Residential Schools


Cree students and teacher in class at All Saints Indian Residential School, (Anglican Mission School)... / Élèves cris et leur professeure au Pensionnat indien de All Saints, (École missionnaire anglicane)...

“Cree students and teacher in class at All Saints Indian Residential School, (Anglican Mission School)… / Élèves cris et leur professeure au Pensionnat indien de All Saints, (École missionnaire anglicane)…” by BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Residential schools existed in Canada for over 150 years, preceded by other types of colonial institutions which attempted to extinguish Indigenous languages, cultures, and ways of being. Schools existed across the country, with children as young as five years old being removed from their family and community, to attend school for months, and sometimes years, at a time. These schools were mired by emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse, with many not surviving, as well as poor educational outcomes. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada completed extensive research and engagement with Indigenous communities to document this significant part of Canada’s history and published its final report in 2015.

Relevant quotes from the author

The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers– Waubgeshig Rice on Moon of the Crusted Snow

(2:43) “A lot of communities like the one in this story are overcoming the negative, brutal impacts of being colonized, being displaced from their homelands and having children taken away and really being shamed out of their culture and being legislated out of their culture in many ways.”

(3:02) “There’s a healing process that is ongoing and I think that is prevalent in a lot of First Nations in Canada today. They are at some point in that healing journey. Some people are reclaiming the language, the culture, the traditions, hunting, fishing and aspects like that but they aren’t quite there.”

From the Novel

It had become protocol to open any community event or council meeting with a smudge. This protocol had once been forbidden, outlawed by the government and shunned by the church. When the ancestors of these Anishinaabe people were forced to settle in this unfamiliar land, distant from their traditional home near the Great Lakes, their culture withered under the pressure of the incomers’ Christianity. The white authorities displaced them far to the north to make way for towns and cities.

But people like Aileen, her parents, and a few others had kept the old ways alive in secret. They whispered the stories and the language in each other’s ears, even when they were stolen from their families to endure forced and often violent assimilation at the church-run residential schools far away from their homes.  They had held out hope that one day their beautiful ways would be able to re-emerge and flourish once again. (page 53)

In this video, you can learn from Julie Pigeon, Turtle Clan, about smudging.


To learn about the history of residential schools please see the following websites:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Where are the Children? Resource

This Canadian Geographic resource uses Google Earth to explain residential schools in Canada.

This OER shares about the Shingwauk Residential School in what is called Sault Ste. Marie.

Four Faces of the Moon is a stop-motion animation documentary by Amanda Strong. The documentary focuses on the impact colonization had on her family. The film is narrated in French.

What is Reconciliation? From Facing History & Ourselves.

Reading List about Residential Schools




Shi-shi-etko  written by Nicola Campbell and illustrated by Kim Lafave


I Am Not a Number written by Jenny Kay Dupuis & Kathy Kacer and illustrated by Gillian Newland


Indian Horse written by Richard Wagamese, who passed away in 2017. The book was adapted for the big screen in 2017 and community screening requests can be made at this website. The website also provides various educational resources.

As Long as the Rivers Flow written by Larry Loyie and illustrated by Heather Holmlund


Five Little Indians written by Michelle Good. This fictional book focuses on the stories of five Indigenous teenagers as they navigate life after surviving a childhood of abuse at a residential school. The author was   interviewed by The Next Chapter in 2020.
 Secret Path  written by Gord Downie and illustrated by Jeff Lemire. There is an accompanying album and animated film.

The Marrow Thieves written by Cherie Dimaline. The book was championed on Canada Reads in 2018 and there is a  teaching resource available from the CBC.
  Fatty Legs  written by Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton & Christy Jordan-Fenton and illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes Non-Fiction 
  A Stranger At Home written by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton and illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes Up Ghost River written by Edmund Metatawabin & Alexandra Shimo
  When I Was Eight written by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard


The Reason You Walk written by Wab Kinew. The author spoke with Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter and Rosanna Deerchild on Unreserved.
  Stolen Words written by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard


They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School written by Bev Sellars. The author spoke on
CBC’s Sunday Edition.
The Orange Shirt Story written by Phyllis Webstad and illustrated by Brock Nicol. The book is the basis of Orange Shirt Day held on September 30th to honour residential school survivors. The website includes a number of resources. Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir by Theodore (Ted) Fontaine


Discussion Questions

  1. Explain how Evan’s Anishinaabe identity is impacted by the residential school system.


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Moon of the Crusted Snow: Reading Guide Copyright © by Anna Rodrigues and Kaitlyn Watson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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