Local Cree writer Larry Loyie, himself a residential school survivor, explores the dark history of these institutions that tore Aboriginal families apart and stripped Native youths of their own heritage and culture
BY PAULA E. KIRMAN
Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors is by Cree writer Larry Loyie. In it, he documents first person experiences of Indian residential schools to youth and adult readers through both words and images.
Loyie, who now lives in Edmonton, is himself a residential school survivor. He attended St. Bernard Mission residential school in Grouard, Alberta and began researching the national history of residential schools in 1993 with his partner, writer/editor Constance Brissenden. The pair travelled for over a decade, interviewing more than 200 survivors and collecting their personal photographs. Their research continued through to the completion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gatherings in March of 2014 here in Edmonton.
Beautifully designed with lots of photographs, the book covers residential school history in a succinct and easy to follow fashion. It is organized chronologically, from how the schools started, to how they continued, and finally how they ended. Residential Schools is aimed to be accessible to readers from students to adults. In addition to Brissenden, Loyie also collaborates with Mohawk writer Wayne K. Spear.
Speaking of the book's design, that is thanks to Dean Pickup of Canada Book Design in Beaumont, Alberta. Loyie and Brissenden wrote the book up to page 27 and paid him to design it. Through Pickup, the authors found their two co-publishers, Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University, and Indigenous Education Press, a subsidiary of GoodMinds.com (an Aboriginal book distributor located at Six Nations in Brantford, Ontario). They previously were turned down by four publishers.
Residential Schools is an excellent introduction to this tragic subject, and will certainly have a place in classrooms around the province.