Friday September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, a now statutory holiday to recognize the legacy of the Indian Residential School System.
If you are looking for ways to reflect on this day and learn more about the long-lasting harmful impacts of Residential Schools, here are five books you can read to get started.
- 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
Bob Joseph, a member of the Gwawaenuk Nation on Vancouver Island and hereditary chief of the Gayaxala clan, wrote this book based on a viral online article.
It quickly became a #1 national best-seller, breaking down the Indian Act and sharply examining its impact on Indigenous people for generations. Joseph is the founder of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., and provides professional training and workshops for Indigenous-Canadian relations. At this crucial time in the reconciliation process, this book is recommended for all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.
If you have kids, this book is a good starting point for talking about Residential Schools and the history behind Orange Shirt Day. Inspired by Northern Secwepemc author and Residential School survivor Phyllis Webstad’s personal experience at age six, the book retells the story of how her brand new orange shirt was taken from her on her first day at Residential School.
The loss of the orange shirt stands in for so much more that was taken from her and other Indigenous children forced into the Indian Residential Schools system. See also: Phyllis’s Orange Shirt, an adaptation of The Orange Shirt Story for readers aged 4-6.
The late Secwepemc leader Arthur Manuel wrote The Reconciliation Manifesto as a treatise for reconciliation and other issues of political and cultural importance for Indigenous peoples. In these essays, he reflects on the Indian Act, and other political and legal institutions that were used to harmfully assimilate Indigenous peoples in Canada. Manual gives step-by-step guidance on the strategies that Indigenous people are using to rebuild their communities and culture after centuries of neglect and harm from the federal government.
We also recommend his book Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call on the recent history of Indigenous political struggle.
- My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle
In these prose essays, Stó꞉lō writer and national treasure Lee Maracle traces her personal history as an Indigenous woman, Canadian, mother and grandmother, interwoven with national conversations about reconciliation, racism, and prejudice. These powerful stories together form a powerful vision for the future of the country.
See also: her book of poetry written with her two daughters, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter, called Hope Matters.
- Resistance and Renewal: Surviving the Indian Residential School by Celia Haig-Brown
In 2021, news broke that the remains of 215 children were suspected to be located at the Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. Published in 1989, this is one of the first books ever to document Residential Schools’ history and dramatic impacts on Indigenous peoples. From 1976 to 1986, Haig-Brown worked as a Coordinator of the Native Indian Teacher Education Program in the Kamloops Centre.
Haig-Brown interviews thirteen of the survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in this powerful and disturbing account of the conditions for children.
If you are interested in purchasing one of the above books, don’t forget to support Indigenous-owned bookstores. You can find a list here.