- Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow by Brian D. McInnes, and: Teacher's Guide: Indigenous War Heroes, Secondary School Curriculum by Gerry Weaver and Brian McInnes
Francis Pegahmagabow is the most decorated Canadian Indigenous soldier of all time. His Nishinaabe community at Wasauksing twice elected him chief, a position he served in from 1921 to 1925 and again from 1942 to 1945. He dedicated his life to preservation of his community's culture and language and was a powerful voice for Indigenous rights across Canada. He served as the supreme chief of the National Indian Government from 1949 to 1950. Accounts and recognition of his accomplishments and remarkable life have grown in recent years, yet gaps remain. Pegahmagabow was Brian D. McInnes's great-grandfather, and he was connected to McInnes through family blood memory and known to him through the stories that Francis's children, Duncan Pegahmagabow and Marie (Pegahmagabow) Anderson, told McInnes as he researched Pegahmagabow's life. Though it is impossible to encompass the entirety of a life in a single slim volume, McInnes presents his work as a receptacle of some of the stories of Pegahmagabow's life in order to correct "any historical inaccuracies or cultural misinterpretations in the record" (5). The hidden spaces in Pegahmagabow's life narrative are partially illuminated through this collection of stories, cultural history, and Nishinaabewin language.
Sounding Thunder weaves Pegahmagabow's life story with the history of the Nishinaabe community at Georgian Bay. The importance of language and storytelling permeates the book. There are two parts. The five chapters in part 1 explain and give cultural context for Indigenous life in the lands surrounding Georgian Bay. Chapters 6 through 9, which make up part 2, provide a biographical narrative of Pegahmagabow's [End Page 114] life. McInnes acknowledges that some readers might be tempted to skim the early chapters in order to more quickly arrive at Pegahmagabow's story, but readers should heed the author's advice and absorb the context provided by the first five chapters. The overview offers readers a deeper understanding of the sociocultural world that constituted Pegahmagabow's community life.
McInnes begins by explaining the cultural and social significance of stories. Stories help us understand life, and "they have the capacity not only to teach us but also to involve and include us. Stories help us to build connections to what we are living or studying and, in the most unexpected ways, sometimes make us part of the narrative" (23). Broadly, there are two types of stories, those that generally tell something of life (dibaajmowin) and traditional legends (aadsookaanan), told only in winter when snow is on the ground. McInnes includes dibaajmowinan throughout his text to help frame Pegahmagabow's world viewpoint, a perspective that helped form his Nishinaabe identity.
Stories and community life have deep connections to the land. McInnes writes how historians and anthropologists explain Ojibwe migration and movement into the area. This understanding is juxtaposed with community oral accounts of life in Georgian Bay and the history of how the community came to be. Interspersed throughout the early chapters are maps of the region containing both English and Nishinaabe place-names. Chapter 3 includes three tables of place-names along with explanations of their meanings. When we understand these names, we understand the sense of history that is tied to these locations. The land, culture, and language are tied to the stories the community tells not only of itself but also of the people who formed the community.
The second half of the book traces Francis Pegahmagabow's life story, beginning with an explanation of the Ojibwe clan system and Pegahmagabow's patrilineally inherited identity as a member of the Caribou clan. After the death of his father and alienation from his mother, Pegahmagabow was raised by his extended family. Following his service during...