A big thank you to the Aboriginal People and the Law class at Robson Hall who put these info sheets together for Orange Shirt Day. Find out the reasoning behind why we wear orange on September 30, statistics on residential schools, national organizations working with survivors and places to donate.
We started this blog because we get frequent questions from students, staff and faculty about Indigenous history, issues, rights, concerns and perspectives. First and foremost, our job right now is to be students, to engage with our course content, volunteer commitments and extra curriculars. That being said, we are constantly asked questions about Indigenous history, issues, rights, concerns and perspectives without consideration for our other commitments, and often these questions are not asked respectfully. We have obligations to our communities, this is an integral part of our identity as Indigenous people. This does not include an obligation to educate those outside of our community without consideration for our own time, energy and background knowledge. Indigenous people do not have a singular identity, and no single Indigenous person can answer every one of your questions. We appreciate genuine engagement and interest when it is backed up with action. There are numerous jobs/careers/professions in this world which hinge on interaction, exploitation, and/or engagement with Indigenous communities and people. The majority of the resources included in this list have been written, produced and/or made by Indigenous people. A person’s desire to learn can be measured by their ability to listen, and centering Indigenous voices within the resources we have compiled is a part of that for us.
Assigned readings and assignments are rarely fun, but being given a chance to research a topic of interest casually can be very enjoyable. That is what we want this to be for our readers; a resource list where you can go through and delve into content from different forms of media on your own time. We have included descriptions of our resources, either in our own words if we have personally read a book or watched a documentary, or the prepared summaries included in a resource’s write up.
Take a moment to take stock. Maybe during post secondary, high school, or elementary you touched on the subject in classes, or maybe you saw news coverage or read an article somewhere.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Binesi Boulanger
In 1831, the Mohawk Indian Residential School, in Brantford Ontario, was the first of its kind to open in Canada. This marked the start of a long history of residential schools across Canada. Residential Schools were set up and run by the Canadian government and the churches. The Mohawk Indian Residential School, along with all residential schools to follow, had one main objective - assimilation. The schools strived to assimilate Indigenous children into a European Christian lifestyle. Indigenous children were taken from their families and put into residential schools, where they were forced to give up their Indigneous ways of life. Children at the residential schools were prohibited from speaking their native languages, carrying out any spiritual or cultural practices, and were often prevented from speaking to their family members while they were forced to attend these schools. Parents were threatened with incarceration for failing to send their children to these schools.(1) To further attempt to assimilate Indigenous children, the children also suffered severe abuse at the hands of those who ran the schools, often members of the church. This abuse included physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse. Most often these abuses were carried out for extended periods of time. This traumatic practice would continue in residential schools across Canada until the final residential school closed in 1996.(2)
- Katie Rothwell
Inuit and Metis Experience
It is important to acknowledge that no two stories are the same, and that different groups within Canada had different experiences in the residential school system. Inuit and Metis experiences of residential schools deserve acknowledgement and are often overlooked in the conversation about these schools. To learn more, the following resources are a good place to start:
This report by the Legacy of Hope Foundation gives a good general overview of the residential school experience for Inuit, as well as detailing the trauma of becoming centralized in towns and the sled dog killings.
‘The Right to Be Cold’ by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
I read this autobiography in a class during undergrad about residential schools. I started my Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Studies in 2014, a year before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their final report. The release of this report and the Calls to Action impacted every class I took, and I was eager to learn more about Inuit experiences in residential schools. ‘The Right to Be Cold’ was on my reading list and I read it cover to cover within a few days. Sheila Watt-Cloutier goes into detail about her experiences at residential school as well as the little known ‘experimental eskimos’ program the Canadian government ran in the north. I have a family legacy of residential schools and day schools, but I found it truly appalling to learn about this program. I highly recommend giving this book a read. - Binesi
The Experimental Eskimos (2009) by Barry Greenwald (Film)
This is one of my favourite documentaries. I was taken with the story of this program and its impacts on the children taken. I feel like we are not encouraged to learn about the north when you live in southern Canada. Watching this film would be a good start. - Binesi
‘The living legacy of residential schools through the life of a homeless Inuk man’ by Kenneth Jackson, APTN News (June 1, 2015).
‘Metis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada’ prepared for The Aboriginal Healing Foundation by Larry N. Chartrand, Tricia E. Logan, and Judy D. Daniels (2006).
This is a longer report, but when I became curious about Metis experiences in residential school this was the first thing I read. I found it to be very informative, and encourage anyone curious to give it a try. - Binesi
‘Metis Residential and Day School Survivors Speak’ by Metis National Council
Click this link and you’ll find a video embedded where Metis elders recount their time in residential and day schools. - Binesi
We’ve prepared a general list of materials, it includes a wide variety of resources including: movies/documentaries, news articles, podcasts, books (both fiction and non) and online resources. Please take some time to learn more about the residential school experience by looking at some of these resources:
Where are the children? – Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools
This resource contains an interactive ‘exhibit’ which provides pictures, audio, and documents about residential schools. It also contains an interactive timeline of residential schools and many personal stories of experiences being in residential schools. While exploring this link you will also find many more resources available to you to further learn about residential schools.
Historica Canada - Residential Schools in Canada: A Timeline - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFgNI1lfe0A
This quick 5 minute video will provide the viewer with an entire timeline of residential schools in Canada; from their creation, to the 60s Scoop, to the TRC report. As the viewer, you will see the progression of residential schools and their impact on those forced to attend.
Recommended viewing: We Were Children (2012)
“In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of two children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.”
- Write up from NFB website
They Called Me Number One By Bev Sellars
Bev Sellars memoir tells of “three generations of women who attended the school [St. Joseph’s Mission at Williams Lake, BC], interweaving the personal histories of her grandmother and her mother with her own. She tells of hunger, forced labour, and physical beatings, often with a leather strap, and also of the demand for conformity in a culturally alien institution where children were conﬁned and denigrated for failure to be White and Roman Catholic.” (3)
Available at: https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9780889227415/bev-sellars/they-called-me-number-one?blnBKM=1
Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
“Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention. Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn't want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission… With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.”(4)
Available at: https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781443459181/michelle-good/5-little-indians?blnBKM=1
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
“With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional character[’]s... decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement."(5)
I read this book for a class back in 2014 and I remember everyone in the class being very excited about how much hockey is included. Yes it is a story about someone going through residential school, but it is also a novel and the writing itself is beautiful. I don’t watch hockey (terrible I know) but Wagamese managed to make it mesmerizing. - Binesi
Available at: https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781553654025/richard-wagamese/indian-horse
A Knock on the Door: An Essential History of Residential Schools by the Truth And Reconciliation Commission Of Canada
"It can start with a knock on the door one morning. It is the local Indian agent, or the parish priest, or, perhaps, a Mounted Police officer. So began the school experience of many Indigenous children in Canada for more than a hundred years, and so begins the history of residential schools prepared by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Between 2008 and 2015, the TRC provided opportunities for individuals, families, and communities to share their experiences of residential schools and released several reports based on 7000 survivor statements and five million documents from government, churches, and schools, as well as a solid grounding in secondary sources. A Knock on the Door, published in collaboration with the National Research Centre for Truth & Reconciliation, gathers material from the several reports the TRC produced. It presents the essential history and legacy of residential schools in a concise and accessible package that includes new materials to help inform and contextualize the journey to reconciliation that Canadians are now embarked upon. ….In the past, agents of the Canadian state knocked on the doors of Indigenous families to take the children to school. Now, the Survivors have shared their truths and knocked back. It is time for Canadians to open the door to mutual understanding, respect, and reconciliation.”(6)
Available at: https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9780887557859/aimee-craft/knock-on-the-door?blnBKM=1
Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story by David Alexander Robertson and Scott B Henderson
“A school assignment to interview a residential school survivor leads Daniel to Betsy, his friend's grandmother, who tells him her story. Abandoned as a young child, Betsy was soon adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changed. Betsy was taken away to a residential school. There she was forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalled the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls -- words that gave her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive.”(7)
I’ve read quite a few of David Alexander Robertson’s graphic novels. I always wished they’d been around when I was a kid! - Binesi
Available at: https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781553793342/david-robertson/sugar-falls-a-residential-school-story?blnBKM=1
Broken Circle by Theodore Fontaine
“Theodore Fontaine lost his family and freedom just after his seventh birthday, when his parents were forced to leave him at an Indian residential school by order of the Roman Catholic Church and the Government of Canada. Twelve years later, he left school frozen at the emotional age of seven. He was confused, angry and conflicted, on a path of self-destruction. At age 29, he emerged from this blackness. By age 32, he had graduated from the Civil Engineering Program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and begun a journey of self-exploration and healing.”(8)
Red Parka Mary by Peter Eyvindson
This is a children’s book about a residential school survivor. This book was not written by an Indigenous author, but it was based on my father’s grandmother. - Binesi
Available at: https://www.goodminds.com/red-parka-mary-3rd-printing
‘Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce: A story of courage” First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
Dr. Bryce was a whistleblower on the terrible conditions of residential schools and its impacts on the health of Indigenous children. This is a short article detailing his life’s work.
‘Dr. Peter Bryce (1853-1932): whistleblower on residential schools by Travis Hay, Cindy Blackstock, & Michael Kirlew (March 2, 2020)
‘Residential Schools ‘killed the child in the Indian’’ - APTN News, Julien Gignac (June 2, 2015).
This article includes accounts from survivor Marilyn Simon-Ingram.
Residential Schools - Historica Canada
A 3 part series hosted by Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais, each episode goes into detail about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit experiences in residential schools. Each episode covers a different group. Part history, part survivor testimonial, this series aims to honour survivors and educate listeners about the painful legacy of these schools.
Available through Apple Podcasts
We hope you engage with some of this content and come away with a new perspective. We have a series of lists planned for this academic year. This first one goes into a general history about the residential school system in honour of Orange Shirt Day. We plan to later go into detail about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, day schools, the aftermath of the residential school claims, and the long term effects of the residential school legacy. We have many other ideas for blog posts that we are excited to share with you!
This is not meant to be an academic exercise, as it is very easy to disassociate from the emotional side of things through academia. We wanted this to be an experience where you are in control of your learning and pace, but with the support of a list of trusted and easy to understand resources. In order to truly stand in solidarity with a group you are not part of, we believe it is essential to take your education on that group’s experiences/perspectives seriously. By educating yourself through resources from our perspective, you have equipped yourself with tools to educate others when confronted with racism and prejudice.
Alexandra Philippot, Katie Rothwell and Binesi Boulanger
Editors: Lewis Waring & Sebastian Burachynsky
1.Friscolanti, M. (2016) The other residential school runaways, retrieved from https://www.macleans.ca/news/the-other-residential-school-runaways/
2.Union of Ontario Indians (2013) An Overview of the Indian Residential School System [PDF File]. Retrieved from http://www.anishinabek.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/An-Overview-of-the-IRS-System-Booklet.pdf
3.“They Called Me Number One” (last visited 28 September 2020), online: McNally Robinson <www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9780889227415/bev-sellars/they-called-me-number-one?blnBKM=1> [perma.cc/LZ2A-WL5B].
4.“Five Little Indians” (last visited 28 September 2020), online: McNally Robinson <www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781443459181/michelle-good/5-little-indians?blnBKM=1> [perma.cc/CVX2-RT5M].
5.“Indian Horse” (last visited 28 September 2020), online: McNally Robinson <www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781553654025/richard-wagamese/indian-horse> [perma.cc/GM2D-99D3].
6. “A Knock on the Door” (last visited 28 September 2020), online: McNally Robinson <www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9780887557859/aimee-craft/knock-on-the-door?blnBKM=1> [perma.cc/R8HR-B6VT].
7.“Sugar Falls” (last visited 28 September 2020), online: McNally Robinson <www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781553793342/david-robertson/sugar-falls-a-residential-school-story?blnBKM=1> [perma.cc/5PE8-2BNK].
8.“Broken Circle” (last visited 28 September 2020), online: McNally Robinson <www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781926613666/theodore-fontaine/broken-circle-the-dark-legacy-of-indian-residential-schools-a-memoir?blnBKM=1> [perma.cc/G3YH-HN5G].