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26. Kenn Pitawanakwat: When My Son Died


Episode description

Kenn Pitawanakwat, B.A., M.A., is a professor of an endangered language. A Graduate of York University and Northern Michigan University, Kenn steps forward as people’s confidant and Algonquian language etymologist. Kenn has been featured in film, social media, and academe. Kenn currently lives, with his wife, Lorraine, in northern Ontario, Canada, where his personal search for meaning in tragedy led to the writing of this book.

Credit: Al Joyner

Contact: Kenn Pitawanakwat

WIKWEMIKONG, ONTARIO, May 12, 2016 – Local band member, grieving father, and survivor
of Residential Day School, Kenn Pitawanakwat, of Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve has
announced the publication of his personal journal of bereavement and grief following his son’s
accidental death, When My Son Died ($19.95 US/Amazon and as an Ebook $3.00). This 159-page book sheds light on
death from a First Nations perspective and aims to help others with similar experiences.

Pitawanakwat suffered the unexpected loss of his son Shannon to a snowmobile accident two
years ago. Shannon’s death triggered regrets and a landslide of traumatic family memories
suppressed since childhood. Unable to find any self-help resources on grief that rendered First
Nations realism, Kenn wandered alone trying to reconcile with this tragedy. This book is the
product of that journey.

"Raw, honest, and unafraid, When My Son Died is the story of a man’s deepest loss,
written in the tongue of his own cultural grief. It is a visceral look into a man’s pain
and his fight to thrive." (E.D.E. Bell, author of the Shkode Trilogy)

Frozen by an overwhelming sense of helplessness and confusion, Pitawanakwat, turned to
ceremony and writing. Desperately praying for protection of Shannon’s spirit, Kenn renewed
himself in the language of his ancestors and was gifted with visits from the spirit world that
brought him comfort and reassurance: Shannon’s spirit consoled him, nurtured his hunger for
insight on the circle of life, and enabled him to experience lighthearted moments once again.

When My Son Died is available from or can be ordered from

About the Author:
Kenn Pitawanakwat, Masters in Individualized Studies, is the author of several essays, poems
and short stories depicting First Nations characters and issues of interest. He started his career
in film production and acting prior to holding various First Nations community development
positions that eventually led him to pursue his unquenchable interest in his mother tongue.
Recognized as an authority in the endangered Odawa language, Kenn helped establish a
Nishinaabe Studies Program at Northern Michigan University where he taught for eight years.
Pitawanakwat uses his Indigenous knowledge and gifts to help families, couples, and individuals
of all ages in First Nations communities and urban centres across Canada and the US to
overcome abuse, violence and trauma. Kenn was a grief counsellor to Residential School
Survivors at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada hearings and continues to use
his personal and professional knowledge and skills to promote healing. He lives on
Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Ontario, Canada, with his wife, Lorraine, and family.
For more information, or to schedule an interview with or appearance by Mr. Kenn
Pitawanakwat, email
or visit Review copies are available to the media on request.

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