What We've Read
Residential Schools with the Words and Images of Survivors
by Larry Loyie
Published by Indigenous Education Press
This essential volume written by award-winning author Larry Loyie, 1933-2016 (Cree), a survivor of St. Bernard Mission residential school in Grouard, AB, and co-authored by Constance Brissenden and Wayne K. Spear (Mohawk), reflects the ongoing commitment of this team to express the truths about residential school experiences and to honour the survivors whose voices are shared in this book.
The Pemmican Eaters
by Marilyn Dumont
Published by EWC Press
With a title derived from John A. Macdonald’s moniker for the Métis, The Pemmican Eaters explores Marilyn Dumont’s sense of history as the dynamic present. Combining free verse and metered poems, her latest collection aims to recreate a palpable sense of the Riel Resistance period and evoke the geographical, linguistic/cultural, and political situation of Batoche during this time through the eyes of those who experienced the battles, as well as through the eyes of Gabriel and Madeleine Dumont and Louis Riel.
Included in this collection are poems about the bison, seed beadwork, and the Red River Cart, and some poems employ elements of the Michif language, which, along with French and Cree, was spoken by Dumont’s ancestors. In Dumont’s The Pemmican Eaters, a multiplicity of identities is a strengthening rather than a weakening or diluting force in culture.
About Marilyn Dumont:
Marilyn Dumont’s poetry has won provincial and national awards. She has been the writer-in-residence at five Canadian universities and the Edmonton Public Library as well as an advisor in the Aboriginal Emerging Writers Program at the Banff Centre. She teaches sessional creative writing for Athabasca University and Native studies and English for the University of Alberta. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
Life Among the Qallunaat
By Mini Aodla Freeman
Published by University of Manitoba Press
Life Among the Qallunaat is the story of Mini Aodla Freeman’s experiences growing up in the Inuit communities of James Bay and her journey in the 1950s from her home to the strange land and stranger customs of the Qallunaat, those living south of the Arctic. Her extraordinary story, sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking, illustrates an Inuit woman’s movement between worlds and ways of understanding. It also provides a clear-eyed record of the changes that swept through Inuit communities in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Journey Forward, Novellas on Reconciliation
When We Play Our Drums, They Sing!
By Richard Van Camp
McKellar & Martin Publishing Group Limited
This the story of 12-year-old Dene Cho, who is angry that his people are losing their language, traditions, and ways of being. Elder Snowbird is there to answer some of Dene Cho’s questions, and to share their history including the impact Residential schools continue to have on their people. It is through this conversation with Snowbird that Dene Cho begins to find himself, and begins to realize that understanding the past can ultimately change the future.
The Lesser Blessed
By Richard Van Camp
Published by Douglas & McIntyre
Internationally praised and the subject of a critically acclaimed film, Richard Van Camp’s bestselling novel about coming of age in Canada’s North has achieved the status of an Indigenous classic and it was included in CBC’s list of 100 novels that make you proud to be Canadian. This special 20th anniversary edition features a new introduction from the author, as well as two short stories that follow the lives of the novel’s main characters.
The Lesser Blessed tracks the exploits of Larry Sole, a Dogrib teenager living in the small Northern town of Fort Simmer. After losing much of his memory in a violent accident, what he loves more than anything is reading, hearing and collecting stories. With no interest in booze or sports, he floats on the edges of high school life, sustained by his love of Iron Maiden and a hopeless passion for school hottie Juliet Hope. When good-looking, trouble-seeking Johnny Beck moves into town, he shakes up Larry’s dreamy existence and leads him into a life of sex, drugs and violence, bringing him face to face with memories that he’s done his best to lose.
A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada
By Chelsea Vowel
Portage & Main Press
Are you familiar with the terms listed above? In Indigenous Writes, Chelsea Vowel, legal scholar, teacher, and intellectual, opens an important dialogue about these (and more) concepts and the wider social beliefs associated with the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. In 31 essays, Chelsea explores the Indigenous experience from the time of contact to the present, through five categories – Terminology of Relationships; Culture and Identity; Myth-Busting; State Violence; and Land, Learning, Law, and Treaties. She answers the questions that many people have on these topics to spark further conversations at home, in the classroom, and in the larger community.
Indigenous Writes is one title in The Debwe Series.
Chelsea Vowel presents a counternarrative to the foundational, historical, and living myths most Canadians grew up believing. She punctures the bloated tropes that have frozen Indigenous peoples in time, often to the vanishing point. Reading Indigenous Writes, you feel that you are having a conversation over coffee with a super-smart friend, someone who refuses to simplify, who chooses to amplify, who is unafraid to kick against the darkness. Branding Indigenous Writes as required reading would make it sound like literary All-Bran. It is not, and far from it. What this book really is, is medicine.
—Shelagh Rogers, O.C., Broadcast Journalist, TRC Honorary Witness
This Wound is a World
By Billy-Ray Belcourt
Part manifesto, part memoir, This Wound is a World is an invitation to “cut a hole in the sky to world inside.” Billy-Ray Belcourt issues a call to turn to love and sex to understand how Indigenous peoples shoulder sadness and pain like theirs without giving up on the future. His poems upset genre and play with form, scavenging for a decolonial kind of heaven where “everyone is at least a little gay.”
Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a PhD student in the Dept. of English & Film Studies at the University of Alberta. He is also a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and holds an M.St. in Women’s Studies from the University of Oxford. Billy-Ray was named one of six Indigenous writers to watch by CBC Books in 2016, one of ten Indigenous writers to read right now by VICE in 2017, and he was the recipient of the 2017 P.K. Page Founder’s Award for Poetry. This Wound is a World is his first book.
The Education of Augie Merasty
By Joseph Auguste (Augie) Merasty
Contributions by David Carpenter
University of Regina Press
A courageous and intimate memoir, The Education of Augie Merasty is the story of a child who faced the dark heart of humanity, let loose by the cruel policies of a bigoted nation.
A retired fisherman and trapper who sometimes lived rough on the streets, Augie Merasty 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.
As Augie recounts, these schools did more than attempt to mould children in the ways of white society. They were taught to be ashamed of their heritage and, as he experienced, often suffered physical and sexual abuse.
But even as he looks back on this painful part of his childhood, Merasty’s sense of humour and warm voice shine through.
“In this book I have seen horror through eyes of a child.” – James Daschuk, author of Clearing the Plains
“A story in which our entire nation has an obscure and dark complicity.” – David Carpenter, co-author of The Education of Augie Merasty and author of The Gold and other books
Annie Muktuk and Other Stories
by Norma Dunning
University of Alberta Press
I woke up with Moses Henry’s boot holding open my jaw and my right eye was looking into his gun barrel. I heard the slow words, “Take. It. Back.” I know one thing about Moses Henry; he means business when he means business. I took it back and for the last eight months I have not uttered Annie Mukluk’s name.
In strolls Annie Mukluk in all her mukiness glory. Tonight she has gone traditional. Her long black hair is wrapped in intu’dlit braids. Only my mom still does that. She’s got mukluks, real mukluks on and she’s wearing the old-style caribou parka. It must be something her grandma gave her. No one makes that anymore. She’s got the faint black eyeliner showing off those brown eyes and to top off her face she’s put pretend face tattooing on. We all know it’ll wash out tomorrow.
— from “Annie Muktuk”
(From publisher’s website) When Sedna feels the urge, she reaches out from the Land of the Dead to where Kakoot waits in hospital to depart from the Land of the Living. What ensues is a struggle for life and death and identity. In “Kakoot” and throughout this audacious collection of short stories, Norma Dunning makes the interplay between contemporary realities and experiences and Inuit cosmology seem deceptively easy. The stories are raucous and funny and resonate with raw honesty. Each eye-opening narrative twist in Annie Muktuk and Other Stories challenges readers’ perceptions of who Inuit people are.
In This Together:
Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation
Edited by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail
From the publisher’s website:
What is real reconciliation? This collection of essays from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous contributors from across Canada welcomes readers into a timely, healing conversation—one we’ve longed for but, before now, have had a hard time approaching.
These reflective and personal pieces come from journalists, writers, academics, visual artists, filmmakers, city planners, and lawyers, all of whom share their personal light-bulb moments regarding when and how they grappled with the harsh reality of colonization in Canada, and its harmful legacy. Without flinching, they look deeply and honestly at their own experiences and assumptions about race and racial divides in Canada in hopes that the rest of the country will do the same.
Featuring a candid conversation between CBC radio host Shelagh Rogers and Chief Justice Sinclair, this book acts as a call for all Canadians to make reconciliation and decolonization a priority, and reminds us that once we know the history, we all have the responsibility—and ability—to make things better.
My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell
Below you can find the questions we used to guide our discussions and the way we structured our meetings.
What we’ve read so far:
All 10 volumes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report
Executive Summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report
My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell by Arthur Bear Chief
Reading of TRC Executive Summary
Schedule and Outline for Discussion
Meeting 1: Introductory Meeting
Get to know one another—why are we here, what do we want to learn
- Talk about what the expectations are
- Agree to a format for each session
- Answer any questions
- Hand out copies of the book
Meeting 2: TRC History and Context
Read Preface, Introduction, and Commission Activities to Page 35
- What was something you found surprising?
- What is your important take away from this section?
- What is the connection to your work?
Meeting 3: Global Context, Survivor Testimony, and Naming
Read History to end of The Road to Closure, 1969 to Page 70
- What is something new you learned about colonization?
- What survivor testimony stood out for you most?
- What historical names stood out for you? How are these people honoured/remembered?
Meeting 4: Student and Staff Experiences
Read History from The School Experience to Page 133
- What would have been some of the generational effects for Indigenous people?
- What are some of the hopeful/positive experiences?
- What impacts, positive and negative, could staff have on the experience?
Meeting 5: Contemporary Impact, Legal and Moral Burdens for Canadians
Read The Legacy to Page 182
- What are moral obligations Canadians have to address the intergenerational effects?
- What are doing professionally to address these effects?
- What are you doing personally to address these effects?
Meeting 6: UNDRIP and Acts of Reconciliation
Read The Challenge of Reconciliation to Page 317
- How will UNDRIP impact Canada/Canadians?
- How will we know when we have reached reconciliation in Canada?
- What is your personal commitment of reconciliation?
When: February 2016 to December 2016, 2nd Wednesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 PM
Where: Kinross Room, Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre (2nd Flr, 10440-108 Ave, Edmonton)
10 February Welcome Circle, Review Plan and Purpose, Get to Know Each Other
9 March Volume 1, Part 1: Beginning to end of The Student as Labourer (≅400 pages)
13 April Volume 1, Part 1: Recreation and Sport to end (≅400 pages)
11 May Volume 1, Part 2: Beginning to end of Diet & Nutrition (≅300 pages)
8 June Volume 1, Part 2: Fire Hazard to end (≅300 pages)
13 July Volume 2: The Inuit and Northern Experience (266 pages)
10 August Volume 3: The Métis Experience (88 pages)
14 September Volume 4: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials (272 pages)
12 October Volume 5: The Legacy (392 pages)
9 November Volume 6: Reconciliation (296 pages)
14 December Closing Circle & Celebration
Talk to your friends and family about how you’re feeling and the reactions you’re having. Be open and honest with those who care about you so that they can support you in the ways that you need to be supported.
There are also trained health support workers available specifically for dealing with the trauma of residential schools. These supports are not only for survivors of residential schools but for everyone who has been affected by the schools: every Canadian. You can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.
The City of Edmonton also has counselling services available. They offer short term counselling and referrals to local supports. Many of the social workers who work in this program were specifically trained for the TRC event in Edmonton and have a deep understanding of residential schools. They can be reached Monday to Friday 8:30-4:30 at 780-496-4777.