity that are woven into the fabric of his DNA.
“When someone lives their life in a good way, the Haisla call them handsome people. David A. Robertson’s biography is the perfect example of someone who takes care with his words and speaks respectfully; he tackles identity and racism, family bonds and breaks, with nuance and honesty. The power of this approach makes Black Water an essential and timely book.” – Eden Robinson, bestselling author of The Trickster Trilogy
“Black Water is a deeply moving book about “[t]he experiences of one generation felt by the next, and the next after that… engrained in us through the stories we pass down as gifts.” David A. Robertson writes of kinship and his father with enormous care, heart, and courage.” – David Chariandy, acclaimed author of Brother and I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You
“A story is a gift, and with Black Water, David A. Robertson is at his most generous. He shares, with candour and tenderness, a personal story of father-son love, deftly weaving it into a larger social and political history of loss, trauma, survival and resurgence. At once intimate and expansive, this is a story of healing and home.” – Rachel Giese, author of Boys: What it Means to Become a Man
“David A Robertson’s memoir is rich in lore and insight and compassion. He explores Cree values and ideas and their richness and relevance in contemporary life. He does so by taking us through the story of one Indigenous family’s journey through the twentieth century in Canada. We are faced with horrors and great loss, but also extraordinary warmth and heroics and a family who refused to ever be defined by anyone but themselves. A wondrous history lesson about love.” – Heather O’Neill, award-winning author of The Lonely Hearts Hotel