Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Residential Schools

After Spring Break, Sarah Moore will be leading a weekly session for the students in the Hyphen Project about the history of the residential school system in Canada.  Since this is such a heavy, complex topic, this will be a teacher-led discussion to work through the many inevitable questions that will arise.

In preparation for this discussion, we have added to our collection of materials regarding residential schools.  

Christy Jordan-Fenton has written 2 sets of books about her grandmother’s experience in a residential school in the Arctic.  The picture book set is When I Was Eight and Not My Girl, and the chapter book set is Fatty Legs and A Stranger at Home.  

The late Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip wrote a powerful book, called Secret Path, about Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who died trying to walk the 400 miles home after escaping from a residential school. This picture book is suitable for older students; it is made up of heartbreaking images, which are accompanied by Downie’s poignant song lyrics.  We will have available the Secret Path album of songs.

Sugar Falls:  a Residential School Story is a graphic novel written by David Alexander Robertson and is based on true the story of Betsy:  abandoned as a child, adopted into a loving family, and then taken away to a residential school to face abuse and hardships.

I am Not a Number, written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, is the story of Irene and her family.  They live on Nipissing First Nation, when a government agent comes to take away the children to a residential school.  This picture book is beautifully written; the muted, almost sepia-toned illustrations convey the despair of the situation.  There is a section at the back with photos and information about the real-life Irene and her family.

For older readers, we have Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse.  Saul Indian Horse looks back on his life while in a treatment centre, where he ended up after his last binge. From the horrors of a residential school to his success on the hockey rink, Saul knows he must examine his own life to finally be at peace with himself.  This book was a CBC Canada Reads 2013 selection.

They Called Me Number One by Bev Sellars is a more mature book and tells the stories of three generations of women who attended the St. Joseph’s Mission at Williams Lake, BC.  While including stories of abuse and denigration, it is also tells of the journey of healing for Sellars.

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