The world’s been both watching, and largely ignoring, the finding of indigenous children at a so-called school in Canada. Shocking as it sounds, it isn’t the first mass grave uncovered and then forgotten by all those it didn’t affect.
My husband is part Native American, as are my children. We’ve lucky that his small tribe still exists while so many have been decimated. I’m a historian by degree and have a minor in genocidal studies. I can tell you the locations of concentration camps across Europe and name the main players in the Rwandan genocide. But the murder and plights of the indigenous peoples across America is largely ignored. Anything I know about Native Americans, that isn’t the ridiculous “happy pilgrims” nonsense, I’ve learned myself.
As always, I think the best resources for understanding any genocide is reading the firsthand accounts of those that lived through it.
From Bear Rock Mountain by Antoine Mountain
Mountain spent twelve years in three different residential schools run by the Catholic Church in Canada. His youth was spent dealing with identity erasure while his adulthood was spent reclaiming what was stolen from him.
You Will Wear a White Shirt by Nick Sibbeston
Now serving in the Senate in Canada, Sibbeston started his life by being sent to a residential school where he was horribly abused. As an adult, he seems to be a success, but the ghosts of the past still haunt him and he works tirelessly to advocate for his people.
They Called me Number One by Bev Sellars
Sellars writes about her experiences at the Canadian, Catholic Saint Joseph’s Mission School, a place rife with abuse and scandal. She explores how this touched her, her mother, and grandmother, then what led her to become the Chief of her people.
Broken Circle by Theodore Fontaine
At the age of seven, Theodore was forced into a residential school. Torn from his family, he had difficulties adjusting, causing problems as he grew into adulthood. His horrible experiences took his youth, but now he’s ready to tell his tale of survival.
Call Me Indian by Fred Sasakamoose
People know Fred Sasakamoose as the first indigenous NHL player, the one who got his contract to play hockey before his people had the right to vote. He spent his childhood in a residential school, and after his NHL career took off, he decided to return to his roots, reclaiming what was stolen from him.
Residential Schools by Larry Loyie
Loyie, a survivor of residential schooling, has compiled the accounts and images of more than 70 former students. These accounts, while varied, each tell a similar story of childhoods full of trauma and forced assimilation.