• Sarah Hudson

The Difficult Truth - Excellent Books on Reconciliation for all Ages

#orangeshirtday #canadianresidentialschools #difficulttruths #reconciliation #residentialschoollegacies #ourresponsibility



Teaching the concepts of reconciliation, the history and legacy of residential schools to students can be difficult. As a non Indigenous person, I worried how to approach this subject; conveying meaningful lessons while being respectful towards Indigenous Peoples’ experience. I was hypersensitive to the possibility that I might blindly enter into subject matter with unintentional disrespect due to lack of the knowledge or perspective. It was my hypersensitivity that delayed my approach to the subject matter altogether.


It was only when reconciliation picture books began to be published, that I was able to wade into the topic with slightly less trepidation. I let the books tell the story and I supported the story as best I could, from an outsider’s perspective, using reading strategies such as: question, inference, summarization, visualization, and connection. My intention with this approach was to provide students the opportunity to have a deeper learning experience and better understanding of the subject, rather than simply being read a book.


Here is my list of books that are excellent reads for students of all ages. I have put them in order according to age appropriateness, and while I have not included all the books available, I have composed a list of the ones I am familiar with and use/have used in my teaching practice.


My personal favourites are: The Orange Shirt Story, written by Phyllis Webstad, for younger students and, No Time to Say Goodbye, written by Sylvia Olsen, for older students.


Without further ado, my list of reconciliation resources with links to my units for supporting reading responses:


Primary K – Grade 3


When We Were Alone

Author: David Alexander Robertson Artist: Julie Flett

Synopsis:

“When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=6352&f=




My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/When-We-Were-Alone-A-Reading-Response-Unit-2999734





Shi-shi-etko

Author: Nicola I. Campbell Artist: Kim LaFlave


Synopsis:

“In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school.

She spends her last days at home treasuring the beauty of her world -- the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather's paddle song. Her mother, father and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.

Richly hued illustrations complement this gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace all around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss -- a loss that native people have endured for generations because of the residential school system.

This gentle story of a child on the verge of great loss was selected as the Aboriginal Children’s Book of the Year.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=3351&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Shi-shi-etko-A-Residential-School-Story-2928589






Shin-chi’s Canoe

Author: Nicola I. Campbell Artist: Kim LaFlave


Synopsis:

“This moving sequel to the award-winning Shi-shi-etko tells the story of two children's experience at residential school. Shi-shi-etko is about to return for her second year, but this time her six-year-old brother, Shin-chi, is going, too. As they begin their journey in the back of a cattle truck, Shi-shi-etko takes it upon herself to tell her little brother all the things he must remember: the trees, the mountains, the rivers and the tug of the salmon when he and his dad pull in the fishing nets. Shin-chi knows he won't see his family again until the sockeye salmon return in the summertime.

When they arrive at school, Shi-shi-etko gives him a tiny cedar canoe, a gift from their father. The children's time is filled with going to mass, school for half the day, and work the other half. The girls cook, clean and sew, while the boys work in the fields, in the woodshop and at the forge. Shin-chi is forever hungry and lonely, but, finally, the salmon swim up the river and the children return home for a joyful family reunion.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=2138&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Shin-chis-Canoe-First-Nations-and-Native-American-Literature-2929623






When I was Eight

Authors: Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton Artist: Gabrielle Grimard


Synopsis:

“Nothing will stop a strong-minded young Inuit girl from learning how to read.

Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. She must travel to the outsiders' school to learn, ignoring her father's warning of what will happen there.

The nuns at the school take her Inuit name and call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do chores. She has only one thing left -- a book about a girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole.

Margaret's tenacious character draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But she is more determined than ever to read.

By the end, Margaret knows that, like Alice, she has traveled to a faraway land and stood against a tyrant, proving herself to be brave and clever.

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to young children. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=4326&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/When-I-Was-Eight-Reading-Response-Unit-2967044








Not My Girl

Authors: Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton Artist: Gabrielle Grimard


Synopsis:

“Margaret can’t wait to see her family, but her homecoming is not what she expected. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by evocative illustrations, Not My Girl makes the original, award-winning memoir, A Stranger at Home, accessible to younger children. It is also a sequel to the picture book When I Was Eight. A poignant story of a determined young girl’s struggle to belong, it will both move and inspire readers everywhere.” https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/18706571


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Not-My-Girl-Reading-Response-Unit-2969001








The Boy Who Walked Backwards

Author: Ben Sures Artist: Nicole Marie Burton


Synopsis:

“The Boy Who Walked Backwards is a moving story about a young Ojibway boy Leo and his family in Serpent River First Nation. Leo’s life turns to darkness when forced to attend residential school. Back home for Christmas, Leo uses inspiration from an Ojibway childhood game to deal with his struggles.” http://www.bensures.com/book-publication/









My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Boy-Who-Walked-Backwards-4793190














Stolen Words

Author: Melanie Florance Artist: Gabrielle Grimard


Synopsis:

“The dual-language edition, in Plains Cree and English, of Stolen Words, the award-winning story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in Cree, he tells her that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again.

This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families.

The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=8159&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Stolen-Words-3557828







Grades 3-8


Kookum’s Red Shoes

Author: Peter Eyvindson


Synopsis:

“In this story, an Elder, Kookum, tells about her experiences as a child attending a Catholic-run residential school. As a child growing up in a loving family, Kookum recalls seeing a movie called The Wizard of Oz. Like Dorothy, Kookum is taken up into a wild and scary tornado as she is whisked away from her home into a foreign residential school. She had to leave her lovely red shoes behind. The story follows Kookum's at residential school and she finds her beautiful red shoes are too small when she eventually returned to her home community.

This story makes a fine introduction for elementary students into the experience of one Elder who endured the trauma of residential school. By introducing the reader to the magical story of Oz the author creates a new approach to this difficult subject.” http://www.goodminds.com/kookums-red-shoes-paper-ed



My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Kookums-Red-Shoes-A-Residential-School-Unit-3455291





Orange Shirt Story

Author: Phyllis Webstad Artist: Brock Nicol


Synopsis:

“When Phyllis Webstad (nee Jack) turned six, she went to the residential school for the first time. On her first day at school, she wore a shiny orange shirt that her Granny had bought for her, but when she got to the school, it was taken away from her and never returned. This is the true story of Phyllis and her orange shirt. It is also the story of Orange Shirt Day (an important day of remembrance for First Nations and non First Nations Canadians).” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=7137&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Orange-Shirt-Story-4172337















I AM NOT A NUMBER

Authors: Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer Artist: Gillian Newland


Synopsis:

“The dual language edition, in Nishnaabemwin (Ojibwe) Nbisiing dialect and English, of the award-winning I Am Not a Number. When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene's parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again.

But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law?

Based on the life of co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother, I Am Not a Number is a hugely necessary book that brings a terrible part of Canada’s history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=8141&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/I-AM-NOT-A-NUMBER-Reading-Response-Unit-2949915


Grades 4 - 9


Fatty Legs

Authors: Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton Artist: Liz Amini-Holmes


Synopsis:

“The moving memoir of an Inuit girl who emerges from a residential school with her spirit intact.

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.

At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls -- all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.


In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=1871&f=




My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Fatty-Legs-A-Novel-Study-2939414




Stranger at Home

Authors: Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton Artist: Liz Amini-Holmes


Synopsis:

The powerful memoir of an Inuvialuit girl searching for her true self when she returns from residential school.

Traveling to be reunited with her family in the Arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It's been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers.

Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely recognizes her, screaming, "Not my girl." Margaret realizes she is now marked as an outsider.

And Margaret is an outsider: she has forgotten the language and stories of her people, and she can't even stomach the food her mother prepares.

However, Margaret gradually relearns her language and her family's way of living. Along the way, she discovers how important it is to remain true to the ways of her people -- and to herself.


Highlighted by archival photos and striking artwork, this first-person account of a young girl's struggle to find her place will inspire young readers to ask what it means to belong.

Sequel to Fatty Legs.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=3155&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/A-Stranger-at-Home-Fatty-Legs-Sequel-An-Inuit-Native-American-Novel-Study-3104298





No Time to Say Goodbye

Author: Sylvia Olsen


Synopsis:

“Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School with Rita Morris and Ann Sam

No Time to Say Goodbye is a fictional account of five children sent to aboriginal boarding school, based on the recollections of a number of Tsartlip First Nations people. These unforgettable children are taken by government agents from Tsartlip Day School to live at Kuper Island Residential School. The five are isolated on the small island and life becomes regimented by the strict school routine. They experience the pain of homesickness and confusion while trying to adjust to a world completely different from their own. Their lives are no longer organized by fishing, hunting and family, but by bells, line-ups and chores.


In spite of the harsh realities of the residential school, the children find adventure in escape, challenge in competition, and camaraderie with their fellow students.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=407&f=



My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/No-Time-to-Say-Goodbye-Reading-Response-Unit-4477591





Grades 7-10


Stealing Indians

Author: John Smelcer


Synopsis:

“In a riveting work that Chinua Achebe calls “a masterpiece,” four Indian teenagers are taken from their homes all over America and shipped to a faraway boarding school to begin a new life. To make them “less Indian,” their kidnappers—government men in suits with slips of paper that the children’s parents often couldn’t even read—take the children from their original homes and send them away to distant locales, ostensibly to help them escape poverty and lack of opportunity. The children enroll in a school at Wellington, a place that is desolate, gloomy, and cruel. The purpose of Wellington seems to be to eradicate the “Indian”—to assimilate the children to American culture while driving out their heritage.



More than just a story of survival, Stealing Indians is focused on the changing, shifting, and even disappearing identities of the four young teens, who must rely on and trust one another as they navigate their new challenges. Without their connections to home, the young teens adapt to their new world, and the institution behind their kidnapping and forced journey seems to have intentionally orchestrated this crushing of their old senses of self. A commentary on colonialism and oppression, Stealing Indians moves beyond a survival tale by plumbing the depths of the teens’ psychology as they struggle forward in this new world. Ideal for anyone looking for a rich adventure story with depth and heart, Stealing Indians is a work that engages and challenges until the very end.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=6117&f=


My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEALING-INDIANS-A-Residential-School-Novel-Unit-4256910


Sugar Falls

Author: David Alexander Robertson Artist: Scott B. Henderson


Synopsis:

“A school assignment to interview a residential school survivor leads Daniel to Betsy, his friend's grandmother, who tells him her story. Abandoned as a young child, Betsy was soon adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changed. Betsy was taken away to a residential school. There she was forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalled the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls — words that gave her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive.

Sugar Falls is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation. We wish to acknowledge, with the utmost gratitude, Betty's generosity in sharing her story.” https://www.strongnations.com/store/item_display.php?i=3693&f=



My unit supporting this book can be found here at My TpT Store:

Infusing Indigenous Literature


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Sugar-Falls-A-Residential-School-Story-First-Nations-And-Native-American-Lit-2987035

 

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