Born on the banks of the majestic Harricana River, deep inside Quebec’s James Bay territory, young Dominique Rankin was intended to succeed his father as Algonquin Hereditary Chief and Medicine Man. The Government of Canada had other designs. Its policies of Indigenous assimilation would tear the boy away from his family and his native forest, as well as the traditional education he was meant to receive there, and cause him to be handed over to the Saint-Marc-de-Figuery residential school, one of many such establishments operating under the infamous Indian residential school system.
Inside those walls, Dominique would endure a terrible ordeal, a fate he shared with thousands of Indigenous children across North America. Only upon leaving the school years later would the young man finally be free to begin his long journey of healing and self-discovery—a journey that would reunite him with his heritage and his true destiny.
Weaving the venerable teachings of the Prophecy of the Seven Fires with his own powerful narrative, from his dramatic birth and childhood training to his days as the leader of a nation and his accession to full-fledged Medicine Man a half century later, Chief Dominique Rankin delivers a vibrant testimony on respect, forgiveness, and healing. They Called Us Savages is more relevant now than ever, and contemplates our changing relationships with the environment, leadership, racism, reconciliation, and spirituality. In this poignant memoir, the residential school Survivor, Elder, Medicine Man, and former Grand Chief of the Algonquin Nation bares all—the dark and the light alike—to unshroud a chapter of our sombre collective past and to illuminate a path to a better, brighter future.