Indigenous Literature and Education

Residential School History and Impact

Residential School History and Impact by Education Librarian

Listed below are selected teacher resources, picture books, fiction, and non-fiction related to the history and impact of residential schools.

Teacher Resources

Untold History: Understanding the impact of Indian residential school on Canada’s aboriginal peoples – a teacher’s resource for Grade 7, by Ilona Weiss, edited by Sharon Campbell

A series of lessons created for students to develop an understanding of how residential schools impacted Aboriginal people across Canada. Created to help students gain compassion and empathy for experiences faced by Aboriginal people in the past, and to show how these experiences continue to affect the Aboriginal community today.

Righting Canada’s Wrongs (Resource Guide), by Lindsay Gibson, Ilan Danjoux, and Roland Case.

Seven lessons that will engage students while they learn about some of the important events in Canada’s history that helped shape our current multicultural society. Includes support for teaching about Canada’s past treatment of ethnic minorities and how to approach the topic of racism.

The residential school system in Canada: Understanding the past, seeking reconciliation, building hope for tomorrow (Teacher’s guide), from Northwest Territories. Department of Education, Culture and Employment, Legacy of Hope Foundation, & Nunavut. Department of Education.

Indian Residential Schools & Reconciliation, First Nations Educational Steering Committee (FNESC), 2015.

Teacher resources which are meant to help students attain an understanding of the history of the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people over Canada’s history. The primary learning resources are published literature, enabling a cross-curricular approach employing both Language Arts and Social Studies learning standards. Available for grade 5, grade 10, and grades 11-12.

FNESC Additional Resources: Indian Residential Schools and Reconciliation, First Nations Educational Steering Committee (FNESC), 2017.

A comprehensive list of resources related to “Indian Residential Schools and Reconciliation” prepared by the First Nations Education Steering Committee.

Aboriginal history and realities in Canada (Teacher Resource). Primary (Gr. 1-3), by Beverly Papove and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

Aboriginal history and realities in Canada (Teacher Resource). Primary (Gr. 4-6), by Beverly Papove and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

Aboriginal history and realities in Canada : (Teacher Resource). Primary (Gr. 7-8), by Beverly Papove and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

Picture Books

I am not a number, written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland

When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns in charge at the school who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her.

When we were alone, written by David Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away.

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

Shi-shi-etko just has four days until she will have to leave her family and everything she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last precious days at home treasuring and appreciating the beauty of her world: the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather’s paddle song. Her mother, father, and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember.

Shin-chi’s canoe, written by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave

A sequel to Shi-shi-etko. Forced to use only people’s English names and not speak to his siblings at school, Shin-chi holds fast to the canoe given to him by his father, hopeful that things will then improve for his family and the people he loves. (Also available in French.)

Amik loves school: A story of wisdom, written by Katharina Vermette, illustrated by Irene Kuziw

Amik tells Moshoom about his wonderful school. Then his grandfather tells him about the residential school he went to, so different from Amik’s school, so Amik has an idea…

Stolen words, written by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

When a little girl 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. (Also available in French.)


My name is Seepeetza, by Shirley Sterling

Grades: 4-8. Her name was Seepeetza when she was at home with her family. But now that she’s living at the Indian residential school her name is Martha Stone, and everything else about her life has changed as well. Seepeetza finds bright spots, but most of all she looks forward to summers and holidays at home.

These are my words: The residential school diary of Violet Pesheens, by Ruby Slipperjack

Grades: 5-7. Violet is struggling to adjust to her new life at residential school. She misses her Grandma; she has run-ins with Cree girls; at her “white” school, everyone just stares; and everything she brought has been taken from her, including her name-she is now just a number. But worst of all, she has a fear. A fear of forgetting the things she treasures most, and a fear of forgetting who she was. Her notebook is the one place she can record all of her worries, and heartbreaks, and memories. (Also available in French.)

Sugar Falls: A residential school story, written by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, original storyboards by Scott Keewatin Sanderson

Grades: 9-12. Abandoned as a young child, Betsy was soon adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changed. Betsy was taken away to a residential school. There she was forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalled the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls — words that gave her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive.

Red wolf, by Jennifer Dance

Grades: 9-12. Starving and lonely, an orphaned timber wolf is befriended by a boy named Red Wolf. But under the Indian Act, Red Wolf is forced to attend a residential school far from the life he knows, and the wolf is alone once more. Courage, love and fate reunite the pair, and they embark on a perilous journey home.


Residential schools: the devastating impact on Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings and calls for action, by Melanie Florence

Grades: 4-6. Through historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people who survived residential schools, this book offers an account of the injustice of this period in Canadian history, and documents how this official racism was confronted and finally acknowledged.

A stranger at home: A true story, by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, artwork by Liz Amini-Holmes

Grades: 4-7. Traveling to be reunited with her family in the Arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It’s been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers. Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely recognizes her, screaming, “Not my girl.” Margaret realizes she is now marked as an outsider. (Also available in French.)

Fatty legs: A true story, by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, artwork by Liz Amini-Holmes

Grades: 4-8. When she was very young, Margaret travelled with her father to Aklavik and was mesmerized by the vision of dark-cloaked nuns and pale-skinned priests. She begged her father to let her go to the outsiders’ school. But Margaret was unprepared for the oppression and pain she was to face during those difficult years.

 UNeducation, by Jason EagleSpeaker

Grades: 8-10. A graphic novel chronicling of an Indigenous family’s government-sanctioned exploitation in the residential school system.

 A knock on the door: The essential history of residential schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Grades: 9-12. Explores a range of areas studied by the TRC, including the history of residential schools, the students’ experiences, the schools’ legacy, and reconciliation and calls to action. (E-book)

Residential schools: With the words and images of survivors, by Larry Loyie, with Wayne K. Spear and Constance Brissenden

Grades: 9-12. Loyie, a residential school survivor,  gathers memories of residential schools from over 70 former students and family members, along with over 125 images, including some from the collections of survivors. Includes a map of residential school locations, a key dates poster, and a glossary of terms.

Finding More Resources

To find more resources in this area, try the following:

  • Search using the General tab on the UBC Library website to look for material in all UBC Library branches.
  • Search using “Search Education Resources” box in the left hand bar on the Education Library website to limit your results to physical materials in the Education Library.
  • Use specific search terms to narrow your results, such as “Native peoples – Canada – Residential schools”, “Off-reservation boarding schools – Canada”, “Native peoples – Cultural Assimilation – Canada”.
  • To find lesson plans, include “lesson plans”, “lesson planning”, or “activity programs” in your search terms.

For more help with searching, please visit the Library Service Desk or e-mail

Story written by Education Librarian


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