June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians — Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomers — to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Throughout the month of June, CityNews will profile Indigenous people, and share their stories and voices, so that we can celebrate the difference they have made in their communities and to our country.
June 10: Today, we celebrate Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson owned his truth for 53 years of his life, only to find out that the truth he knew was a lie.
“The truth robbed me of my golden heart,” he said in the video above, citing a quote from his book. Wilson was upset about not being told the truth and knowing the truth changed his life.
Wilson was raised in Hamilton by his parents, George and Bunny Wilson. At the age of 53, he found out that Bunny was his great-aunt, George was his cousin, and that he was actually adopted. Wilson’s search for answers would take him to Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal, where he would learn he was the son of Louis Beauvais, a Mohawk man, and Janie Lazare, who was also part Mohawk.
In 2017, Wilson shared his story with the world when he published his memoir, Beautiful Scars. In the book, Wilson shared detailed his journey in learning about his Mohawk heritage.
“I didn’t think I’d write a book, but it’s amazing when you start telling the truth, when you start finding the truth, amazing things can happen,” Wilson said.
“Without identity, we have nothing to offer the world.”
His book is relatable for other Indigenous people who are not living on reserve or those who did not grow up on a reserve with their families.
“Inside those words, I honour the Mohawk culture, the Indigenous world and my journey to introducing myself to a culture I am still just shaking hands with,” he said.
Wilson is a best-selling author, an artist and a four-time Juno Award-winning musician with multiple gold records. His band Junkhouse has scored 11 ‘Top 10’ hits, and his critically acclaimed band, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, has performed on stage from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville to Toronto’s Massey Hall. Lee Harvey Osmond is Wilson’s latest musical project, which has received praise and airplay throughout the United States and Europe. Wilson’s art has been shown in galleries in New York City, Vancouver, Toronto and most recently, the National Art Gallery in Ottawa.
“As a writer of songs, it’s been a great journey. As a painter, it’s been a great journey, but being able to take these truths and put them into a book, it has really been the most gratifying act of my entire life,” Wilson said.
“Help bring honour, love, respect and shine a light back on the culture I have been introduced to later in life, and to honour the charitable nature that Bunny Wilson who raised me embodied throughout her life.”
Wilson is currently working on his second book, Blood Memory, which will focus on the search for identity. For Wilson, the book will be “a larger step towards a culture I’ve been separated from my entire life. Without identity, we have nothing to offer the world.”
Earlier this year, Wilson unveiled his plan to establish a scholarship to help an Indigenous student completing an undergraduate program at McMaster University.
“It was established to help bring honour, love, respect and shine a light back on the culture I have been introduced to later in life, and to honour the charitable nature that Bunny Wilson who raised me embodied throughout her life,” Wilson said when the scholarship was announced.
Wilson thought it was important to give his late mother credit because he said she raised him to be a giving man.
Click here to learn more about Wilson’s journey, to listen to his music and see his art.