Orange Shirt Day, which takes place Sept. 30, is an annual event that honours the survivors of residential schools and their families. It is inspired by Phyllis Webstad who, at the age of six, was stripped of her new orange shirt on her first day at St. Joseph Mission residential school.
"The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing," Webstad told CBC News in 2016 .
Below is a list of books by Indigenous writers about the residential school system and its traumatic impact on survivors and their families. Indian Horse was defended by Carol Huynh on Canada Reads 2013. (Douglas & McIntyre) This seminal novel by Richard Wagamese tells the story of Saul Indian Horse, a young Ojibway boy who is ripped from his family and forcibly placed in residential school. Saul, a gifted hockey player, is both victim and witness to the dehumanizing abuse of students at the school. As an adult, Saul becomes dependent on alcohol to cope with the trauma of his childhood. Indian Horse was defended on Canada Reads 2013 by Carol Huynh. Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for young people’s literature. (Cherie Dimaline/Dancing Cat Books) In this dystopian narrative by Cherie Dimaline , residential schools have been reinstated in North America. Recruiters hunt and capture Indigenous people, bringing them to facilities to extract their bone marrow. It is believed the bone marrow of Indigenous people can bring back the widely lost ability to dream. The Marrow Thieves follows a young teenager named Frenchie who, along with his newfound family, has taken to the woods to escape from recruiters. The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General’s literary Award for children’s literature — text and was defended by Jully Black on Canada Reads 2018. Edmund Metatawabin, pictured above in 2013, is a survivor of St. Anne’s residential school in Fort Albany, Ont. (Colin Perkel) Up Ghost River is a memoir of Edmund Metatawabin’s experience in residential school. Metatawabin was taken from his family at the age of seven, physically and sexually abused by staff members, and stripped of his Indigenous identity in school. As an adult, Metatawabin suffered from PTSD and became addicted to alcohol. In seeking treatment with an Indigenous support group, Metatawabin was able to come to terms with what happened to him and has since become counsellor, championing Indigenous knowledge. Joseph Auguste Merasty shares his story of resilience and perseverance in his 2015 memoir. (University of Regina Press/Courtesy of David Carpenter) Joseph Auguste Merasty was 86 when he approached David Carpenter about writing his memoirs. At the time Merasty was homeless, suffered from alcoholism and was prone to disappearing for long periods of time. But the pair persisted in creating a heart-rending record of Merasty’s experience with abuse in St. Therese residential school near Sturgeon Landing, Sask. He was five years old when he first enrolled at the institution in 1935. Merasty died at the age of 87 in 2017 . They Called Me Number One is a memoir by Bev Sellars. (Talonbooks) Xat’sull chief Bev Sellars tells the story of three generations of Indigenous women who survived the residential school system in Canada: her grandmother, her mother and herself. Sellars shares stories of enduring starvation, forced labour and physical abuse at St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., a place that prided itself on "civilizing" Indigenous children. Sellars is also the author of Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival . Mamaskatch is a memoir […]
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