Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday November 17, 2013 Lakehead U "In Conversation" at Your Library

Lakehead University is holding lectures on a variety of topics here at the Thunder Bay Public Library. The second one, “The History of the Residential School Program,” will be held in the Mary J.L. Black Community Program Room on November 23 at 2pm. This lecture is presented by Dr. Robert Robson, an associate professor of Indigenous Learning and an adjunct professor of history at Lakehead University. Dr. Robson’s lecture will look at the residential school program from its beginnings to the closure of the schools and the issues that now exist in its wake. There will also be a poster presentation looking at research conducted by third-year university students. If you’re eager to learn about these schools prior to his lecture, why not stop by the library? We have many resources that shed light on this dark period of Canadian history.

Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell is a great place to start. This picture book depicts the last four days at home for Shi-shi-etko before she leaves her family for a residential school. We also have the sequel, Shin-chi’s Canoe, which depicts Shi-shi-etko’s brother’s experience at the same school a year later. Both books were finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Awards for Children’s Literature.

For stories that are a little more in-depth, the library has Fatty Legs and A Stranger at Home, both by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. In Fatty Legs, Margaret convinced her father to let her attend a residential school because she wanted to learn how to read. Unfortunately one of the nuns took a disliking to Margaret and humiliates her. A Stranger at Home is the sequel, telling of Margaret’s difficult homecoming two years later.

Theodore Fontaine tells his story in Broken Circle: the Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools; a Memoir. When he was seven, his parents were forced to leave him at a residential school. He emerged from the school angry and confused some twelve years later. His book examines the impact these schools had on his life, and what he needed to do to heal.

If you’re not interested in just one person’s story, we have several options. Both Residential Schools: the Stolen Years and Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Kamloops Indian Residential School are filled with stories about abuses, anger, and attempts at healing. We’ve also got DVDs such as Long Journey Home: Residential School Revisited, Muffins for Granny, and Sleeping Children Awake. All three of these films interview former students to illuminate their experiences in the residential school program.

The library also has several books that look at the residential schools from a historical perspective, such as Indian Residential Schools in Ontario by Donald J. Auger, Victims of Benevolence: the Dark Legacy of the Williams Lake Residential School by Elizabeth Furniss, “A National Crime”: the Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986 by John Sheridan Milloy, and The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School Experience in Canada by Roland David Chrisjohn and Sherri L. Young. Chrisjohn and Young’s book is particularly interesting because they set out to prove that the residential school program was similar to the Holocaust, if the Holocaust had become accepted by the larger public. They want The Circle Game to be the first word in a new, broader discussion that will help all Canadians free themselves from their past.

To learn more about this dark chapter of our history, why not take out a book or stop by Mary J.L.Black on November 23 for Dr. Robson’s “The History of the Residential School Program” lecture and poster presentation. It starts at 2pm in the Community Program Room.

Shauna Kosoris

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