Your cart is currently empty!
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30) honours the Survivors and victims of residential schools as well as their families and communities.
Browse our roundup of 14 essential reads by Indigenous authors about the residential school system and its traumatic impact on Survivors and the generations that follow.
Showing all 14 results
A deeply scouring poetic account of the residential school experience, and a deeply important indictment of colonialism in Canada.
Many of the poems in Louise Halfe’s Burning in This Midnight Dream were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares that arose in her as the Truth and Reconciliation process unfolded. In heart-wrenching detail, Halfe recalls the damage done to her parents, her family, herself. With fearlessly wrought verse, Halfe describes how the experience of the residential schools continues to haunt those who survive, and how the effects pass like a virus from one generation to the next. She asks us to consider the damage done to children taken from their families, to families mourning their children; damage done to entire communities and to ancient cultures.
Halfe’s poetic voice soars in this incredibly moving collection as she digs deep to discover the root of her pain. Her images, created from the natural world, reveal the spiritual strength of her culture.
Originally published in 2016 by Coteau Books, Burning in This Midnight Dream won the Indigenous Peoples’ Publishing Award, the Rasmussen, Ramussen & Charowsky Indigenous Peoples’ Writing Award, the Saskatchewan Arts Board Poetry Award, the League of Canadian Poets’ Raymond Souster Award, and the High Plains Book Award for Indigenous Writers. It was also the 2017 WILLA Literacy Award Finalist in Poetry. This new edition includes a new Afterword by Halfe.
“Burning in this Midnight Dream honours the witness of a singular experience, Halfe’s experience, that many others of kin and clan experienced. Halfe descends into personal and cultural darkness with the care of a master story-teller and gives story voice to mourning. By giving voice to shame, confusion, injustice Halfe begins to reclaim a history. It is the start of a larger dialogue than what is contained in the pages.” –Raymond Souster Award jury citation
John Brady McDonald has lived in Kistahpinanihk, an area that includes Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, for nearly all his life. A member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and a descendent of Metis leader Jim Brady, John Brady has worked to move carefully between these two nations – to learn their stories, honour their traditions and reclaim their languages, all of which were nearly lost to him. In this wide-ranging collection the author looks at everything from the city of Prince Albert to his experience of residential school, to northern firefighting, to his time in the United Kingdom, where he “discovered” and “claimed” the island for the First People of the Americas. These are essays filled with history, much careful observation and some hard-learned lessons about racism, about recovery, about the ongoing tragedies facing Indigenous peoples. With honesty, a poet’s turn of phrase and a bit of sly humour, John Brady pulls us deep into the life he has lived in Kistahpinanihk and asks us to consider what life could be like in a New North Territory.
Winner of the NorthWords Book Award
“An evocative story that winds back and forth from past to present, from the broad historical interaction of Indigenous peoples and Europeans to his own personal details.” —Maclean’s
In this poetic, poignant memoir, Dene artist and social activist Antoine Mountain paints an unforgettable picture of his journey from residential school to art school—and his path to healing.
In 1949, Antoine Mountain was born on the land near Radelie Koe, Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories. At the tender age of seven, he was stolen away from his home and sent to a residential school—run by the Roman Catholic Church in collusion with the Government of Canada—three hundred kilometres away. Over the next twelve years, the three residential schools Mountain was forced to attend systematically worked to erase his language and culture, the very roots of his identity.
While reconnecting to that which had been taken from him, he had a disturbing and painful revelation of the bitter depths of colonialism and its legacy of cultural genocide. Canada has its own holocaust, Mountain argues. As a celebrated artist and social activist today, Mountain shares this moving, personal story of healing and the reclamation of his Dene identity.
Iskotew Iskwew/Fire Woman is a poetry collection written during a period of trauma while the author was working as a Counsel to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2017. This book is about memories and experience growing up on the Pelican Narrows Reserve in northern Saskatchewan in the 1980s: summers spent on the land and the pain of residential school. With this collection, the author wants to teach and inform Canadians of her experiences growing up as an Indigenous woman in Saskatchewan. She believes it is important to share her stories for others to read.
From the 1960s through the 1980s the Canadian Children’s Aid Society engaged in a large-scale program of removing First Nations children from their families and communities and adopting them out to non-Indigenous families. This systemic abduction of untold thousands of children came to be known as the Sixties Scoop. The lasting disruption from the loss of family and culture is only now starting to be spoken of publicly, as are stories of strength and survivance.
In Silence to Strength: Writings and Reflections on the 60s Scoop, editor Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith gathers together contributions from twenty Sixties Scoop survivors from across the territories of Canada. This anthology includes poems, stories and personal essays from contributors such as Alice McKay, D.B. McLeod, David Montgomery, Doreen Parenteau, Tylor Pennock, Terry Swan, Lisa Wilder, and many more. Courageous writings and reflections that prove there is strength in telling a story, and power in ending the silence of the past.
One of the few accounts by care-givers in an Indian Residential School describing the
Nancy Dyson and Dan Rubenstein In 1970, the authors, Nancy Dyson and Dan Rubenstein, were hired as childcare workers at the Alert Bay Student Residence (formerly St. Michael’s Indian Residential School) on northern Vancouver Island. Shocked when Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families, punished for speaking their native language, fed substandard food and severely disciplined for minor offences, Dan and Nancy questioned the way the school was run with its underlying missionary philosophy. When a delegation from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs visited St. Michael’s, the couple presented a long list of concerns, which were ignored. The next day they were dismissed by the administrator of the school. Some years later, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports were released. The raw grief and anger of residential school survivors were palpable and the authors’ troubling memories of St. Michael’s resurfaced. Dan called Reconciliation Canada, and Chief Dr. Robert Joseph encouraged the couple to share their story with today’s Canadians. St. Michael’s Residential School: Lament and Legacy is a moving narrative – one of the few told by caregivers who experienced on a daily basis the degradation of Indigenous children. Their account will help to ensure that what went on in the Residential Schools is neither forgotten nor denied.
Stephen Kakfwi was born in a bush camp on the edge of the Arctic Circle in 1950. In a family torn apart by tuberculosis, alcohol and the traumas endured by generations in residential school, he emerged as a respected Dene elder and eventually the Premier of the Northwest Territories.
Stephen belongs to a cohort of young northerners who survived the childhood abuses of residential school only to find themselves as teenagers in another residential school where one Oblate father saw them as the next generation of leaders, and gave them the skills they would need to succeed. Kakfwi, schooled on civil rights and 1960s protest songs, dedicated himself to supporting chiefs in their claim to land that had been taken away from them and in their determination to seize control of the colonial political system.
Kakfwi’s life has been a series of diverse endeavours, blending traditional Dene practices with the daily demands of political office—hunting moose one day and negotiating with European diamond merchants the next. Throughout his career, Kakfwi understood that he held the power to make change—sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he did not. But he also embraced the power of story-telling, and has helped change the story of the North.
Kakfwi combines his remarkable memory for detail with his compelling raconteur’s skill in taking us through the incredible story of his life and one of the most transformative times in Canadian history. In his candid description of the loneliness of leadership and his embrace of Dene spirituality, Kakfwi’s Stoneface transforms politics into philosophy and an intensely personal guide to reconciliation.
“Must read… brilliant vignettes that re-imagine what official history cannot record.”
These are the Stories is a memoir presented in short chapters, comprising the life of a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith reveals her experiences in the child welfare system and her journey towards healing in various stages of her life. As an adult, she was able to reconnect with her birth mother. Though her mother passed shortly afterwards, that reconnection allowed the author to finally feel “complete, whole, and home.” The memoir details some of the author’s travels across Canada as she eventually made a connection with the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba.
A memoir in the vein of Colleen Hele Cardinal’s Raised Somewhere Else and Alicia Elliot’s A Mind Spread Out On the Ground, These are the Stories is an inspirational and courageous telling of a life story.
After a hunting trip one fall, a family in the far reaches of so-called Canada’s north return to nothing but an empty space where their home once stood. Finding themselves suddenly homeless, they have no choice but to assimilate into settler-colonial society in a mining town that has encroached on their freedom.
An intergenerational coming-of-age novel, This House Is Not a Home follows Kǫ̀, a Dene man who grew up entirely on the land before being taken to residential school. When he finally returns home, he struggles to connect with his family: his younger brother whom he has never met, his mother because he has lost his language, and an absent father whose disappearance he is too afraid to question.
The third book from acclaimed Dene, Cree and Metis writer Katłįà, This House Is Not a Home is a fictional story based on true events. Visceral and embodied, heartbreaking and spirited, this book presents a clear trajectory of how settlers dispossessed Indigenous Peoples of their land — and how Indigenous communities, with dignity and resilience, continue to live and honour their culture, values, inherent knowledge systems, and Indigenous rights towards re-establishing sovereignty. Fierce and unflinching, this story is a call for land back.
Where the Blood Mixes is meant to expose the shadows below the surface of the author’s First Nations heritage, and to celebrate its survivors. Though torn down years ago, the memories of their Residential School still live deep inside the hearts of those who spent their childhoods there. For some, like Floyd, the legacy of that trauma has been passed down through families for generations. But what is the greater story, what lies untold beneath Floyd’s alcoholism, under the pain and isolation of the play’s main character?
Loring’s title was inspired by the mistranslation of the N’lakap’mux (Thompson) place name Kumsheen. For years, it was believed to mean “the place where the rivers meet”—the confluence of the muddy Fraser and the brilliant blue Thompson Rivers. A more accurate translation is: “the place inside the heart where the blood mixes.” But Kumsheen also refers to a story: Coyote was disemboweled there, along a great cliff in an epic battle with a giant shape-shifting being that could transform the world with its powers—to this day his intestines can still be seen strewn along the granite walls. In his rage the transformer tore Coyote apart and scattered his body across the nation, his heart landing in the place where the rivers meet.
Can a person survive their past; can a people survive their history? Irreverently funny and brutally honest, Where the Blood Mixes is a story about loss and redemption. Caught in a shadowy pool of alcoholic pain and guilt, Floyd is a man who has lost everyone he holds most dear. Now after more than two decades, his daughter Christine returns home to confront her father. Set during the salmon run, Where the Blood Mixes takes us to the bottom of the river, to the heart of a People.