Back to the Red Road

In June 1967, Norway House Indian Residential School of Manitoba closed its doors after a somewhat questionable past. In 1954, when Florence Kaefer was just nineteen, she accepted a job as a teacher at Norway House. Unaware of the difficult conditions the students were enduring, Florence and her fellow teachers nurtured a school full of lonely and homesick young children.

After a few years, Florence moved to Vancouver Island with her new husband where she continued to teach, thinking often of the children of Norway House. Many years later, after the death of her husband, Florence unexpectedly reconnected with one of her Norway House students, Edward Gamblin. Edward had been only five when he was brought to Norway House and Florence remembered him as a shy and polite young boy. Leaving the school at sixteen, Edward faced some challenges in a world that was both hostile and unfamiliar to him. But Edward found success and solace in his career as a musician, writing songs about the many political issues facing Aboriginal people in Canada. On a trip to Manitoba, Florence discovered Edward’s music. She was captivated by his voice, but shocked to hear him singing about the abuse he and the other children had been subjected to at Norway House. Motivated to apologize on behalf of the school and her colleagues, Florence contacted Edward. “Yes, I remember you and I accept your apology,” Edward told her. “Reconciliation will not be one grand, finite act. It will be a multitude of small acts and gestures played out between individuals.”

The story of their personal reconciliation is both heartfelt and heartbreaking as Edward begins to share his painful truths with his family, Florence and the media. Three years after Edward’s death in in 2010, Florence has continued to advocate for truth and reconciliation. Back to the Red Road is more than one man’s story: it is the story of our nation and how healing can begin, one friendship, one apology at a time.


Florence Kaefer

At age five, in 1954, Edward Gamblin was sent to the United Church Residential School in Norway House and then to the Residential School in Portage la Prairie, where he continued until Grade 10. He left school at sixteen, but went back to finish Grade 12 and then carried on to the University of Manitoba. Edward became an addictions counsellor and a band counsellor, but most of all he was a musician. He sang for his people. Edward married Aurelia Monias in 1970 and they had six children. He died on July 27, 2010, just months after his beloved Aurelia.

Florence Kaefer (nee Pockett) was born in Spirit River, Alberta, in 1935. Florence graduated from Normal School in Tuxedo, Manitoba, in June 1954. For her first three years of teaching, she taught at the United Church Indian Residential School in Norway House, Manitoba; she taught for another three years at the United Church Residential School in Port Alberni, BC, where she met and married Gerd Kaefer, also a teacher. They had two sons, Ian and Glenn. In 1990, Florence completed thirty years of teaching in Courtenay, BC, where she still lives.


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8.90in * 6.00in * .60in


March 16, 2014


Caitlin Press



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