In June, the federal government announced the creation of a new statutory holiday known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to be observed on September 30 each year. This day fulfills the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call-to-Action #80 which states:
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
On this day of remembrance, reflection, action and learning, here are a few titles to borrow from the Library that explore the history and legacy of residential schools:
by Fred Sasakamoose
Fred Sasakamoose, torn from his home at the age of seven, endured the horrors of residential school for a decade before becoming one of 120 players in the most elite hockey league in the world. He has been heralded as the first Indigenous player with Treaty status in the NHL, making his official debut as a 1954 Chicago Black Hawks player on Hockey Night in Canada and teaching Foster Hewitt how to pronounce his name. Sasakamoose played against such legends as Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, and Maurice Richard. After twelve games, he returned home.
When people tell Sasakamoose’s story, this is usually where they end it. They say he left the NHL to return to the family and culture that the Canadian government had ripped away from him. That returning to his family and home was more important to him than an NHL career. But there was much more to his decision than that. Understanding Sasakamoose’s choice means acknowledging the dislocation and treatment of generations of Indigenous peoples. It means considering how a man who spent his childhood as a ward of the government would hear those supposedly golden words- “You are Black Hawks property.”
Sasakamoose’s story was far from over once his NHL days concluded. He continued to play for another decade in leagues around Western Canada. He became a band councillor, served as Chief, and established athletic programs for kids. He paved a way for youth to find solace and meaning in sports for generations to come. Yet, threaded through these impressive accomplishments were periods of heartbreak and unimaginable tragedy–as well moments of passion and great joy.
This isn’t just a hockey story; Sasakamoose’s groundbreaking memoir sheds piercing light on Canadian history and Indigenous politics, and follows this extraordinary man’s journey to reclaim pride in an identity and a heritage that had previously been used against him.
by Larry Oshiniko Loyie
Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, honours the survivors, the former students, who attended residential schools. Designed for the general 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). 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. Along with the voices, readers will be engaged by the evocative, archival photographs provided by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre with the assistance of curator Krista McCracken.
by Bevann Fox
Presenting herself as “Myrtle,” residential school survivor and Indigenous television personality Bevann Fox explores essential questions by recounting her life through fiction. She shares memories of an early childhood filled with love with her grandparents–until she is sent to residential school at the age of seven. Her horrific experiences of abuse there left her without a voice, timid and nervous, never sure, never trusting, affecting her romantic relationships and family bonds for years to come.
This is the story of Myrtle battling to recover her voice. Genocidal Love is a powerful confirmation of the long-lasting consequences of residential school violence –and a moving story of finding a path towards healing.
by Kiera L. Ladner, Myra Tait
Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal is a collection of elegant, thoughtful, and powerful reflections about Indigenous Peoples’ complicated, and often frustrating, relationship with Canada, and how—even 150 years after Confederation—the fight for recognition of their treaty and Aboriginal rights continues.
Through essays, art, and literature, Surviving Canada examines the struggle for Indigenous Peoples’ to celebrate their cultures and exercise their right to control their own economic development, lands, water, and lives.
The Indian Act, Idle No More, and the legacy of residential schools are just a few of the topics covered by a wide range of elders, scholars, artists, and activists. Contributors include Mary Eberts, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Leroy Little Bear.
by Agnes Grant
In Finding My Talk, fourteen aboriginal women who attended residential schools, or were affected by them, reflect on their experiences. They describe their years in residential schools across Canada and how they overcame tremendous obstacles to become strong and independent members of aboriginal cultures and valuable members of Canadian society.
by Joseph Auguste Merasty
For additional information and resources, please visit our dedicated webpage on Truth and Reconciliation.