Three books to better educated yourself on Indigenous topics

Enrich your library with stories and lessons from different perspectives

The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir

TOLD BY AUGUSTE MERASTY WITH THE HELP OF DAVID CAPENTER

Named the fourth most important book of the year by the National Post in 2015, The Education of Augie Merasty became a national bestseller and instant classic after its front-page debut in the Globe and Mail. The Education of Augie Merasty is a courageous and intimate memoir detailing the story of a child who faced unthinkable conditions while attending residential school.

Augie Merasty was one of an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children who were taken from their families and sent to government-funded, church-run residential schools, where he and regrettably many other children were subjected to horrendous acts of violence and aggressive forced assimilation practices.

As Augie recounts, residential schools did more than attempt to mould First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children into mirror images of settler children but taught them instead to be ashamed of their heritage. Augie also recalls in his experience, disgusting stories of both physical and sexual abuse he and his cohort suffered. Evan as Augie looks back on this deeply painful part of childhood, his sense of humour and kind voice shine through. The Education of Augie Merasty is a must-read.

 

Night spirits: The story of the relocation of the Sayisi Dene

WRITTEN BY ILA BUSSIDOR AND USTUN BILGEN-REINART

For over 1500 years, the Sayisi Dene led an independent life, following caribou herds and having little contact with white settler society. In 1956, an arbitrary government decision to relocate the Sayisi Dene changed the independent people’s lives forever. This relocation replaced their traditional nomadic life of hunting and fishing with a slum settlement lacking in basic needs on the outskirts of Churchill, Manitoba. After their relocation, the Sayisi Dene quickly lost their independence and self-determination due to inadequate housing, zero provided jobs, and an unfamiliarity with the local language and culture; because of these conditions, over time, their lives deteriorated into a tragic cycle of alcoholism, discrimination, poverty, and violent death.

In Night Spirits, the survivors, including those who were children at the time of the move as well as the few remaining elders, recount their stories. They offer a stark and brutally honest account of the near destruction of the Sayisi Dene, and their struggle to reclaim their lives. It is a dark story, told in hope.

 

Stolen Words

WRITTEN BY MELANIE FLORENCE

Within Stolen Words, a little girl helps her grandfather regain the language taken from him as a child. When the little girl asks her grandfather how to say something in his language, Cree, he admits 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 beautifully illustrated picture book explores adult topics such as the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families and their culture back home.

The story recognizes the pain of those whose heritage and language was taken from them and explains how pain can be passed down as well as how healing can be a shared experience. Although geared toward children, Stolen Words is sure to warm hearts of any age.