Mi’gmaw, Cree, & English
Truth & Reconciliation
Today is September 30th, and you’ve probably seen several of these posts already today. If you haven’t, and this is the first one you’ve seen please go find some Indigenous folks to learn from and follow. Although I work everyday to unlearn all of my biases (and you should be too) I am still a colonizer living on stolen land and therefore not the person you should be learning from primarily. This is primarily a Canadian day of reflection, but since there’s nothing of the sort organized in the US I want to take this opportunity to share more information.
I’ve chosen to share two books today, one is a graphic novel from Highwater Press about a Cree woman’s (Betty Ross, Elder of Cross Lake First Nation) experience at a residential school and aimed at MG and up audiences. The second is a picture book from Second Story Press about a young girl named Ashley’s great-uncle and his experience being forced on a train to a residential train.
Before I move onto describing the books (this isn’t a review, this is amplifying lived experiences) I want to give a reminder that these conversations aren’t for a single day of the year. Like all of the historical events I discuss on the website, they are for discussing regularly and taking steps for community action to support reconciliation of all folks of the global majority that white supremacy and colonization have harmed. These are tough, emotional conversations. But they’re necessary and long overdue.
Ga’s/The Train is a fantastic book to have beginning conversations about Residential Schools with young audiences. Ashley runs into her Great Uncle when walking home from school one day, and he says he’s waiting for the train. Confused, she looks around at the dilapidated and out of service train station on her regular commuter path. The pair sit in the grass near the old platform and Uncle tells Ashley how the train used to bring them supplies to the reservation but one day it loaded all of the children on and stole them to be relocated to a Residential School. This emotional conversation that readers are privy to, touches on the generational trauma and need to remember the past atrocities committed.
Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story is for older readers and gives a detailed and inside look at the heinous daily life of a Cree/First Nations child forcibly removed from everything she knew and put into a situation of forced assimilation into white culture. Having these personal and triggering memories from survivors of these “schools” are a gift to readers, a gift that is at great expense of the survivor. The graphic novel by David A. Robertson is beautifully done and emphasizes the strength and ferocity with which Betty held onto her Cree language and cultural heritage in the face of abuse. It’s important to note that Sugar Falls contains significantly more violence and allusions to sexual abuse than Ga’s/The Train. These two topics were disgustingly prevalent practices at these “schools”, which the last one in Canada was closed in 1996.
These books were kindly sent by the publishers. All opinions and decisions to pair are my own.