Windsor·Video

Elder and knowledge keeper shares family's story with the residential school system

This National Indigenous History Month, a Windsor, Ont., elder is sharing her teachings from the community and that includes her family's experiences with the residential school system. 

Theresa Sims is an Indigenous community leader, knowledge keeper and elder

Theresa Sims is an Indigenous community leader, knowledge keeper and elder. She shares the historical contributions of Windsor-based Indigenous communities. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Warning: This story contains distressing details.

This National Indigenous History Month, a Windsor, Ont., elder is sharing her teachings from the community and that includes her family's experiences with the residential school system. 

Theresa Sims is an Indigenous community leader, knowledge keeper and elder. She is also the City of Windsor's first-ever Indigenous storyteller. 

She is also the daughter of a residential school survivor. Sims' mother attended the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont. 

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend church-run, government-funded schools between the 1870s and 1997.

Amendments to the Indian Act in 1894 authorized the government to remove an Indigenous child from their family if it was felt they were not being properly cared for or educated and place them in a school. Subsequent amendments to the act in 1920 further reinforced compulsory attendance at the schools. 

Children were removed from their families and culture and forced to learn English, embrace Christianity and adopt the customs of the country's white majority.

Sims' mother was one of those children, taken from her father and sisters to go to the institute. 

WATCH | The story of Sims' mother and residential school: 

The impact of residential schools

3 days ago
Duration 3:47
Indigenous storyteller Theresa Sims shares what her parents had to go through when they were forced to attend residential schools in Canada. A warning, that some of the details are disturbing.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation examining residential schools has identified the names of, or information about, more than 4,100 children who died while attending these schools, most due to malnourishment or disease.

Sims said her mother had to have all of her teeth removed due to malnourishment, while those who ran the school had access to food. 

Sims' teaching is one of many across Canada, and she invites us all to learn and take action on the stories Indigenous people have to share. 

Click here to see a larger version of the map of residential school locations.

This map shows the location of residential schools identified by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit students were sent to these facilities. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

Last week, Sims shared two teachings with CBC News — what it means to be 2-spirit, and the story of Chief Tecumseh

WATCH | Learn about what it means to be 2-spirit and who Chief Tecumseh was


Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

With files from Katerina Georgieva

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