Books

48 books by Indigenous writers to read to understand residential schools

David A. Robertson curated this list of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children's books, all which explore the legacy and impact of the residential school system.

David A. Robertson curated this list of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children's books

David A. Robertson poses with his picture book When We Were Alone, which was illustrated by Julie Flett. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

David A. Robertson, a Cree author based in Winnipeg, writes books for readers of all ages. He has published 25 books across a variety of genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls, a Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book called When We Were Aloneillustrated by Julie Flett, and The Reckoner, a YA trilogy. 

In 2020 alone, Robertson published three books: the memoir Black Water, the graphic novel Breakdown and the middle-grade novel The Barren Grounds. He also hosted the CBC Manitoba podcast Kiwew.

Robertson curated this list of books by Indigenous writers about residential schools. He originally posted the list on Twitter, and repurposed it for CBC Books.


Why David A. Robertson curated this list

My grandmother, Sarah Robertson, attended Norway House Indian Residential School in the 1920s and early 1930s. She died having never told her story, other than to remark to one of her granddaughters how sad it had made her when they cut her hair. And to tell my mother that her sister had died while attending Towers Island Day School, but she'd not found out until long after Maggie's death.

Her experience is lost history, a story that will remain forever untold. At Norway House Indian Residential School, officials fed children rotten food. Girls slept outside on balconies because enrolment was always overcapacity. Kids were tied up so that they wouldn't run away. In 1907, a boy, Charles Cline, ran away after getting beaten for wetting his bed. He lost six toes after seeking protection from the elements in a shed. And how were school officials held accountable? Charles's mom was given a bag of flour every month for the rest of the school year.

Stories have been, and always will be, the best way to educate ourselves about the truth.

My grandmother may have experienced similar trauma or may have avoided it by some miracle, but we'll never know.

Last week, the bodies of 215 children, some as young as three, were found buried at Kamloops Indian Residential School. Indigenous people knew a discovery like this was an eventuality as much as we know that it's a tragedy that will be repeated. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission confirmed 3,200 deaths as part of its investigation, but Senator Murray Sinclair believes there could be closer to 25,000. If at least 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools in its 165-year history, that means 17 per cent of the children died while attending residential school. Some schools' mortality rates were 40 per cent.

It can no longer be disputed that the residential school system was genocide, and the question now is: What are you going to do about it? Because outrage, thoughts and prayers, retweets and likes, are not enough.

I think the answer starts with stories. Stories have been, and always will be, the best way to educate ourselves about the truth. You have to recognize that you have the power to be the authors of reconciliation if you read as much as you can, listen as much as you can, learn as much as you can, and then take meaningful, informed action.

I don't know your role, but I know that youth are inherently better positioned than anybody to create the sort of change we need to see, and so we need to focus on them. Stories reveal the world to kids — the world that was, the world that is and the world that can be. What kind of future do you want to have?

Here are some books by Indigenous authors to get you started on your learning journey. Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. There are more stories out there.


Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Indian Horse was defended by Carol Huynh on Canada Reads 2013. (Douglas & McIntyre)

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese tells the story of Saul Indian Horse, a young Ojibway boy who is ripped from his family and forcibly placed in residential school. Saul, a gifted hockey player, is both victim and witness to the dehumanizing abuse of students at the school. As an adult, Saul becomes dependent on alcohol to cope with the trauma of his childhood. 

Indian Horse was defended on Canada Reads 2013 by Carol Huynh.

Wagamese was an Ojibway writer from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in Ontario. He is the author of six novels, one collection of poetry and three memoirs. Two of his books, Indian Horse and One Story, One Song, appear on this list. He died in 2017.

Author Richard Wagamese speaks to The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers about his novel Indian Horse. 18:19

The Orange Shirt Story & Phyllis's Orange Shirt, both written by Phyllis Webstad, illustrated by Brock Nicol

The Orange Shirt Story & Phyllis's Orange Shirt are picture books written by Phyllis Webstad, illustrated by Brock Nicol (Medicine Wheel Education, Angie Mindus)

Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30 is an annual opportunity for people of all ages to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors and their families by wearing orange. The event is inspired by residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad's experience of being stripped of a brand new orange shirt on her first day attending residential school when she was just six years old. Webstad's book, The Orange Shirt Story, shares what it meant for the writer to be deprived of her beloved clothing — and her sense of identity — at such a young age. 

The Orange Shirt Story is for readers aged 7-10.

Phyllis's Orange Shirt is an adaptation of The Orange Shirt Story for readers aged 4-6. 

Webstad is Northern Secwepemc from the Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation. She has inspired thousands of people to honour residential school survivors and their families. Two of her books, The Orange Shirt Story and Phyllis's Orange Shirt, are on this list.

Brock Nicol is an illustrator from Ottawa.

Phyllis Webstad is the founder of Orange Shirt Day, a day that honours Indigenous children who endured the horrors of residential schools. Her picture book, Phyllis's Orange Shirt, tells the story of her first day at residential school. 4:12

Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave

Shi-shi-etko is a children's book written by Nicola I. Campbell and illustrated by Kim LaFave. (salishwrite.com/Kinder Books)

Shi-shi-etko is the story of Shi-shi-etko, a young girl who has only a few days before she is sent off to a residential school. In the time she has left, she soaks in the natural wonders of the world around her, from the tall grass to the tadpoles in the creek. Before she leaves, the child learns valuable lessons and wisdom needed in the trying times ahead. 

Nicola I. Campbell is an author of Nłeʔkepmx, Syilx and Métis descent, from British Columbia. Her stories weave cultural and land-based teachings that focus on respect, endurance, healing and reciprocity.

Kim LaFave is a painter and illustrator living in Roberts Creek, B.C.

Campbell and LaFave co-created Shi-shi-etko and its sequel Shin-chi's Canoe.

Shin-chi's Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave

Shin-chi's Canoe is a picture book by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave. (Groundwood Books)

Shin-chi's Canoe is the sequel to Campbell's Shi-shi-etko. It tells the story of six-year-old Shin-chi as he heads to residential school for the first time with his older sister, Shi-shi-etko. As the children are driven away in the back of a cattle truck, Shin-chi's sister tells him all the things they must remember about home. Shin-chi knows it will be a long time before he sees his family, not until the sockeye salmon return. Shin-chi endures a long year of hard work, hunger and loneliness before returning home to his family with his sister.

Shin-chi's Canoe won the 2009 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award and the 2008 Governor General's Literary Award for illustration.

Campbell and LaFave co-created Shi-shi-etko and its sequel Shin-chi's Canoe.

My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling

My Name is Seepeetza is a book by Shirley Sterling. (Groundwood Books/CBC)

Written in the form of a diary, My Name is Seepeetza recounts the story of a young girl taken from home to attend the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the 1950s. My Name is Seepeetza has been described as an honest, inside look at the residential school experience — one that highlights the resilience of a child in a place governed by strict nuns, and arbitrary rules.

My Name is Seepeetza won the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Awards for young people's literature text — in 1993.

Shirley Sterling was a member of the Interior Salish Nation of British Columbia. Her Nlaka'pamux name is Seepeetza.

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga

Tanya Talaga highlights the lives of seven Indigenous students in Seven Fallen Feathers. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star/House of Anansi)

In Seven Fallen Feathers, investigative journalist Tanya Talaga travels to Thunder Bay, Ont., to investigate the deaths of seven Indigenous teenagers: Jordan Wabasse, Kyle Morrisseau, Curran Strang, Robyn Harper, Paul Panacheese, Reggie Bushie and Jethro Anderson. Talaga looks at how their lives and untimely deaths can teach us about the injustice faced by Indigenous communities on a daily basis.

Seven Fallen Feathers won the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize for nonfiction.

Talaga is an investigative journalist. In 2017, she was named the Atkinson Fellow for public policy. The work produced during this period forms the basis of Talaga's 2018 CBC Massey Lectures, All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward.

Investigative reporter Tanya Talaga, on her book about 7 students who left their homes to attend high school in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and ended up dead under mysterious circumstances. 14:35

Dear Canada, These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens by Ruby Slipperjack

Dear Canada, These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens is a book by Ruby Slipperjack. (Writer's Trust Canada, Scholastic Canada)

Ruby Slipperjack's children's book, Dear Canada: These Are My Words, is the diary of a 12-year-old girl named Violet Pesheens, who is a student at a residential school. Slipperjack drew on her own experiences attending Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Slipperjack is a member of the Eabametoong First Nation. She has written seven novels for middle grade and teen readers. She lives in Thunder Bay, Ont., and recently retired as a professor in the Indigenous Learning Department at Lakehead University. She won the 2017 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People.

In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Mosionier

Beatrice Mosionier is a Métis author born in St. Boniface, Man. (Madison Thomas/CBC/HighWater Press)

In Search of April Raintree is about two young sisters who are taken from their home and family. Powerless to change their fortunes, they are separated and each put into different foster homes. Yet over the years, the bond between them grows. As they each make their way in the society, one embraces her Métis identity, while the other tries to leave it behind. In the end, out of tragedy, comes an unexpected legacy of triumph and reclamation. First published in 1983, In Search of April Raintree has become a Canadian classic.

Beatrice Mosionier was born in St. Boniface, Man. She decided to write In Search of April Raintree following the death of two sisters to suicide.

First published in 1983, it has been loved and read by generations of Canadians. It is based on author Beatrice Mosionier's life, who is Metis. She survived foster care, abuse and the loss of her two sisters to suicide. Book two in #IndigenousReads. 14:48

The Train by Jodie Callaghan, illustrated Georgia Lesley

The Train is a book by Jodie Callaghan (left), illustrated by Georgia Lesley. (Second Story Press, georgialesley.com)

In this book, a girl named Ashley meets her great-uncle by the old train tracks near their Nova Scotia community. The Train is a story of the legacy of residential schools in Canada as her uncle explains his experience and loss of identity. The book is a story of remembrance, hope and reconciliation.

The Train was a finalist for the 2021 Silver Birch Express Award.

Jodie Callaghan is a Mi'gmaw author and storyteller from the Listuguj First Nation in Gespegewa'gi near Quebec.

Georgia Lesley is an artist and illustrator based in British Columbia's Cariboo region.

Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

Fatty Legs is a children's book and memoir written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. (Annick Press)

Fatty Legs: A True Story is a picture book inspired by the true story of Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton's experience at residential school. As a young girl living in the High Arctic, Margaret was determined to learn to read even though it meant leaving her home and everything she knew behind. Despite her father's warning about the horrors of residential schools, Margaret makes the long journey south where she encounters the Raven — a hook-nosed nun who immediately dislikes Margaret. In a show of cruelty, the Raven gives Margaret red stockings instead of the grey ones the other girls receive, making her the laughingstock of the school. Margaret gets rid of the stockings and must teach the Raven a lesson about human dignity.

Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton was a Inuvialuit knowledge keeper and residential school survivor. She was the co-author of several books, including Fatty Legs: A True StoryA Stranger At HomeWhen I Was Eight and Not My Girl. She died in 2021.

Christy Jordan-Fenton is Pokiak-Fenton's daughter-in-law and co-author. She now lives in Fort St. John, B.C. 

Gabrielle Grimard has illustrated over 30 picture books, including When I Was EightNot My Girl and Stolen Words. She lives in Quebec.

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan-Fenton celebrate the 10th anniversary of their children's book Fatty Legs, which tells a story from Pokiak-Fenton's time in residential school. 15:01

I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis & Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland

Jenny Kay Dupuis's I Am Not a Number tackles the history of Residential schools and is based on her grandmother's experiences. (Dan Robb/Second Story Press)

I Am Not a Number follows the story of eight-year-old Irene as she gets removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school — confused, frightened and terribly homesick. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene's parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. Based on the life of co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis' grandmother, the book brings a terrible part of Canada's history to light in a way that educates the children.

Dupuis is of Anishinaabe Ojibway ancestry and a proud member of Nipissing First Nation. She is an educator, researcher, artist and speaker who works full-time supporting the advancement of Indigenous education. She lives in Toronto.

Kathy Kacer is well known for her children's books about the Holocaust. Her books have won awards including the Silver Birch, the Red Maple, the Hackmatack and the Jewish Book Award. Kacer is a former psychologist and lives in Toronto.

Gillian Newland is an artist who lives in Halifax. She has illustrated the books I Am Not a Number, The Magician of Auschwitz and A Boy Asked The Wind.

Today, kids across this country wear orange to remember the children who were forced into residential schools. One of them is remembered in a book written by her granddaughter. Matt Galloway spoke with Jenny Kay Dupuis, author of "I Am Not A Number." 8:03

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett

In When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett, a young girl listens to her grandmother's stories about attending residential school. (TD Canadian Children's Literature Award)

In When We Were Alone, a girl asks her grandmother about why she wears her hair in a long braid and why she speaks in another language. Her grandmother responds by describing her childhood, growing up in a residential school.

When We Were Alone won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books. 

David A. Robertson is an author and graphic novelist based in Winnipeg. He has written several books in many genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls, the picture book When We Were Alone, the YA  series The Reckoner and the memoir Black Water.

Julie Flett has illustrated several picture books including Little YouMy Heart Fills with Happiness and We Sang You Home. Her picture book Birdsong was a finalist for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award.

The author of When We Were Alone meets with young readers to talk about Canada's residential school history. 7:51

A Stranger At Home by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

A Stranger At Home is a picture book by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes. (Annick Press)

In this sequel to Fatty Legs, Margaret Pokiak is now 10 years old and can hardly wait to return home from residential school. But her homecoming is not what she hopes for. "Not my girl," is what her mother says when she arrives. The story follows Margaret as she moves through feelings of rejection and tries to reconnect with her family, language and culture.

Pokiak-Fenton, Jordan-Fenton and Grimard have worked on several books together, including Fatty Legs: A True StoryA Stranger At HomeWhen I Was Eight and Not My Girl. Many of these titles can be found on this list.

Porcupines and China Dolls by Robert Arthur Alexie

Porcupines and China Dolls is a book by Robert Arthur Alexie. (Philippe Morin/CBC, Theytus Books)

Porcupines and China Dolls is about two men, James and Jake, confronting their childhood abuse and breaking the silence to begin a journey of healing and rediscovery. Enough alcohol silences the demons for a night; a gun and a single bullet silences demons forever. When a friend dies by suicide and a former priest appears on television, the community is shattered.

Robert Arthur Alexie was born and raised in Fort McPherson in Canada's Northwest Territories. He became the chief of the Tetlit Gwich'in of Fort McPherson, served two terms as vice-president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, and was instrumental in obtaining a land claim agreement for the Gwich'in of the Northwest Territories. He died in 2014.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline is the author of The Marrow Thieves. (Peter Power/CBC, Dancing Cat Books)

​In the dystopian world of Cherie Dimaline's award-winning The Marrow Thieves, climate change has ravaged the Earth and a continent-wide hunt and slaughter of Indigenous people is underway. Wanted for their bone marrow, which contains the lost ability to dream, a group of Indigenous people seek refuge in the old lands. 

The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's text in 2017 and was defended by Jully Black on Canada Reads 2018.

Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author and editor. Her other books include Red RoomsThe Girl Who Grew a GalaxyA Gentle Habit and Empire of Wild.

Cherie Dimaline on her Canad Reads contender "The Marrow Thieves." (Originally aired Oct 2, 2017) 10:06

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

When I Was Eight is a picture book by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. (Annick Press)

In When I Was Eight, Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she doesn't know how to read. Ignoring her father's warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders' school to learn. Based on the true story of co-author Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, the book makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers, reminding us what power we hold when we can read.

Pokiak-Fenton, Jordan-Fenton and Grimard have worked on several books together, including Fatty Legs: A True StoryA Stranger At HomeWhen I Was Eight and Not My Girl. Many of these titles can be found on this list.

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Stolen Words is a picture book by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. (Second Story Press)

Stolen Words tells the story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that 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 picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families.

Melanie Florence is a writer of Cree and Scottish heritage based in Toronto. She is also the author of Missing Nimama, which won the 2016 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award and the 2017 Forest of Reading Golden Oak Award.

Gabrielle Grimard has illustrated over 30 picture books, including When I Was Eight and Not My Girl. She lives in Quebec.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, and one of the recommendations is to make an age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, and aboriginal contributions and history. Guest host Gill Deacon spoke with Melanie Florence. 6:45

The Journey Forward by Richard Van Camp & Monique Gray Smith

The Journey Forward collects two novellas by Richard Van Camp and Monique Gray Smith. (richardvancamp.com, Centric Photography)

When We Play Our Drums, They Sing! by Richard Van Camp and Lucy & Lola by Monique Gray Smith are two novellas about reconciliation, healing and a way forward in one beautifully packaged flip book. Van Camp and Gray Smith each take a side of the column and present different young Indigenous characters as they navigate a world made uneasy by colonialism and fracture.

Van Camp writes comics, picture books and novels, most recently publishing the short story collection Moccasin Square GardensHe is a member of the Dogrib Nation from Fort Smith, N.W.T.

Gray Smith is a writer of Cree, Lakota and Scottish heritage who currently lives in Victoria. She is also the author of the novels Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience and Tilly and the Crazy Eightsthe picture books When We Are Kind and My Heart Fills with Happiness and the nonfiction middle-grade book Speaking Our TruthSpeaking Our Truth is also on this list.

Author and Calgary Public Library’s storyteller-in-residence Richard Van Camp is helping people tell their own stories during the pandemic, as a way to stay connected and remember what it means to be human. He tells us why he's embraced this difficult moment. 12:14

Sugar Falls by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

Sugar Falls 10th anniversary edition is a graphic novel by David A. Robertson. (Highwater Press)

Sugar Falls is based on the true story of Betty Ross, an elder from Manitoba's Cross Lake First Nation. Adopted into a loving family at a young age, Ross was sent to residential school at eight years of age — and endured abuse while she was there. Sugar Falls recounts her journey in an age-accessible way, and highlights the role her father's teachings played in helping Ross to keep hope alive. 

A 10th anniversary edition of Sugar Falls was published in 2021.

Sugar Falls is one of several books by Robertson and illustrated by Henderson on this list.

The true and harrowing story a young girl's experience in residential school was put down in words in the graphic novel called Sugar Falls. It was written by author David A. Robertson and illustrated by Scott B. Henderson. It's been taught in schools and read by young people for a decade now and the tenth anniversary edition has just been published. We hear from David A Robertson about this milestone. 6:11

Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Not My Girl is a picture book by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, art by Gabrielle Grimard. (Annick Press)

Not My Girl is a sequel to the picture book When I Was Eight. The book makes the award-winning memoir, A Stranger at Home, accessible to younger children. Based on Margaret-Olemaun's real life, it is a poignant story of a determined young girl's struggle to belong. Margaret's years at school have changed her. At ten years old, she has forgotten her language and the skills to hunt and fish. Her only comfort is in the books she learned to read.

Pokiak-Fenton, Jordan-Fenton and Grimard have worked on several books together, including Fatty Legs: A True StoryA Stranger At HomeWhen I Was Eight and Not My Girl. Many of these titles can be found on this list.

As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larry Loyie, with Constance Brissenden, illustrated by Heather Holmlund

As Long as the Rivers Flow is a middle-grade book by Larry Loyie, with Constance Brissenden, illustrated by Heather Holmlund. (Groundwood Books, firstnationswriter.com)

In As Long as the Rivers Flow, Cree author Larry Loyie writes about his last summer with his family before going to residential school in Northern Alberta in 1944. Lawrence learns things like how to care for a baby owl, and how to gather medicinal plants with his Kokom. Loyie's story highlights how his education at home was disrupted by the residential school system.

As Long as the Rivers Flow won the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction and First Nation Communities Read.

Larry Loyie was born in Slave Lake, Alta., and now lives in Edmonton. He also wrote Goodbye Buffalo Bay and The Gathering Tree.

Heather D. Holmlund is an artist and painter. She studied fine art and the visual arts at York University, specializing in watercolour. 

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Five Little Indians is a novel by Michelle Good. (HarperCollins Canada, Candice Camille)

In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie were taken from their families and sent to a residential school when they were very small. Barely out of childhood, they are released and left to contend with the seedy world of eastside Vancouver. Fuelled by the trauma of their childhood, the five friends cross paths over the decades and struggle with the weight of their shared past. 

Five Little Indians won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and retired lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Five Little Indians is her first book.

Michelle Good, who is nehiyaw from Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, wrote about a fictional story about five residential school survivors who stuck together as children but, chart their own difficult paths as young adults. 10:50

One Story, One Song by Richard Wagamese

One Story, One Song is a short story collection by Richard Wagamese. (Yvette Lehmann, Douglas & McIntyre)

In One Story, One Song, Wagamese invites readers to accompany him on his travels. His focus is on stories: how they shape us, how they empower us, how they change our lives. Ancient and contemporary, cultural and spiritual, funny and sad, the tales are grouped according to the four essential principles Ojibway traditional teachers sought to impart: humility, trust, introspection and wisdom.

Wagamese is the author of several books, including Medicine WalkRagged Company, Him Standing, Dream Wheel, the poetry book Runaway Dreams and memoirs For JoshuaEmbers and One Native Life. Two of his books, Indian Horse and One Story, One Song, appear on this list. He died in 2017.

The Red Files by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Lisa Bird-Wilson is the author of The Red Flies, a poetry collection. (Harbour Publishing, Nightwood Editions)

Drawing from family photographs and archival records, Lisa Bird-Wilson writes poetry to commemorate the generations of children traumatized by the residential school system. The project is a personal one as Bird-Wilson's own grandparents, aunts and uncles were among the 150,000 Indigenous students to attend residential schools. The title of the book comes from the federal government, who organized the residential school archives into "black files" and "red files."

Bird-Wilson is a Métis and nêhiyaw writer who lives in Saskatchewan. She is also the author of the short story collection Just Pretending, the nonfiction book An Institute of Our Own and the novel Probably Ruby.

The Education of Augie Merasty by Joseph Auguste Merasty, with David Carpenter

Joseph Auguste Merasty shares his story of resilience and perseverance in his 2015 memoir. (University of Regina Press/Courtesy of David Carpenter)

Joseph Auguste Merasty was 86 when he approached David Carpenter about writing his memoirs. At the time Merasty was homeless, suffered from alcoholism and was prone to disappearing for long periods of time. But the pair persisted in creating a heart-rending record of Merasty's experience with abuse in St. Therese Residential School near Sturgeon Landing, Sask. He was five years old when he first enrolled at the institution in 1935. They shared Merasty's story in The Education of Augie Merasty.

The Education of Augie Merasty was shortlisted for the CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Literature.

Merasty was a storyteller, fisherman, trapper, amateur boxer and "jack of all trades." He died at the age of 87 in 2017.

David Carpenter is an author and fisherman based in Saskatoon. He has written 10 books, including Niceman Cometh and A Hunter's Confession.

This is the story of one man... elderly now with a childhood of brutality seared into his memory. He wrote a book to tell the world what he survived in a Manitoba residential school. His is the story of one little boy and the adults who betrayed him. 22:00

Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith

Monique Gray Smith is the author of Speaking Our Truth. (Centric Photography, Orca Books)

In Speaking Our Truth, Cree, Lakota and Scottish author Monique Gray Smith makes the topic of reconciliation accessible to a young audience of Indigenous readers and aspiring allies alike. The innovative book helps young readers understand the history of the residential school system in Canada and its lasting effects on survivors today. Inspired by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the book includes questions and prompts to help young people think about these complicated issues, and how to move forward with understanding and empathy.

Speaking Our Truth was shortlisted for the 2018 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award.

Gray Smith's many other books include the novels Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience and Tilly and the Crazy Eightsthe picture books When We Are Kind and My Heart Fills with Happiness. Her novella Lucy & Lola is also on this list.

Educator and 'Speaking Our Truth' author Monique Gray Smith shares some advice. 8:13

They Called Me Number One by Bev Sellars

They Called Me Number One is a memoir by Bev Sellars. (Talonbooks)

Xat'sull chief Bev Sellars tells the story of three generations of Indigenous women who survived the residential school system in Canada: her grandmother, her mother and herself. Sellars shares stories of enduring starvation, forced labour and physical abuse at St. Joseph's Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., a place that prided itself on "civilizing" Indigenous children.

Sellars is also the author of Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival.

Bev Sellars has written a memoir "They Called Me Number One" about the impact of residential school on three generations - herself, her mother and her grandmother. 29:29

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe & I'm Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas, both illustrated by Pauline Young

Pauline Young with the two books she was asked to illustrate, I Lost My Talk and I'm Finding My Talk. (Gail Harding/CBC)

 I Lost My Talk shares Rita Joe's iconic poem with a new generation. I Lost My Talk is about how Joe, a Mi'kmaw elder and poet, lost her language and culture after she was sent to residential school. 

I'm Finding My Talk is Rebecca Thomas's response to I Lost My Talk. Thomas is a poet and a second-generation residential school survivor. In I'm Finding My Talk, she celebrates reconnecting with her language and culture.

Both books are for readers aged 4-8.

Both books are illustrated by Pauline Young, a Mi'kmaw illustrator who lives in New Brunswick.

For the United Nations' International Year of Indigenous Languages, initiatives to strengthen ties between Indigenous people and their languages are being taken up across the world. This week on Unreserved, stories of reclamation and revitalization of Indigenous languages. 38:25

7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

7 Generations is a graphic novel by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson. (HighWater Press, Amber Green)

7 Generations is a four-part graphic novel. The story follows one Indigenous family over three centuries and seven generations. It was originally published as a series of four graphic novels: Stone, Scars, Ends/Begins and The Pact.

7 Generations is one of several books by Robertson and illustrated by Henderson on this list.

To say Cree author David A. Robertson is prolific is a bit of an understatement. He started his writing career in 2009, and has already published more than 20 titles. This fall he has three books being released. This week on Unreserved, an extended conversation with the author. 43:38

Amik Loves School by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Irene Kuziw

Amik Loves School is the seventh book in the Seven Teachings Stories series by Katherena Vermette. (Lisa Delorme Meiler/HIGHWATER)

Amik tells Moshoom about his wonderful school. Then his grandfather tells him about the residential school he went to, much different from Amik's school. Amik Loves School is one book in The Seven Teachings Stories series. The Seven Sacred Teachings of the Anishinaabe — love, wisdom, humility, courage, respect, honesty and truth — are revealed in seven stories for children.

Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer from Treaty One territory. She won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry for her first book, North End Love Songs. Her debut novel, The Break, was a finalist on Canada Reads 2017. 

Irene Kuziw is a freelance artist and illustrator. She has worked in galleries, museums and schools. Her work has been exhibited in numerous art shows. A graduate of the University of Manitoba School of Art, Kuziw lives in the Interlake region of Manitoba.

Author Katherena Vermette brought along her baby girl Ruby when she dropped by our studio in Toronto to take The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire. 4:35

Up Ghost River by Edmund Metatawabin, with Alexandra Shimo

Edmund Metatawabin, pictured above in 2013, is a survivor of St. Anne's residential school in Fort Albany, Ont. (Colin Perkel, Vintage Canada)

Up Ghost River is a memoir of Edmund Metatawabin's experience in residential school. Metatawabin was taken from his family at the age of seven, physically and sexually abused by staff members, and stripped of his Indigenous identity in school. As an adult, Metatawabin suffered from PTSD and became addicted to alcohol. In seeking treatment with an Indigenous support group, Metatawabin was able to come to terms with what happened to him and has since become a counsellor, championing Indigenous knowledge.

Metatawabin is a Cree writer, educator, activist and former Chief of Fort Albany First Nation.

Alexandra Shimo is an author and journalist based in Toronto. She is a former producer for CBC Radio and editor at Maclean's. She is also the author of Invisible North.

Broken Circle by Theodore Fontaine

Broken Circle is a memoir by Theodore Fontaine. (Travis Golby/CBC, Heritage House Publishing)

Broken Circle is a memoir by Theodore Fontaine, who lost his family and freedom just after his seventh birthday, when his parents were forced to leave him at an Catholic residential school. Twelve years later, he left school frozen at the emotional age of seven — confused, angry and on a path of self-destruction. Step by step, he began a journey of self-exploration and healing.

Fontaine is a member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. He attended the Fort Alexander Indian Residential School and the Assiniboia Indian Residential School. Fontaine was chief of the Sagkeeng First Nation and the chair of the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute based in Winnipeg. He died in May 2021.

Ken Young remembers 'Ted' as a kind and good friend. He looks back on the former Sagkeeng First Nation Chief's life. 7:36

In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

In My Own Moccasins is a memoir by Helen Knott. (Tenille K. Campbell/sweetmoonphotography.ca, University of Regina Press)

Helen Knott's memoir, In My Own Moccasins, is a story of addiction, sexual violence and intergenerational trauma. It explores how colonization has impacted her family over generations. But it is also a story of hope and redemption, celebrating the resilience and history of her family.

Knott is a poet and writer of Dane Zaa, nehiyaw and European descent. She was chosen for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Program. In My Own Moccasins is her first book.

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience tells the story of how Helen Knott overcame addiction and trauma, and how writing became instrumental to her healing. 11:04

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

Wab Kinew is a politican and the author of The Reason You Walk. (Anthony Thosh Collins/Penguin Canada)

The Reason You Walk is a memoir by politician and broadcaster Wab Kinew. After his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Kinew was determined to reconnect with his father, a residential school survivor and respected chief. In the process, Kinew reflects on his own troubled youth.

Kinew is the leader of Manitoba's New Democratic Party. Prior to his career in politics, Kinew was a musician and broadcaster, hosting the CBC series 8th Fire and Canada Reads in 2015. He is also the author of Go Show the Worlda children's picture book about Indigenous heroes throughout history.

Wab Kinew talks about his memoir, an account of the year he spent with his dying father. 17:49

Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

Betty is a graphic novel written by David A. Robertson and drawn by Scott B. Henderson. (HighWater Press)

Helen Betty Osborne, known as Betty, dreamed of becoming a teacher. She left her home to attend residential school and high school in a small town in Manitoba. On November 13, 1971, Betty was abducted and brutally murdered by four young men. Initially met with silence and indifference, her tragic murder resonates loudly today. Betty represents one of almost 1,200 Indigenous women in Canada who have been murdered or gone missing.

7 Generations is one of several books by Robertson and illustrated by Henderson on this list.

Winnipeg author and educator David A. Robertson is this year's Freedom to Read Award, and that freedom is one he's had to fight for. David joins Laurie Hoogstraten to talk about this Award, the latest in an ever-growing list of accolades for his work. 8:09

The Land Is Our Storybook series by Julie-Anne Andre & Mindy Willett

The Land Is Our Storybook is a picture book series by Julie-Anne Andre and Mindy Willett. (Fifth House Publishers)

The Land Is Our Storybook is a series of 10 books for children about the diverse lands and cultures of Canada's Northwest Territories. Told in a diverse range of northern voices and with a child-centred approach, the series highlight each official Indigenous language group in the N.W.T., revealing a richly textured picture of life in the North-on the trapline, around the campfire, in communities, at school and within the outdoor school that is the land itself.

The series includes We Feel Good Out Here, which offers a personal account of Julie-Ann André's family story that includes a discussion about her residential school experience.

Mindy Willett is an educational consultant and former teacher from Yellowknife. Willett has worked with storytellers, Elders and cultural leaders from ten regions in the territory to capture real stories of everyday life as it exists today.

Julie-Ann Andre is a Gwichya Gwich'in from Tsiigehtchic in the N.W.T.. She is a Canadian Ranger, a mother of twin daughters, a hunter, a trapper and a student.

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