Many non-Indigenous people have been surprised by revelations about Indian Residential Schools and other forms of colonial violence. Many were never taught about these experiences and histories, or were taught based on colonial and misinformed framings. To understand and respond to colonial violence like that of the residential school system, it is important to learn more about it from Indigenous perspectives.
These materials have been selected by GRASAC RAs Shenella Charles, Bradley Clements, Autumn Epple, Carlie Manners, and Sheila Annettee Wheesk based on GRASAC’s areas of focus. To make additions or corrections to this list, please contact us.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (online; Winnipeg)
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is the repository for all of the records gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The Centre and the materials stewarded there can support family and academic research. The Centre’s website hosts many educational and research resources including virtual exhibits, teaching materials, timelines, maps, information about memorials, and guides to accessing archival materials.
The Legacy of Hope Foundation (online)
The Legacy of Hope Foundation’s mission “is to educate and foster Reconciliation and to create just and equal relationships among all people in Canada. We accomplish this by teaching about the true history of Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the injustices Indigenous Peoples endure and by bringing to light the varied and rich contributions to the foundation of this country that Indigenous Peoples made and continue to make.” The Foundation’s website has an extensive list of resources covering diverse experiences, including virtual exhibits, videos, and non-fiction and fiction books, plays, films, and poetry for various age-ranges.
The Woodland Cultural Centre (Six Nations of the Grand River)
The Woodland Cultural Centre at Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, includes exhibitions and collections related to Indian Residential Schools, among many other topics of relevance to the community and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Centre also preserves the Mush Hole / Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, situated on-site.
The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario)
The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is situated in the buildings of a former residential school and includes exhibitions commemorating, preserving, and sharing the memories of those who attended. The Centre also houses and makes available archival and other research materials related to the location.
The Indigenous Knowledge Portal (IKP), is a searchable database and related links that provide access to a variety of annotated literature reviews, reports, guides, films, booklets, studies, journal articles, and presentations related to Indigenous children and families in Canada and similar countries. The Caring Society follows OCAP principles and provides open access to all included documents. This includes child friendly resources for the whole family to learn about residential schools and how they link to social justice issues facing Indigenous children today. Many are free and some are in Indigenous languages. Resource courtesy of Cindy Blackstock on Twitter: @cblackst
Anishinabek Nation (online)
This Anishinabek Nation of Ontario site includes information about Indian Residential Schools, healing, commemoration, legal support, and more.
Understanding Indian Residential Schools (online; Winnipeg)
This exhibit, available online and in the Prairies Gallery of the Manitoba Museum, summarizes the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada and Manitoba, including profiles of institutions in Manitoba and those who attended them.
This CBC interactive site monitors progress on the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action.
Virtual Panel hosted by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) and Know History conducted on June 15th, 2021: “Discussions about Canada’s Indian Residential Schools often suggest that these harmful institutions operated behind closed doors and therefore outside the public’s knowledge. This panel presentation […] demonstrate[s] how Residential Schools were openly integrated into settler Canadian society.
The four presentations […] draw on Edward Francis Wilson’s archives and biography to critically examine the early development of the Indian Residential School system. This includes an overview of how Wilson’s papers were digitally archived by the SRSC using community informed access protocols, digitization best practices, and community created metadata. [Also discussed are] Wilson’s fundraising networks and the additional — albeit failed — school that he hoped to build at Medicine Hat. Finally, the panel […] explore[s] the diverse and contested ways Wilson’s actions were regarded and recorded by the public.”
The Secret Life of Canada
Hosted by Leah-Simone Bowen (Barbadian Canadian) and Falen Johnson (Mohawk and Tuscarora), this CBC podcast looks at a variety of under-recognized forms of oppression in Canada’s history and ways that it has been resisted. This episode investigates The Indian Act, the legislation which mandated Indian Residential Schools among many historical and ongoing policies of oppression against Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Telling Our Twisted Histories
This CBC podcast hosted by Kaniehti:io Horn (Mohawk) amplifies Indigenous voices confronting and re-defining words that have been used against them. In this episode, the word “School” is addressed by telling truths about how education has been a tool of colonization and how it is being reclaimed to work for Indigenous self-affirmation.
The reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) are based in large part on the over 6,750 testimonies delivered at the TRC from 2009 to 2014, primarily by Survivors. There are six volumes of the TRC’s report on topics including the history and legacy of residential schools, missing children and unmarked burials, and reconciliation.
by the Yellowhead Institute
“In 2020, a tumultuous year for many reasons, our analysis reveals that just 8 Calls to Action have been implemented, this is down from 9 in 2019. There are five explanations for this lack of action: 1) policy makers excluding Indigenous peoples from the “public interest”, 2) deep rooted paternalistic attitudes of politicians, bureaucrats, and other policy makers, 3) the ongoing legacy and reality of structural anti-Indigenous racism, 4) predatory non-Indigenous organizations that exploit reconciliation, and finally, 5) insufficient resources. Ultimately, we find that Canada is failing residential school Survivors and their families.”
by Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe, Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, ON)
“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. Indian Horse unfolds against the loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar.”
Seven Fallen Feathers
by Tanya Talaga (Anishinaabe)
“Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City recounts with clarity and honesty the truths surrounding the lives of seven Indigenous teenagers who lost their lives while attending high school in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Robyn Harper, Paul Panacheese, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morrisseau, and Jordan Wabasse attended secondary school to further their education because their northern home communities lacked such basic facilities. Between 2001 and 2011 these seven students lost their lives in circumstances that that many readers will conclude are unacceptable.”
Five Little Indians
by Michelle Good (Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Saskatchewan)
“Five Little Indians is written by Michelle Good of Cree ancestry and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and whose mother and grandmother were residential school survivors. In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school. They 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.”
They Called Me Number One
by Bev Sellars (Xat’sull/Cmetem’ First Nation, BC)
“They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at Indian Residential School by Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation Chief Bev Sellars is the poignant and gripping memoir of her life and education at the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School located at Williams Lake, British Columbia. As a third generation survivor of the residential school the author writes with honesty and courage about her childhood, her family, her residential school years, her time at university gaining a law degree, and her political career. At the tender age of five, Bev Sellars spent two years at Coqualeetza Indian Tuberculosis Hospital in Sardis, British Columbia. During the years at residential school the author experienced severe physical, mental, and emotional abuse at the hands of the Mission’s staff and teachers.”
The Education of Augie Merasty, A Memoir
by Joseph August Merasty (Cree) with David Carpenter
“The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir is the 2017 new edition of Joseph Auguste Merasty’s memoir. Merasty attended St. Therese Residential School in Sturgeon Landing, Saskatchewan, from 1935 to 1944. He now lives in Prince Albert. Now a retired fisherman and trapper, the author was one of an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children who were taken from their families and sent to government-funded, church-run schools, where they were subjected to a policy of aggressive assimilation. Contains sensitive material describing torture and sexual abuse that may not be suitable for all readers.”
Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools, A Memoir
by Theodore Fontaine (Sagkeeng First Nation, MB)
“Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools, A Memoir is a first-person account of the residential school experience by Theodore Fontaine from the Sagkeeng First Nation. Removed from his family and home community at the age of seven, Fontaine writes about the impact of his psychological, emotional and sexual abuse, the loss of his language and culture, and, most important, the loss of his family and community during his time at residential school.”
Up Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History
by Edmund Metatawabin (Fort Albany First Nation, ON)
“This non-fiction book is the powerful and moving memoir from Cree residential school survivor, activist, educator, and writer Edmund Metatawabin. Former Chief of Fort Albany First Nation, Ed Metatawabin presents his compelling account of the experiences endured at the notorious St. Anne residential school, his efforts to expose the wrong doings of St. Anne’s, culminating in a recent court case demanding that the school records be released to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
by Marlene Carvell
“In prose poetry and alternating voices, Marlene Carvell weaves a heartbreakingly beautiful story based on the real-life experiences of Native American children. Mattie and Sarah are two Mohawk sisters who are sent to an off-reservation school after the death of their mother. Subject to intimidation and corporal punishment, with little hope of contact with their father, the girls are taught menial tasks to prepare them for life as domestics. How Mattie and Sarah protect their culture, memories of their family life, and their love for each other makes for a powerful, unforgettable historical novel.”
A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986
by John S. Milloy (settler Canadian)
“Using previously unreleased government documents, historian John S. Milloy provides a full picture of the history and reality of the residential school system. … A National Crime shows that the residential system was chronically underfunded and often mismanaged, and documents in detail and how this affected the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.”
Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada
Paulette Regan (settler Canadian)
“In Unsettling the Settler Within, Paulette Regan, a former residential-schools-claims manager, argues that in order to truly participate in the transformative possibilities of reconciliation, non-Aboriginal Canadians must undergo their own process of decolonization. They must relinquish the persistent myth of themselves as peacemakers and acknowledge the destructive legacy of a society that has stubbornly ignored and devalued Indigenous experience. With former students offering their stories as part of the truth and reconciliation processes, Regan advocates for an ethos that learns from the past, making space for an Indigenous historical counter-narrative to avoid perpetuating a colonial relationship between Aboriginal and settler peoples.”
Videos of TRC events, programs, and presentations are available here.
We Were Children
“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.”