Cree author and residential school survivor Larry Loyie died on the morning of April 18. He was 82.
Born in Slave Lake, Alberta, Loyie attended the St. Bernard Indian Residential School, an experience that would later serve as fuel for his dream of becoming a writer. He had a colourful vocational history, serving as a fisherman, logger, First Nations counsellor, and in the Canadian Armed Forces. He collaborated with long-time editor and partner Constance Brissenden, with whom he founded Living Traditions Writers Group to inspire and encourage other First Nations writers.
He is best known for his 1994 play Ora Pro Nobis (Pray for Us), 2006’s When the Spirits Dance, 2014’s Residential Schools: With the Words and Images of Survivors, and the number of titles he published with B.C. indigenous press Theytus Books: The Gathering Tree (2005), Goodbye Buffalo Bay (2008), When the Spirits Dance: A Cree Boy’s Search for the Meaning of War (2010), and The Moon Speaks Cree: A Winter Adventure (2013). Loyie was able to powerfully communicate stories of his own residential school experiences and of Cree culture to child and adult audiences alike.
Indigenous Education Press publisher and GoodMinds.com president Jeff Burnham, who worked with Loyie, said, “Larry’s love for his Cree culture was with him throughout his life, as was his passion for writing and for teaching the young. Like Larry, gentle and honest, compassionate and warm, his books reflect the respect that he had for his readers, whatever their age.”