Part of the journey towards Reconciliation is to listen, to hear what survivors of residential schools and their families are telling us. To hear is to begin to understand.
It may seem sudden that unmarked graves of children are being found at Residential Schools across Canada. It is not sudden. Indigenous communities have known for generations that their children died, far away from home, away from medical help, away from family, and that their bodies were never returned. Indigenous communities have borne this grief all along. And they are bearing it now. Added to their grief for the children they have lost and continue to lose, and for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, is the grief of knowing that for generations their voices have been ignored. We are called to listen. We are not called to fix or to solve on behalf of. We are called to listen.
We stand at a crucial time in the life of the church, and the history of Canada, when we can see the journey through. For more than thirty years, the United Church and Indigenous peoples have been on a journey towards mutuality, respect and equity. Towards reconciliation. Towards justice.
Articles and videos on this Indigenous Justice page are reliable sources of information. As settlers ourselves, we post these items in a spirit of humility, that all of us may listen and learn. Truth-telling is the first step on a long road to reconciliation.
The History of Residential Schools in Canada
Indigenous Foundations | University of British Columbia
Indigenous Foundations is an information resource on key topics relating to the histories, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. The following information is from this website and ” read more…” links will take you to each topic on the Indigenous Foundations website.
What were Residential Schools?
The term residential schools refers to an extensive school system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches that had the nominal objective of educating Indigenous children but also the more damaging and equally explicit objectives of indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream white Canadian society. read more…
What Led to the Residential Schools?
The early origins of residential schools in Canada are found in the implementation of the mission system in the 1600s. The churches and European settlers brought with them the assumption that their own civilization was the pinnacle of human achievement. They interpreted the socio-cultural differences between themselves and Indigenous Peoples as “proof” that Canada’s first inhabitants were ignorant, savage, and—like children—in need of guidance. They felt the need to “civilize” Indigenous Peoples. Education—a federal responsibility—became the primary means to this end. read more…
Living Conditions at Residential Schools
The purpose of the residential schools was to eliminate all aspects of Indigenous culture. Students had their hair cut short, they were dressed in uniforms, they were often given numbers, and their days were strictly regimented by timetables. Boys and girls were kept separate, and even siblings rarely interacted, further weakening family ties. Chief Bobby Joseph of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society recalls that he had no idea how to interact with girls and never even got to know his own sister “beyond a mere wave in the dining room.” In addition, students were strictly forbidden to speak their languages—even though many children knew no other—or to practise Indigenous customs or traditions. Violations of these rules were severely punished. read more…
The Shift Away from Residential Schools
By the 1950s, the officials were doubting the viability of residential schools. The devastating effects of the residential schools and the needs and life experiences of Indigenous students were becoming more widely recognized. The government also acknowledged that removing children from their families was severely detrimental to the health of the individuals and the communities affected. In 1951, with the amendments to the Indian Act, the half-day work/school system was progressively abandoned, conceding power to the provinces to apprehend children, and transitioning from the school system to a ‘child welfare system’. This time is referred to as the ‘Sixties Scoop’ because of the systematic removal of Indigenous children from their families without consent from their parents or authorities. read more…
The residential school system is viewed by much of the Canadian public as part of a distant past, disassociated from today’s events. In many ways, this is a misconception. The last residential school did not close its doors until 1996, and many of the leaders, teachers, parents, and grandparents of today’s Indigenous communities are residential school Survivors. Although residential schools have closed, their effects remain ongoing for both Survivors and their descendants who now share in the intergenerational effects of transmitted personal trauma and loss of language, culture, traditional teachings, and mental/spiritual wellbeing. read more…
Survivors Demand Justice
The residential schools heavily contributed to educational, social, financial and health disparities between Indigenous Peoples and the rest of Canada, and these impacts have been intergenerational. Despite the efforts of the residential school system and those who created and maintained it, Indigenous Peoples largely escaped complete assimilation and continue to work to regain what was lost, while also seeking justice for years of wrongdoing; including from the Canadian government, the churches, and the individuals responsible for specific cases of abuse. read more…
Truth and Reconciliation
Part of the journey towards Reconciliation is to listen, to hear what survivors of residential schools and their families are telling us. To hear is to begin to understand.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was created through a legal settlement between Residential Schools Survivors, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives and the parties responsible for creation and operation of the schools: the federal government and the church bodies.
The TRC’s mandate was to inform all Canadians about what happened in residential schools. The TRC documented the truth of Survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience. This included First Nations, Inuit and Métis former residential school students, their families, communities, the churches, former school employees, government officials and other Canadians.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada completed their work in 2015, but the journey of Truth and Reconciliation is far from over. The work of the TRC has now been transferred to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. read more about the TRC…
It’s not just a part of who we are as survivors – it’s a part of who we are as a nation. – The Honourable Murray Sinclairhttps://nctr.ca/
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) continues the work started by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). The NCTR is a place of learning and dialogue where the truths of the residential school experience will be honoured and kept safe for future generations. read more…
CBC News | Published March 19, 2018, | Updated July 13, 2021
The first residential schools opened in Canada in the 1800s. They were the product of churches and the government; a collective, calculated effort to eradicate Indigenous language and culture that the commission called a policy of cultural genocide.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed as a means of reckoning with the devastating legacy of forced assimilation and abuse left by the residential school system. From 2008 to 2014, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard stories from thousands of residential school survivors. In June 2015, the commission released a report based on those hearings. From that came the 94 Calls to Action: individual instructions to guide governments, communities and faith groups down the road to reconciliation.
CBC’s Beyond 94 will now monitor the progress of that journey. read more…
The United Church, Residential Schools & Apologies
The resilience of Indigenous peoples, and their persistence in recovering their languages, spiritualities and cultures, as part of a process of healing from intergenerational trauma, has resulted in a movement over the last 50 years, within the Indigenous United Church and, because of Indigenous advocacy, within the wider community. View this timeline created by Tony Snow, Indigenous Minister for Chinook Winds Region of the United Church outlining the cultural markers, the shifts within the Government of Canada, and the movements of the United Church in support of Indigenous justice beginning with in 1971.
As Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, we have worked to more faithfully reflect who we are as a church. The church has learned and continues to learn from Indigenous wisdom and spiritual practices.
We have apologized as a church for our broken relationship, and we have pledged to heal it. Read about apologies made to residential school survivors by the United Church of Canada.
Indigenous Ministries at the United Church of Canada
The Indigenous contribution to the church is honoured by the Mohawk phrase “Akwe Nia’Tetewá:neren” — all my relations — on the crest. Indigenous spirituality, leadership, and participation are vital to the life of the United Church.
Today, there are Indigenous communities of faith across the country. The United Church’s Indigenous Ministries and Justice Circle works with these communities to understand their needs, share their wisdom, and support and empower their people. The National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering is a triennial event that brings together members from all the Indigenous congregations to discuss the current reality and discuss changes for the future. United Church congregations are encouraged to acknowledge the territory they are on, build relationships with Indigenous communities, and incorporate Indigenous themes into worship. read more…
Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice at the United Church of Canada
We now stand at a crucial time in the life of the church, and the history of Canada, when we can see the journey through. For more than thirty years, the United Church and Indigenous peoples have been on a journey towards mutuality, respect and equity. Towards reconciliation. Towards justice. read more…
Sorry. Why our church apologized.
McLeod, McKay, Phipps, Pogue | Woodlake Books | 2015
Truth and Reconciliation, a Living History
Rev. Dr. C. Lansdowne, Dr. C. Bear, L. Sanders | First United Church | June 30, 2021
We have been leaning into ceremony, gathering, trying our best to grieve these children — our lost babies. We need prayer, yes. But we also need you to grieve with us, and not only to grieve but to act, to change, so that our descendants can have a better future. As Indigenous people, we need all Canadians to participate in the important work that needs doing. read more…
Apology from the Government of Canada
On Wednesday June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, made a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools, on behalf of the Government of Canada. read more…
First Person Indigenous Stories
Why it’s important for Indigenous people to tell our own stories
Ossie Michelin | CBC First Person | Jun 03, 2021
In their own words
CBC News Interactives | March 19, 2018
Residential school survivors talk about their experiences and the lasting impact on their lives. watch the videos…
Telling our Twisted Histories
Kaniehti:io Horn | CBC Podcasts | May 31, 2021
Words have the power to shape how we see the world and each other. Listen up with Kaniehti:io Horn as she guides us through conversations with more than 70 people from 15 First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. listen to the podcasts…
Devout and Out: Susan
Rev. Susan Beaver | Short Docs, CBC Gem
Susan lives on a fine line between cultures and expressions. She is Kanien’kehá:ka (also known as Mohawk). She is an open lesbian and a United Church minister at the Grand River United Church. Susan navigates her identity as a queer Mohawk minister as she finds herself nominated for the position of Moderator of The United Church of Canada. watch video…
Jay Cardinal Villeneuve | National Film Board of Canada | 2017
In 1963, Lena Wandering Spirit became one of the more than 150,000 Indigenous children who were removed from their families and sent to residential school. Jay Cardinal Villeneuve’s short documentary Holy Angels powerfully recaptures Canada’s colonialist history through impressionistic images and the fragmented language of a child. watch the video…
Residential School Survivor Stories
Where are the Children? | Legacy of Hope
The following is a selection of Survivor stories drawn from the Our Stories…Our Strength video collection. We are grateful to the men and women who have shared their personal and often painful accounts of their experiences of residential school and its legacy. It is by sharing these truths that we can all continue to work toward understanding and healing. watch the videos…
Squamish Nation survivor of residential school shares his story
Elisia Seeber | North Shore News | July 16, 2021
With the recent findings of unmarked graves at former residential schools in British Columbia, Squamish Nation Elder Sam George says he has a lot of unanswered questions from his time at St. Paul’s Indian Residential School. read Sam’s story…
Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools
Stolen Lives is a program that walks students and teachers through an examination of the devastating legacy of Indian Residential Schools. Students make the essential connection between the history of Canada and their world today. visit the website…
Is the Crown at war with us?
Alanis Obomsawin | National Film Board of Canada | 2002
In this feature-length documentary by Alanis Obomsawin, it’s the summer of 2000 and the country watches in disbelief as federal fisheries wage war on the Mi’kmaq fishermen of Burnt Church, New Brunswick. Why would officials of the Canadian government attack citizens for exercising rights that had been affirmed by the highest court in the land? Casting her cinematic and intellectual nets into history to provide context, Obomsawin delineates the complex roots of the conflict with passion and clarity, building a persuasive defence of the Mi’kmaq position. watch video…
“Four Faces of the Moon” — Canada’s dark colonial past
Amanda Strong | CBC Docs | 2017
This animated documentary follows the journey of an Indigenous photographer as she travels through time. She witnesses moments in her family’s history and strengthens her connection to her Metis, Cree and Anishnaabe ancestors. This is a personal story told through the eyes of director and writer Amanda Strong. The oral and written history of her family reveals the story — we witness the impact and legacy of the railways, the slaughter of the buffalo and colonial land policies. watch video…
Jeremy Ratt | Podcast | CBC Listen | 2021
Since the day he was old enough, Jeremy knew he was different. A mix of Indigenous and white heritage, he has experienced life through both vantage points – as well as the stereotypes. Join 19-year-old Jeremy Ratt on a journey of self discovery as he seeks to understand his roots and all of the distinct “pieces” that form who he is today. listen to the podcast…
Resources and Learning
Indigenous Canada (Massive Open Online Course)
FREE | Faculty of Native Studies | University of Alberta
Indigenous Canada is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the Faculty of Native Studies that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada from an Indigenous perspective. learn…
Special Reports and Features
Yellowhead Institute | Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University
The research featured here considers key questions of Indigenous governance and offer substantive critiques and alternatives to settler colonialism in Canada today. The Institute is a First Nation-led research centre based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario. Privileging First Nation philosophy and rooted in community networks, Yellowhead is focused on policies related to land and governance. The Institute offers critical and accessible resources for communities in their pursuit of self-determination. learn more…
Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reveals that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. The two volume report calls for transformative legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that has devastated Indigenous communities across the country. read more…
How to Support Survivors of Residential Schools
Brooke Taylor | CTV News | June 2, 2021
Canadians can help residential school survivors by donating to Indigenous-led organizations and learn more about the legacy of the school system that saw the deaths of thousands of Indigenous children. watch video…
What progress has been made on calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
Terry Teegee & Stephen Quinn | The Early Edition | CBC Listen | June 10, 2021
Terry Teegee speaks with Stephen Quinn about the actual work that the federal government has accomplished on TRC calls to action. listen…
Weweni – Intersections of critical race, place and culture within our current climate
Weweni Indigenous Scholar Speaker Series | Aabijijiwan New Media Lab | February 1, 2021
The Weweni Indigenous Scholars Speaker Series panel will reflect on the collapse of the old world order, sustained through ongoing fears and objectification of the other, critically mapping the emergence of new and radical alternatives. Speakers will consider acts of alliances through BIPOC gatherings, solidarity, creative interventions and scholarship. Each speaker will discuss the ways in which their relationships between race, sexuality, culture and their communities allow for transformation, change through their work of curatorial, literature, aesthetics and artistic practices. watch video…
In Conversation with Dr. Duke Redbird
Indigenous Digital Delegation | MIT Open Documentary Lab | November 13, 2020
As part of the Inaugural Indigenous Digital Delegation at MIT, Elder Dr. Duke Redbird (Ojibway) presents a keynote talk titled “Dish with One Spoon”. Dr. Duke Redbird is an elder, poet, activist, educator, and artist with a legacy stretching back to the 1960s. watch video…
Defining Food Security for Urban Aboriginal People
Dr. Jaime Cidro | University of Winnipeg | Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network | March 26, 2015
In this UAKN webinar, Dr. Jaime Cidro of the University of Winnipeg discusses food security for urban Aboriginal people. watch video…
National Indigenous History Month
National Arts Centre | June 2021
This National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, the NAC honours the strength of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation, their people, cultures and perspectives, the memory of those voices lost and the living survivors of the Residential schools and their families. Distinct perspectives and cultures of Indigenous artists are honoured through storytelling and performance. watch video series…
UN report: The situation of indigenous peoples in Canada
United Nations Human Rights
In this report, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples examines the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Canada. read report…
Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada
Department of Justice | Government of Canada
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) provides us with a road map to advance lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. It shows us that further steps must be taken to respect, recognize and protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples and to address the wrongs of the past. read more…
Discrimination of Aboriginals on Native Lands in Canada
United Nations Chronicle
With inflated proportions of their neighbours in prison, on parole or at risk, the world’s native communities have another urgent problem to contend with. Statistics show that the percentage of indigenous people in conflict with the justice system is extreme and in many places those numbers may be on the rise. In Canada, the issue has come under intense scrutiny in recent years. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, aboriginals make up about 19 per cent of federal prisoners, while their number among the general population is only about 3 per cent. read more…
Books by Indigenous Authors
INDIGENOUS WRITES: A GUIDE TO FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS, AND INUIT ISSUES IN CANADA | Chelsea Vowel | 2016
Delgamuukw. Sixties Scoop. Bill C-31. Blood quantum. Appropriation. Two-Spirit. Tsilhqot’in. Status. TRC. RCAP. FNPOA. Pass and permit. Numbered Treaties. Terra nullius. The Great Peace
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.
21 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT THE INDIAN ACT | Bob Joseph | 2018
The essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer. Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Bob Joseph’s book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES ATLAS OF CANADA | The Royal Canadian Geographical Society/Canadian Geographic | 2018
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in partnership with Canada’s national Indigenous organizations, has created a groundbreaking four-volume atlas that shares the experiences, perspectives, and histories of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. It’s an ambitious and unprecedented project inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Exploring themes of language, demographics, economy, environment and culture, with in-depth coverage of treaties and residential schools, these are stories of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, told in detailed maps and rich narratives.
SEVEN FALLEN FEATHERS: RACISM, DEATH, AND HARD TRUTHS IN A NORTHERN CITY | Tanya Talaga | 2017
The groundbreaking and multiple award-winning national bestseller work about systemic racism, education, the failure of the policing and justice systems, and Indigenous rights.
FROM WHERE I STAND: REBUILDING INDIGENOUS NATIONS FOR A STRONGER CANADA | Jody Wilson-Raybould | 2019
An Indigenous leader who has dedicated her life to Indigenous Rights, Jody Wilson-Raybould is not afraid to give Canadians what they need most — straight talk on how to deconstruct Canada’s dark colonial legacy and embrace a new era of recognition and reconciliation. She urges all Canadians — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous — to build upon the momentum already gained in the reconciliation process or risk hard-won progress being lost.
INDIGENOUS RELATIONS: INSIGHTS, TIPS & SUGGESTIONS TO MAKE RECONCILIATION A REALITY | Bob Joseph | 2019
Hereditary chief and leading Indigenous relations trainer Bob Joseph is your guide to respecting cultural differences and improving your personal relationships and business interactions with Indigenous Peoples. Practical and inclusive, Indigenous Relations interprets the difference between hereditary and elected leadership, and why it matters; explains the intricacies of Aboriginal Rights and Title, and the treaty process; and demonstrates the lasting impact of the Indian Act, including the barriers that Indigenous communities face and the truth behind common myths and stereotypes perpetuated since Confederation.
WHAT WAS SAID TO ME: THE LIFE OF STI’TUM’ATUL’WUT, A COWICHAN WOMAN | Ruby Peter | 2021
Life histories are a form of contemporary social history and convey important messages about identity, cosmology, social behaviour and one’s place in the world. This first-person oral history—the first of its kind ever published by the Royal BC Museum—documents a period of profound social change through the lens of Sti’tum’atul’wut—also known as Mrs. Ruby Peter—a Cowichan elder who made it her life’s work to share and safeguard the ancient language of her people: Hul’q’umi’num’.
ONE NATIVE LIFE | Richard Wagamese | 2009
In 2005, award-winning writer Richard Wagamese moved with his partner to a cabin outside Kamloops, B.C. In the crisp mountain air Wagamese felt a peace he’d seldom known before. Abused and abandoned as a kid, he’d grown up feeling there was nowhere he belonged. For years, only alcohol and moves from town to town seemed to ease the pain.
In One Native Life, Wagamese looks back down the road he has travelled in reclaiming his identity and talks about the things he has learned as a human being, a man and an Ojibway in his fifty-two years. Whether he’s writing about playing baseball, running away with the circus, attending a sacred bundle ceremony or meeting Pierre Trudeau, he tells these stories in a healing spirit. Through them, Wagamese celebrates the learning journey his life has been.
ALL OUR RELATIONS: FINDING THE PATH FORWARD | Tanya Talaga | 2018
In this urgent and incisive work, bestselling and award-winning author Tanya Talaga explores the alarming rise of youth suicide in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. From Northern Ontario to Nunavut, Norway, Brazil, Australia, and the United States, the Indigenous experience in colonized nations is startlingly similar and deeply disturbing. It is an experience marked by the violent separation of Peoples from the land, the separation of families, and the separation of individuals from traditional ways of life – all of which has culminated in a spiritual separation that has had an enduring impact on generations of Indigenous children. As a result of this colonial legacy, too many communities today lack access to the basic determinants of health – income, employment, education, a safe environment, health services – leading to a mental health and youth suicide crisis on a global scale. But, Talaga reminds us, First Peoples also share a history of resistance, resilience, and civil rights activism.
CALL ME INDIAN | Fred Sasakamoose | 2021
Trailblazer. Residential school Survivor. First Treaty Indigenous player in the NHL. All of these descriptions are true–but none of them tell the whole 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.
STOLEN LIFE | Yvonne Johnson and Rudy Wiebe | 1999
A powerful autobiography from Yvonne Johnson—the great-great-granddaughter of Cree leader Chief Big Bear.
FROM THE ASHES: MY STORY OF BEING MÉTIS, HOMELESS, AND FINDING MY WAY | Jesse Thistle | 2019
In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar, chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is.
A HISTORY OF MY BRIEF BODY | Billy-Ray Belcourt | 2021
Opening with a tender letter to his kokum and memories of his early life on the Driftpile First Nation, Billy-Ray Belcourt delivers a searing account of Indigenous life that’s part love letter, part rallying cry.
A MIND SPREAD OUT ON THE GROUND | Alicia Elliott | 2020
In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight into the ongoing legacy of colonialism.
THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN | Thomas King | 2013
Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King’s critical and personal meditation on what it means to be “Indian” in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
HEART BERRIES | Terese Marie Mailhot | 2020
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father–an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist–who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
ALL THE WAY – MY LIFE ON ICE | Jordin Tootoo | 2015
It seemed as though nothing could stop Jordin Tootoo on the ice. The captain, a fan favourite, a star in international competition, Tootoo was always a leader. And when he was drafted by Nashville in 2001 and made the Predators out of camp in 2003, he became a leader in another way — as the first player of Inuk descent to suit up in the NHL.
SUFFERANCE | Thomas King | 2021
A sly and satirical look at the fractures in modern existence, Sufferance is a bold and provocative novel about the social and political consequences of the inequality created by privilege and power—and what we might do about it.
NISHGA | Jordan Abel | 2021
As a Nisga’a writer, Jordan Abel often finds himself in a position where he is asked to explain his relationship to Nisga’a language, Nisga’a community, and Nisga’a cultural knowledge. However, as an intergenerational survivor of residential school–both of his grandparents attended the same residential school–his relationship to his own Indigenous identity is complicated to say the least.
IN MY OWN MOCCASINS: A MEMOIR OF RESILIENCE | Helen Knott | 2020
Helen Knott, a highly accomplished Indigenous woman, seems to have it all. But in her memoir, she offers a different perspective. In My Own Moccasins is an unflinching account of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds brought on by sexual violence. It is also the story of sisterhood, the power of ceremony, the love of family, and the possibility of redemption.
THE REASON YOU WALK: A MEMOIR | Wab Kinew | 2017
A moving father-son reconciliation told by a charismatic First Nations broadcaster, musician and activist.
When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who’d raised him. The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father’s traumatic childhood at residential school. An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures.
THE COLONIAL PROBLEM: AN INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVE ON CRIME | Lisa Monchalin | 2016
Indigenous peoples are vastly overrepresented in the Canadian criminal justice system. The Canadian government has framed this disproportionate victimization and criminalization as being an “Indian problem”.
In The Colonial Problem, Lisa Monchalin challenges the myth of the “Indian problem” and encourages readers to view the crimes and injustices affecting Indigenous peoples from a more culturally aware position. She analyzes the consequences of assimilation policies, dishonoured treaty agreements, manipulative legislation, and systematic racism, arguing that the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian criminal justice system is not an Indian problem but a colonial one.
BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: INDIGENOUS WISDOM, SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND THE TEACHINGS OF PLANTS | Robin Wall Kimmerer | 2015
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
DANCING ON OUR TURTLE’S BACK: STORIES OF NISHNAABEG RE-CREATION, RESURGENCE, AND A NEW EMERGENCE | Leanne Simpson | 2011
Many promote Reconciliation as a “new” way for Canada to relate to Indigenous Peoples. In Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence activist, editor, and educator Leanne Simpson asserts reconciliation must be grounded in political resurgence and must support the regeneration of Indigenous languages, oral cultures, and traditions of governance. She stresses the importance of illuminating Indigenous intellectual traditions to transform their relationship to the Canadian state.
AS WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE: INDIGENOUS FREEDOM THROUGH RADICAL RESISTANCE | Leanne Betasamosake Simpson | 2020
Across North America, Indigenous acts of resistance have in recent years opposed the removal of federal protections for forests and waterways in Indigenous lands, halted the expansion of tar sands extraction and the pipeline construction at Standing Rock, and demanded justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women. In As We Have Always Done, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson locates Indigenous political resurgence as a practice rooted in uniquely Indigenous theorizing, writing, organizing, and thinking.
SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN: GENOCIDE, INDIGENOUS NATIONS AND THE CANADIAN STATE | Tamara Starblanket | 2018
Originally approved as a master of laws thesis by a respected Canadian university, this book tackles one of the most compelling issues of our time–the crime of genocide — and whether in fact it can be said to have occurred in relation to the many Original Nations on Great Turtle Island now claimed by a state called Canada. It has been hailed as groundbreaking by many Indigenous and other scholars engaged with this issue, impacting not just Canada but states worldwide where entrapped Indigenous nations face absorption by a dominating colonial state. Starblanket unpacks Canada’s role in the removal of cultural genocide from the Genocide Convention, though the disappearance of an Original Nation by forced assimilation was regarded by many states as equally genocidal as destruction by slaughter. Did Canada seek to tailor the definition of genocide to escape its own crimes which were then even ongoing? The crime of genocide, to be held as such under current international law, must address the complicated issue of mens rea (not just the commission of a crime, but the specific intent to do so). This book permits readers to make a judgment on whether or not this was the case.
GOD IS RED: A NATIVE VIEW OF RELIGION, 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION | Vine Deloria, Jr. | 2003
First published in 1972, Vine Deloria Jr.’s God Is Red remains the seminal work on Native religious views, asking new questions about our species and our ultimate fate. Celebrating three decades in publication with a special 30th-anniversary edition, this classic work reminds us to learn “that we are a part of nature, not a transcendent species with no responsibilities to the natural world”. It is time again to listen to Vine Deloria Jr.’s powerful voice, telling us about religious life that is independent of Christianity and that reveres the interconnectedness of all living things.
JONNY APPLESEED | Joshua Whitehead | 2018
Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the “rez” — and his former life — to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The seven days that follow are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny’s life is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages — and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life.
KISS OF THE FUR QUEEN | Tomson Highway | 2021
Kiss of the Fur Queen is a powerful and beautiful tale of siblings and tricksters, culture and trauma, and finding yourself in a world that tries to tell you who you are.
EMPIRE OF WILD | Cherie Dimaline | 2019
Inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou–a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities–Cherie Dimaline has created a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel.
MOTORCYCLES & SWEETGRASS | Drew Hayden Taylor | 2021
Otter Lake is a sleepy Anishnawbe community where little happens. Until the day a handsome stranger pulls up astride a 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle – and turns Otter Lake completely upside down. Maggie, the Reserve’s chief, is swept off her feet, but Virgil, her teenage son, is less than enchanted. Suspicious of the stranger’s intentions, he teams up with his uncle Wayne – a master of aboriginal martial arts – to drive the stranger from the Reserve. And it turns out that the raccoons are willing to lend a hand.
THE TRICKSTER TRILOGY | Eden Robinson
- Son of a Trickster | 2018
Meet Jared Martin: sixteen-year-old pot cookie dealer, smoker, drinker and son with the scariest mom ever. But Jared’s the pot dealer with a heart of gold–really. Compassionate, caring, and nurturing by nature, Jared’s determined to help hold his family together–whether that means supporting his dad’s new family with the proceeds from his baking or caring for his elderly neighbours. But when it comes to being cared and loved, Jared knows he can’t rely on his family. His only source of love and support was his flatulent pit bull Baby, but she’s dead. And then there’s the talking ravens and the black outs and his grandmother’s perpetual suspicion that he is not human, but the son of a trickster.
- Trickster Drift | 2019
As the son of a Trickster, Jared is a magnet for magic, whether he hates it or not. He sees ghosts, he sees the monster moving underneath his Aunt Georgina’s skin, he sees the creature that comes out of his bedroom wall and creepily wants to suck his toes. He also still hears his father in his head, and other voices too. When David finally catches up with him, Jared can’t ignore his true nature any longer. And neither can anyone else he loves.
- Return of the Trickster | 2021
In the third book of her brilliant and captivating Trickster Trilogy, Eden Robinson delivers an explosive, surprising and satisfying resolution. Even though his mother resents like hell that Jared has taken after his dad, she is also determined that no one is going to hurt her son. For Maggie it’s simple–Kill or be killed, bucko. Soon Jared is at the centre of an all-out war–a horrifying place to be for the universe’s sweetest Trickster, whose first instinct is not mischief and mind games but to make the world a kinder, safer, place.
AS LONG AS THE RIVERS FLOW | James Bartleman | 2011
The novel follows one girl, Martha, from the Cat Lake First Nation in Northern Ontario who is “stolen” from her family at the age of six and flown far away to residential school. She doesn’t speak English but is punished for speaking her native language; most terrifying and bewildering, she is also “fed” to the school’s attendant priest with an attraction to little girls.
Ten long years later, Martha finds her way home again, barely able to speak her native tongue. The memories of abuse at the residential school are so strong that she tries to drown her feelings in drink, and when she gives birth to her beloved son, Spider, he is taken away by Children’s Aid to Toronto. In time, she has a baby girl, Raven, whom she decides to leave in the care of her mother while she braves the bewildering strangeness of the big city to find her son and bring him home.
SPLIT TOOTH | Tanya Tagaq | 2019
From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you’ve ever read.
THERE THERE | Tommy Orange | 2019
Here is a story of several people, each of whom has private reasons for travelling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honour his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.
STARLIGHT | Richard Wagamese | 2019
The final novel from Richard Wagamese, the bestselling and beloved author of Indian Horse and Medicine Walk, centres on an abused woman on the run who finds refuge on a farm owned by an Indigenous man with wounds of his own. A profoundly moving novel about the redemptive power of love, mercy, and compassion–and the land’s ability to heal us.
MEDICINE WALK | Richard Wagamese | 2015
Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, Eldon. He’s sixteen years old and has had the most fleeting of relationships with the man. The rare moments they’ve shared haunt and trouble Frank, but he answers the call, a son’s duty to a father. What ensues is a journey through the rugged and beautiful backcountry, and a journey into the past, as the two men push forward to Eldon’s end. From a poverty-stricken childhood, to the Korean War, and later the derelict houses of mill towns, Eldon relates both the desolate moments of his life and a time of redemption and love, and in doing so offers Frank a history he has never known, the father he has never had, and a connection to himself he never expected.
INDIAN HORSE | Richard Wagamese | 2012
Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.
FIVE LITTLE INDIANS | Michelle Good | 2020
Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.
Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.
MOON OF THE CRUSTED SNOW | Waubgeshig Rice | 2018
With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow.
The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve. Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision.
NOOPIMING: THE CURE FOR WHITE LADIES | Leanne Betasamosake Simpson | 2020
Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for “in the bush”, and the title is a response to English Canadian settler and author Susanna Moodie’s 1852 memoir Roughing It in the Bush. To read Simpson’s work is an act of decolonization, degentrification, and willful resistance to the perpetuation and dissemination of centuries-old colonial myth-making. It is a lived experience. It is a breaking open of the self to a world alive with people, animals, ancestors, and spirits, who are all busy with the daily labours of healing – healing not only themselves, but their individual pieces of the network, of the web that connects them all together. Enter and be changed.
LOVE AFTER THE END: AN ANTHOLOGY OF TWO-SPIRIT AND INDIGIQUEER SPECULATIVE FICTION | Joshua Whitehead | 2020
A bold and breathtaking anthology of queer Indigenous speculative fiction, edited by the author of Jonny Appleseed.
This exciting and groundbreaking fiction collection showcases a number of new and emerging 2SQ (Two-Spirit and queer) Indigenous writers from across Turtle Island. These visionary authors show how queer Indigenous communities can bloom and thrive through utopian narratives that detail the vivacity and strength of 2SQness throughout its plight in the maw of settler colonialism’s histories.
Books for Young Readers
GO SHOW THE WORLD | Wab Kinew | illustrated by Joe Morse | 2018
Inspired by President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, Go Show the World is a tribute to historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes, featuring important figures such as Tecumseh, Sacagawea and former NASA astronaut John Herrington.
ON THE TRAPLINE | David A. Robertson | illustrated by Julie Flett | 2021
A picture book celebrating Indigenous culture and traditions. The Governor General Award–winning team behind When We Were Alone shares a story that honours our connections to our past and our grandfathers and fathers.
THE BARREN GROUNDS | David A. Robertson | 2021
Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.
FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER | Angeline Boulley | 2021
Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team.
Indigenous Art and Entertainment
Indigenous Films and Filmmakers
Canadian Museum for Human Rights | June, 2021
June is the 25th anniversary of National Indigenous History Month. Join us all month long for on‐demand screenings of much‐admired films by Indigenous artists from the National Film Board (NFB) collection. watch films…
CBC Gem | June, 2021
Programs that explore the Indigenous experience across Canada, from docs to interviews to dramas. watch…
Indigenous Hip Hop
CBC Listen | June, 2021
Powerful stories told through powerful sounds. Hear: A Tribe Called Red, Drezus, City Natives, JB The First Lady, Mob Bounce and more! listen…
Music Playlist | CBC Listen | June, 2021
From roots and rock to hip hop and hand drums – Canadian Indigenous music is an invite to a cultural experience across all genres. Hear: Buffy Sainte-Marie, Don Amero, Iskwe, A Tribe Called Red, Wolf Saga and more! listen…
Indigenous Music Award Nominees
Music Playlist | CBC Radio | 2018
From best Pop to best Contemporary Powwow and every genre in between. These are the nominees for the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards. Hear Buffy Sainte-Marie, Midnight Shine, Billy Joe Green, Snotty Nose Rez Kids and more! listen…
A Message from the Moderator
The United Church of Canada E-ssentials | June 30, 2021
There is an old hymn that I remember my mother singing, “Oh come and mourn with me awhile.” It talks about taking time to gather with others and grieve a terrible loss. It has been in my ears and my heart for the past few weeks. read message…
The Long History of Discrimination Against First Nations Children
The unequal provision of health and social services for First Nations children has been documented for more than a century. Is this the moment when the wider public will demand action? read article…
It’s not just a chapter, it’s an origin story
Sarah Bessey’s Field Notes | May 31, 2021
On the Kamloops Residential School, truth, and reconciliation. read article…
Trevor Hancock: Oh, Kanata. Time for a new flag and a new name?
Trevor Hancock | Times Colonist | July 4, 2021
Designed by the late Curtis Wilson (Mulidzas) of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation near Campbell River, it is a revised maple leaf flag with swimming salmon in the side bars and an orca in the maple leaf. Dave Obee, the Times Colonist’s editor and publisher, commented that this flag “reflects the times we are in,” adding: “Canada, as we know it, could not exist without the Indigenous presence.”
Charitable Organizations & Non-Profits
compiled by Penguin Random House Canada
- Legacy of Hope
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society
- The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund
- Indigenous Women’s Fund of Canada
- Native Women’s Resource of Toronto
- Clan Mother’s Healing Village
- Na-Me-Res (Native Men’s Residence)
- NIGINAN Housing Ventures
- Urban Shaman
- Qaggiavuut! Nunavut Performing Arts Centre
- ArtsCan Circle
- Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources
- Kitikmeot Heritage Society
- IYAHRHE Nakoda Food Bank Society
- Anishnawbe Health Foundation
- Water First
- Spirit North
- Inuvik Youth Centre Society
- Urban Native Youth Association
- First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada