Established in 1993, Kegedonce Press’ motto is “w’daub awae” (“speaking true”), and they certainly practice what they preach. Kegedonce fosters the creative cultural expression of Indigenous Peoples through the publication of books that involve Indigenous Peoples in all levels of production, and by supporting activities that promote the development of Indigenous literature and publishing. Based in Neyaashiinigmiing, Ontario, Kegedonce has done so through its publishing program as well as educating the public and developing national and international markets for Indigenous literature.
Kegedonce was started by Anishinaabe writer and editor Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm in Neyaashiinigmiing, on the traditional territory of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. The name of the press, “Kegedonce” is an Anishinaabe word meaning “Orator.” Descended from a line of orators and Chiefs on her maternal grandmother’s side, Kateri’s great and great-great grandfathers carried the Kegedonce name, which is now carried by her eldest son. It is a name that the press carries with pride and that reminds the press of the importance of not only what they do, but also how they do it.
The first book they published was Kateri’s poetry collection My Heart is a Stray Bullet. Since then, Kegedonce has published nearly 40 books for children and adults that reflect Indigenous voices and culture and spread those stories and voices to the world at large. Angel Wing Splash Pattern, a collection of short stories by Richard Van Camp that was also Kegedonce’s first published work of fiction, has been translated into two languages, and Lightfinder, a more recent YA book by Aaron Paquette, was one of Amazon’s top-sellers in sci-fi and fantasy for the better part of 2014.
Kegedonce publishes authors from all over Canada. They’ve launched the careers of prominent artists like the aforementioned Paquette, David Groulx, Giles Benaway, and Leslie Belleau, and published established writers like Marilyn Dumont and Basil Johnston. Their books have won awards regionally (Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award), nationally (Ânskohk Aboriginal Book Awards), and internationally (Honour List of the International Board of Books for Young People).
Kegedonce’s staff work from their homes, so their daily coworkers often become their children and pets. Their administrative assistant has two cats who help with bookkeeping, the manager has an albino great dane who guards books, and their editor juggles three small boys, a dog and a cat between Cape Croker and Ottawa. Their marketing guru has recently adopted a stray cat, so there’s a full suite of animal helpers to bring these books to fruition.