Deerchild, Rosanna (Cree). Calling Down the Sky. BookLand Press, 2015. Poetry.

COVER July 2015 Calling Down the Sky

Publisher’s description: Calling Down the Sky is a poetry collection that describes deep personal experiences and post-generational effects of the Canadian Aboriginal Residential School confinements. Many children in the schools were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. Rosanna Deerchild exposes how the Residential Schools systematically undermined Aboriginal culture across Canada and disrupted families for generations, severing the ties through which Aboriginal culture is taught and sustained, and contributing to a general loss of language and culture. The devastating effects of the residential schools are far-reaching and continue to have significant impact on Aboriginal communities.

Halfe, Louise Bernice (Skydancer) (Cree). Burning in this Midnight Dream. Coteau Books, 2016. Poetry.

9. Burning_inthis_Midnight_Dream (Halfe)

Publisher’s description: Burning in this Midnight Dream is the latest collection of poems by Louise Bernice Halfe. Many were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares that arose in her as the Truth and Reconciliation process unfolded. With fearlessly wrought verse, Halfe describes how the experience of the residential schools continues to haunt those who survive, and how the effects pass like a virus from one generation to the next. She asks us to consider the damage done to children taken from their families, to families mourning their children; damage done to entire communities and to ancient cultures. Halfe’s poetic voice soars in this incredibly moving collection as she digs deep to discover the root of her pain. Her images, created from the natural world, reveal the spiritual strength of her culture.

Johnston, Basil (Anishinaabe). Indian School Days. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. Autobiography.

13. Indian School Days (Johnston)

Publisher’s description: This book is the humorous, bitter-sweet autobiography of a Canadian Ojibwa who was taken from his family at age ten and placed in Jesuit boarding school in northern Ontario. It was 1939 when the feared Indian agent visited Basil Johnston’s family and removed him and his four-year-old sister to St. Peter Claver’s school, run by the priests in a community known as Spanish, 75 miles from Sudbury. “Spanish! It was a word synonymous with residential school, penitentiary, reformatory, exile, dungeon, whippings, kicks, slaps, all rolled into one,” Johnston recalls. But despite the aching loneliness, the deprivation, the culture shock and the numbing routine, his story is engaging and compassionate. Johnston creates marvelous portraits of the young Indian boys who struggled to adapt to strange ways and unthinking, unfeeling discipline. Even the Jesuit teachers, whose flashes of humor occasionally broke through their stern demeanor, are portrayed with an understanding born of hindsight.

Loring, Kevin (Nlaka’pamux). Where the Blood Mixes. Talonbooks, 2009. Drama.

29. Where the Blood Mixes (Loring)

Publisher’s description: Though torn down years ago, the memories of their Residential School still live deep inside the hearts of those who spent their childhoods there. For some, like Floyd, the legacy of that trauma has been passed down through families for generations. But what is the greater story, what lies untold beneath Floyd’s alcoholism, under the pain and isolation of the play’s main character? Can a person survive their past; can a people survive their history? Irreverently funny and brutally honest, Where the Blood Mixes is a story about loss and redemption. Caught in a shadowy pool of alcoholic pain and guilt, Floyd is a man who has lost everyone he holds most dear. Now after more than two decades, his daughter Christine returns home to confront her father. Set during the salmon run, Where the Blood Mixes takes us to the bottom of the river, to the heart of a People.

Robertson, David Alexander (Cree). 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga. HighWater Press, 2012. Graphic novel/young adult fiction.

23. 7 Generations (Robertson)

Publisher’s description: Edwin is facing an uncertain future. Only by learning about his family’s past—as warriors, survivors of a smallpox epidemic, casualties of a residential school—will he be able to face the present and embrace the future. 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga is an epic 4-part graphic novel. Illustrated in vivid colour, the story follows one Aboriginal family over three centuries and seven generations. 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga includes the four graphic novels: Stone, Scars, Ends/Begins, and The Pact.

Williams, Kenneth T. (Cree). Gordon Winter. Scirocco Drama, 2012. Drama.

30. Gordon Winter (Williams)Publisher’s Description: Gordon Winter is an RCMP hero, a life-long champion of First Nations rights, and a bigot. He’s challenging the next generation of chiefs to stand up to the federal government when he spews a Nazi-inspired racist and homophobic rant. Suddenly, one of the most revered First Nations leaders is now one of the most reviled human beings in Canada. While most want to consign Winter to the dustbin of history, some are quick to defend a man who did so much good in his life. Questions get asked: how should society respond to such outrageous comments from a prominent and public figure? Is it right to condemn a man based on just one moment of his life? Where did these convictions come from?