What We've Read

[book cover] Residential Schools with the Words and Images of Survivors​

Residential Schools with the Words and Images of Survivors


by Larry Loyie

Published by Indigenous Education Press

Residential Schools, with the Words and Images of Survivors, A National History Honours the survivors, the former students, who attended residential schools. Designed for ther Young Adult reader this accessible, 112 page history offers a first-person perspective of the residential school system in Canada, as it shares the memories of more than 70 survivors from across Canada as well as 125 archival and contemporary images (65 black & white photographs, 51 colour, some never before published). Written by Larry Loyie (Cree), a survivor of St Bernard Mision residential school in Grouard, AB, and co-authored by Constance Brissenden and Watne K. Spears (Mohawk), reflects the ongoing commitment of this team to express the truths about residential school experience and to honour the survivors whose voices are shared in this book.

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.

Visit publisher’s website: Indigenous Education Press.

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / Amazon / Audreys

[book cover] The Pemmican Eaters

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.

Visit publisher’s website: EWC Press.

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / AudreysAmazon / Indigo

[book cover] Life Among the Qallunaat

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.

Visit publisher’s website: University of Manitoba Press.

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / University of Manitoba PressAudreysAmazon / Indigo

[book cover] The Journey Forward, A Novella On Reconciliation: When We Play Our Drums, They Sing!

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.

Tessa Macintosh’s wonderful photographs are featured on the cover and interior of this memorable story.

Visit publisher’s website: McKellar & Martin Publishing Group Limited

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / Audreys / McNally Robinson

[book cover] The Lesser Blessed

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.

Visit publisher’s website: Douglas & McIntyre.

Indigenous Writes

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

Visit publisher’s website: Porage & Main Press.

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / AudreysAmazon / Indigo

This Wound is a World

By Billy-Ray Belcourt

Frontenac House

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.

Visit publisher’s website: Frontenac House.

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / AudreysAmazon / Indigo

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

Visit publisher’s website: University of Regina Press.

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / AudreysAmazon / Indigo / Barnes & Noble

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.

Visit publisher’s website: University of Alberta Press.

Borrow a copy from the library, or purchase the book at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / AudreysAmazon / Indigo / Barnes & Noble

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.

Visit publisher’s website: Brindle and Glass Publishing Ltd.

My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell

My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell is a simple and outspoken account of the sexual and psychological abuse that Arthur Bear Chief suffered during his time at Old Sun Residential school in Gleichen on the Siksika Nation. In a series of chronological vignettes, Bear Chief depicts the punishment, cruelty, abuse, and injustice that he endured at Old Sun and then later relived in the traumatic process of retelling his story in connection with a lawsuit brought against the federal government. Arthur returned to Gleichen, Alberta late in life and it was there that he began to reconnect with Blackfoot language and culture and to write his story. Although the terrific adversity Bear Chief faced in his childhood made an indelible mark on his life, his unyielding spirit is evident throughout his story.
Arthur Bear Chief left Old Sun Residential School at the age of seventeen. He worked as a student counsellor at Shingwauk Indian Residential School as a young man before embarking on a career with the government, which included work with the Public Service Commission of Canada in Edmonton and Northern Affairs in Ottawa. He now lives on the Siksika Nation.
Buy a print copy from RISE at one of their local events, borrow a copy from the library, or purchase one at one of these locations: Edmonton Public Library / AudreysAmazon / Indigo / Barnes & Noble

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?

TRC Report

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)


Reading Outline

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


Support Resources

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.

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