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 more than 50 books for adults and children that reflect Indigenous voices and culture and spread those stories and voices to the world at large. Angel Wing Splash Pattern, Richard Van Camp’s first published collection of short stories, was re-released in a fully redesigned 20th Anniversary edition in 2020. Smokii Sumac’s poetry collection, you are enough: love poems for the end of the world won the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Poetry in English. Lightfinder, a YA book by Aaron Paquette, won the 2015 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature.
Kegedonce publishes authors from all over Canada. They’ve launched the careers of prominent artists like the aforementioned Paquette, David Groulx, and Leslie Belleau, and published established writers like Louise Bernice Halfe, 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 have always worked from home, so their daily coworkers are often their children and pets. Their administrative assistant has two cats who help with bookkeeping, the publication manager has an albino great dane who guards books, and their managing editor juggles three small boys, a dog and a cat between Cape Croker and Ottawa. Their marketing assistant often shares her office space with her 100-lb Bouvier. There’s a full suite of animal helpers to bring these books to fruition.