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RMWB Launches Indigenous Speaker Series featuring “From the Ashes” Author Jesse Thistle

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“It lit me up to see my name, "Jesse Thistle," alongside "University of Ottawa." I'd done something significant. I'd actually achieved something in my life. I didn't have a driver's license, ID, a proper high school education, a health card, nothing—but there was this completion certificate that had "university" with my name under it!”

― Jesse Thistle, From the Ashes: My Story of Being Indigenous, Homeless, and Finding My Way


Powerful words from an inspiring author. Wood Buffalo is in for a treat on May 27, 2021 when the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) will feature renowned Indigenous author Jesse Thistle for their inaugural Indigenous Speaker Series: It’s Time to Talk. The virtual event will take place at 7 p.m.

Thistle, a national bestselling author, and Indigenous activist is a Métis-Cree Ph.D. candidate and Assistant Professor at York University. His top-selling 2020 memoir “From the Ashes,” maps his journey from homelessness and addiction to finding his voice as a writer and advocating for homelessness issues. He has received numerous accolades for the book – winning the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Nonfiction, Indigenous Voices Award, High Plains Book Award, and was also a finalist for CBC Canada Reads. Thistle is also a recipient of the Governor General's Silver Medal in 2016.

Janine Kruse, Manager, Indigenous and Rural Relations, RMWB, shares on the inspiration behind launching the speaker series.

“The speaker series was inspired when thinking of ways that Indigenous and Rural Relations could use its platform to amplify Indigenous voices. The series will highlight the voices of Indigenous artists, writers, activists, and leaders and provide powerful examples of strength and the positive impacts one individual can have.”

“The Municipality has focused a lot of its recent efforts at advancing reconciliation in Wood Buffalo and recognizing that every person has a role to play in reconciliation. We wanted to provide opportunities to the broader public to become involved, become more aware, and perhaps take something away that makes them think about things differently or even want to learn more.”

She notes, inviting Thistle had reasons beyond his obvious runaway success.

“I think we set the bar pretty high when choosing Jesse for the first of the speaker series. One could go on about all the literary awards and academic accolades that he has received, and that would be more than reason enough; but I think ultimately, it’s because of his message and not his achievements. He has offered his personal experiences to the world in a way that is so honest and vulnerable that it has encouraged dialogue on a national scale about important issues like addiction, homelessness, racism and intergenerational trauma. That’s powerful stuff.”

Kruse says the audience can look forward to hearing an “intimate conversation with Jesse, an opportunity to go beyond the pages in the book, and a chance for people attending to ask their own questions of Jesse. Those interested can send their questions in advance at”

Not that you should need more inspiration, but just in case, here’s another memorable quote in “From the Ashes:”

I longed to be part of something again. To be known and accepted. To hear my name. No one ever said my name anymore. I never told anyone who I was for fear of being found out. For what? I didn’t know. I had forgotten years ago. I slumped forward on the bench and held my head in my hands, trying to remember how my name sounded. I spelled it aloud to myself. J-E-S-S-E. Jesse.”

Registration is required to attend the virtual event by using the email mentioned above.


Kiran is a national award-winning communications specialist, freelance journalist, and social media consultant. She loves telling community stories, and is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, women’s rights, and multiculturalism. Got story ideas? Contact her via Twitter: @KiranMK0822.