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Deepening Knowledge.

Residential Schools


Books: Fiction


By Nicola I. Campbell, 2005.

This beautifully illustrated storybook is about a young girl being reminded of her culture before being sent to residential school. Appropriate for young students and students of all grades. See Film & Video section below for information about the short film based on the book, Shi-shi-etko.

Related Lessons: Featured in two lessons offered by the Montana Office for Public Instruction, Indian Education for All:  Grade 1 lesson and grade 6 lesson.

Shin-chi's Canoe

By Nicola I. Campbell, 2008.

Shi Shi Etko prepares her little brother, who must follow her to residential school, by giving him something to help him remember his home.  A follow up to Shi-shi-etko. (All grades)

Fatty Legs: A True Story

By Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and Liz Amini-Holmes, 2010.

Although eight year-old Olemaun (OO-lee-mawn) hears ominous tales of the outsider's school, she wants nothing more than to learn how to read. When she's finally granted permission to leave her Inuvialuit people and attend the Anglican residential school, nothing can prepare her for the institution's intentional humiliations, nor the ridicule of her fellow students.  (Link to Blog)

As Long as the Rivers Flow

by Larry Loyie, 2002.

This autobiographical short chapter book tells the story of a young boy and his last summer at home with his family, before being taken away to residential school. The story is full of information about Cree practices and traditions and is also about a resourceful, skilled and wise First Nations community that values the environment and each other. (Primary|Junior)

Porcupines and China Dolls

by Robert Alexie, 2009.

Enough alcohol silences the demons for a night; a gun and a single bullet silences demons forever. When a friend commits suicide and a former priest appears on television, the community is shattered. James and Jake confront their childhood abuse and break the silence to begin a journey of healing and rediscovery.


Books: Non-Fiction

No Time to Say Goodbye: Children's Stories of Kuper Island Indian Residential School

By Sylvia Olsen, 2001.

This account of five children sent to residential school is based on the recollections of Tsartlip First Nation elders.

My Name is Seepeetza

By Shirley Sterling, 1992.

Written in the form of a diary, this autobiographical novel describes Seepeetza's experiences at Kamloops Indian Residential School in the 1950s. (Grade 5 and up)

Shingwauk's Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools

By James Rodger Miller, 1996.

With the growing strength of minority voices in recent decades has come much impassioned discussion of residential schools, the institutions where attendance by Native children was compulsory as recently as the 1960s. Former students have come forward in increasing numbers to describe the psychological and physical abuse they suffered in these schools, and many view the system as an experiment in cultural genocide. In this first comprehensive history of these institutions, J.R. Miller explores the motives of all three agents in the story.

A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986

By John Sheridan Milloy.

For over 100 years, thousands of Aboriginal children passed through the Canadian residential school system. Begun in the 1870s, it was intended, in the words of government officials, to bring these children into the “circle of civilization,” the results, however, were far different. More often, the schools provided an inferior education in an atmosphere of neglect, disease, and often abuse. Using previously unreleased government documents, historian John S. Milloy provides a full picture of the history and reality of the residential school system.

The Circle Game: Shadow and Substance in the Residential School Experience in Canada

By Roland Chrisjohn and Sherri Young, 1995


Film & Video

We Were Children

Directed by Tim Wolochatiuk and written by Jason Sherman, produced by Kyle Irving for Eagle Vision Inc. and David Christensen for the National Film Board of Canada, 2012. (83 mins.)

From the NFB website: "In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of 2 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."


Directed by Kate Kroll, Monkey Ink Media, 2009 (12 mins.)

Synopsis from Moving Images Distributions website:  "Based on the children's book Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell, this beautiful story follows a young Aboriginal girl on the last four days before she is taken to residential school.  Each day of these days she spends with a different family member-her mother, her father and her Yayah (grandmother). Knowing what's in store, each of them reminds her of the beauty of her culture, who she is and, most importantly, to never forget."  (All grades)

Halq'emalem with English subtitles.

The film trailer may be viewed on the blog posted by Debbie Reese (March 14, 2011).

Residential School Deaths


Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair on new revelations about how many children died in residential schools.

Unseen Tears trailer 

YouTube (2:05 mins) (Grade 7 and up)

Older Than America trailer

YouTube (7:16 mins)

US Guilty of Genocide

YouTube (6:25 mins)

Indian Boarding School Abuse

YouTube (4:20 mins)

Kill the Indian, Save the Man

YouTube (4:57 mins)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Canadian political leaders apologizing for residential schools

Phil Fontaine, former chief of AFN speaks as well. June 11 2008.  Video from CPAC. (10:42 mins) (Intermediate|Senior)

We Are Deeply Sorry

Report by Kas Roussy, CBC Digital Archives, 1998.  (5:14 mins)

From the CBC Digital Archives:  "It's a day the leaders of the Indian Brook band in Nova Scotia have been waiting for. A group gathers at the local school to watch as Jane Stewart, Canada's minister of Indian Affairs, makes a formal apology to those who suffered in residential schools. They're also anxious for concrete solutions to some of the problems on their reserve. When Stewart announces infrastructure plans and support for native language learning, they're not disappointed.

But as CBC reporter Kas Roussy learns, another group isn't satisfied by the apology. On the site of the now-gone Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, former students remember the mistreatment they endured and vow to pursue a lawsuit against the government."


Image of a white church surrounded by trees

Video: Unrepentant

Trailer from a full length award-winning documentary on the planned extermination of aboriginal people by church and state in Canada. The film is told through the eyes of survivors of this genocide, and a former minister who tried to hold his church accountable for its crimes. Video from Google (Intermediate|Senior) (1:48:56)

Canada: A People's History Series

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2000. (Junior|Intermediate|Senior)

See also their teacher section, which includes links to resources.

Where the Spirit Lives

Made for TV movie, 1989.

From the ScreenDoor website: "Set in 1937 amid the rugged beauty of Western Canada, WHERE THE SPIRIT LIVES is the uplifting story of Komi, a courageous young Blackfoot girl. Taken from her home on the reserve, she is sent by the government to an English-speaking residential school and re-named Amelia.  With only the help of Kathleen, a compassionate schoolteacher, Amelia must find within herself the courage to live in what white society calls civilization, and what to her is a foreign and hostile environment."  (Intermediate|Senior)

The Day of The Apology - Video Vault

From the website:  "Here you will find links to various speeches made in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008".



Aboriginal Healing Foundation

Aboriginal Healing Foundation provided funding to projects which facilitated community healing. Although the foundation is currently winding down its operations, the website provides information about projects they have funded, and its own history of funding with the federal government.

Where Are the Children.

From the website:  "Silence is more often than not an expression of hurt or pain kept inside. This web site attempts to give voice to the untold stories of so many Aboriginal boys and girls who attended residential schools in Canada from 1831 to the 1990's.” 

A well-made flash site with many interactive features for students. Includes a virtual 3D tour of a real residential school, provincial-specific maps and timelines. (html option available) (Junior|Intermediate|Senior)

1000 Conversations

From the website:  “1000 Conversations is a national campaign intended to engage all Canadians in a dialogue about the history of residential schools, their resulting impacts and the need for healing and reconciliation." 

This website has a link to a brief history of residential schools and ways to start conversations about healing in your own community.  Inspirational cards and ideas are available for students. (All grades)

Legacy of Hope Foundation

From the website: "A national Aboriginal charitable organization whose purposes are to educate, raise awareness and understanding of the legacy of residential schools, including the effects and intergenerational impacts on First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and to support the ongoing healing process of Residential School Survivors.” 

This website includes free resources, an updated national events listing, a section on teaching about residential schools (click here), information about residential schools, and information on what is being done today to facilitate survivor healing.  (All grades)

Truth and Reconciliation: Commission of Canada

This website  includes news about Canada’s TRC, its events, and publications. The site is in English and French. (Intermediate|Senior)

CBC News Canada

This is a 'frequently asked questions' page on residential schools (Junior|Intermediate|Senior)

We Are Not the Savages

Dr. Daniel N. Paul states, "It’s my fervent hope that information contained in these Web pages will help users acquire a better understanding of the history, hopes, and aspirations of First Nation Peoples.”

Written by a Mi’kmaq elder, this website talks about events specific to the east coast of Canada and the Mi’kmaq people. Warning: the history related to the province of Nova Scotia’s treatment of Indigenous people is at times deeply violent. (Intermediate|Senior)

Native Residential Schools in Canada: A Selective Bibliography

From the Library and Archives Canada, a selcted bibliography regarding residential schools.

Hidden From History: The Canadian Holocaust

From the website: "On April 20, 2007, Canada and those churches suffered a fundamental moral defeat in Parliament, when the first cabinet minister in Canadian history publicly acknowledged that untold thousands of children had died in Christian Indian residential schools. The extent of this defeat has yet to be appreciated by most Canadians, or even indigenous people. But its impact is nevertheless reverberating throughout every level of society and undermining the very basis of Canada ’s existence."

This website includes Native survivor's testimonies, recent updates and articles, and archived radio broadcasts.  

Digital Stories

The "Digital Stories" hosted by the Prairie Women's Health Centre are stories told by Aboriginal women about how residential schools affected mutiple generations of women - posted Nov. 10/12

Canada's Experiments on Aboriginal Peoples

From the website: "Ian Mosby, a post-doctoral researcher in the history of science at the University of Guelph, was investigating Canada’s nutrition policies during the Second World War when he saw a paper by a federal scientist comparing aboriginal children with white children. Scientific curiosity had Mosby wondering where this data had come from, but tracking it down did more than just sate his interest. Mosby’s digging led him to one of the biggest stories ever told of biomedical research in the North, a story of experiments on Aboriginals in the 1940s and 50s that ranks among the most unethical research projects in Canadian history."

CBC Digital Archives - Canada's Residential Schools

An archive of CBC News Broadcasts on Canada's residential school system.


Where Medicine Men Tread: The History of Canada’s Native Nations.  London, ON: A-V


News Articles

Film Shows Youth Views of Nation School Survivors

CBC News, June 29, 2011.

At a meeting of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Inuvik, N.W.T, two adolescents discussed their documentary of what non-Aboriginal youth thought of residential school survivors. (Intermediate|Senior)



Teach with Picture Books

This blog includes information on the story Fatty Legs: A True Story.

Ruby's Story

This blog by âpihtawikosisân discusses the experiences of a First Nations student in Grade 2 when she chose the topic of residential schools for a class assignment.  Through her presentation, Ruby wanted to share information about the effects Indian Residential School has had on her family and community in terms of language loss.

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