Smith offers readers a sojourn through Canadian history chronicling the residential school experience through the stories of the survivors.
For over 150 years, thousands of indigenous children were forcibly taken by Canadian government officials and provided with an education that would eradicate the cultural identities of indigenous peoples. Children in these residential schools were malnourished, endured physical and sexual abuse, and were forbidden to speak their languages or practice their own spirituality. Many died. Following a formal apology from the Canadian government in 2008, survivors of this experience were allowed for the first time to publicly voice their stories for official documentation. In vignettes threaded throughout, individual survivors reflect on the impact that this cultural genocide had on their individual lives and within their communities. Generations of trauma led to destructive patterns of behavior, mental illness, and addictions. Smith (of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish heritage) includes messages of resilience from community leaders and elders and devotes an entire chapter to interviews with young people as they express how important it is for them to contribute to the healing of their communities. One Indigenous podcaster says, “Reconciliation is asking myself who my Ancestors were the day before they went to residential school, then doing everything I can to return to that.” Smith’s book is an effort that returns, offering diverse voices that invite the world into the reconciliation experience.
Absolutely necessary. (Nonfiction. 10-16)