03/11/2017 01:02 EST | Updated 03/11/2017 01:54 EST

Richard Wagamese Dead At 61

His novel "Indian Horse'' tells the story of a boy abused at residential school.

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Acclaimed Ojibway author and journalist Richard Wagamese, whose work reflected on the legacy of the residential school system, has died at age 61.

Family members in northwestern Ontario confirmed the writer died Friday afternoon in his home in Kamloops, B.C.

His novel "Indian Horse'' was a finalist in CBC's Canada Reads in 2013. The story, about a boy abused in the residential school system who finds his release in a love of hockey, is being adapted for a movie.

Wagamese began his writing career in 1979 as a journalist. In 1991, he became the first indigenous writer to win a National Newspaper Award for column writing.

Ojibway author Richard Wagamese, whose writing reflected on the legacy of Canada's residential schools, has died. (Photo:

He has also won the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature for his 2011 memoir "One Story, One Song,'' the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction for his novel "Dream Wheels'' in 2007 and the Alberta Writers Guild Best Novel Award for his debut novel "Keeper'n Me'' in 1994.

His niece Rhonda Fisher said his works were also greatly influenced by his own childhood experiences. She says he was removed from his family by the Children's Aid Society as part of the '60s Scoop and ended up in foster care in southern Ontario.

Fisher said members of the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations "looked up to him and we were really, really proud of him.''

On Twitter, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde said Wagamese "profoundly told the stories of our peoples.''

"We lost a great storyteller and he will be sorely missed,'' he said.

Wab Kinew, a member of the Manitoba legislature, also took to Twitter to express his sadness.

"A talented writer, generous friend and thoughtful mentor. Peace in heaven Richard,'' he wrote.

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