Richard Wagamese was born on October 14, 1955, in Minaki, Ontario, Canada, to Marjorie Wagamese and Stanley Raven of the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations. His family followed the traditional lifestyle of the Ojibwa people, fishing, hunting and trapping. When he was almost three years old, his parents left him and his three siblings alone in a bush camp for days while they were drinking in a town about 96 km away. Cold and hungry, the children managed to cross a frozen bay to seek shelter in the small railroad town of Minaki, where a provincial policeman spotted them and dropped them off at the Children’s Aid Society. From there, the siblings were taken away in what is known as the “Sixties Scoop,” a government program in Canada that aggressively “scooped” Indigenous children from their homes and placed them into foster care.
It was not until some 25 years after he was placed in foster care that Wagamese reunited with members of his birth family.