September 30 is the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It’s also Orange Shirt Day across Canada. The Manitoba Teachers’ Society – together with Manitoba’s education partners and many Indigenous organizations – will be honouring residential school survivors.

Lesson plans and resources are available for all grade levels.

Kindergarten – Grade 3

When I was Eight by Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

More Resources:

  • Read a book that talks about the first day of school such as Jessica by Kevin Henkes, Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt or The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
  • Have students talk about their feelings about the first day of school or when they were courageous/brave.
  • Read Phyllis’ story
  • Have students colour the two sided shirt template
  • Create a class book illustrating Phyllis’ story with promotes and student illustrations

Grades 4-8

Shi Shi Etko by Nicola Campbell Lesson Plans

In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last days at home treasuring 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. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.

Shi Shi Etko by Nicola Campbell Lesson Plans ENG | FRE

Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools. At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.

Red Wolf by Jennifer Dance Lesson Plans

Life is changing for Canada’s Anishnaabe Nation and for the wolf packs that share their territory. In the late 1800s, both Native people and wolves are being forced from the land. 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.

Red Wolf by Jennifer Dance Lesson Plans ENG | FRE

No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School by Sylvia Olsen, Rita Morris and Ann Sam

No Time to Say Goodbye is a fictional account of five children sent to aboriginal boarding school, based on the recollections of a number of Tsartlip First Nations people. These unforgettable children are taken by government agents from Tsartlip Day School to live at Kuper Island Residential School. The five are isolated on the small island and life becomes regimented by the strict school routine. They experience the pain of homesickness and confusion while trying to adjust to a world completely different from their own.

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe Lesson Plans

This poem by Rita Joe talks about her experiences at the Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia. The poem talks about loss of identity, loss of language and the reclaiming of identity.

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe Lesson Plans ENG | FRE

Tebatchimowin: Promoting awareness of the history and legacy of the Indian Residential School System

This resource was developed as a joint Indian Residential School commemoration project between the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Legacy of Hope Foundation. The guide includes important historical information and definitions as well as lessons plans for 6 activities:

  • Project of Heart: Students create art on symbolic tiles to commemorate survivors and their experiences.
  • Giving Voice to the Brick: Using photographs of an Indian Residential School students will engage in a creative writing project that will allow them to explore their feeling and reactions to what life was like for Indian Residential School students.
  • The Apology Revisited: Students use the federal governments apology as an introduction to the Residential School system.
  • Bearing Witness: Students listen to testimony of survivors and intergenerational survivors. The intent of this activity is to bear witness to real experiences and learn from their stories, express compassion and become advocates for change and reconciliation.
  • Sacred medicines: Students will learn about the four sacred medicines and how they are used.
  • Nunali: Art and Identity: Students will use Inuit art to create their own works to reflect their own identity.

Where Are the Children

This website contains archival photographs, stories, and resource lists which allow students to explore the history and legacy of residential schools.

Grades 9-12

Manitoba Education and Training: From Apology to Reconciliation: Residential School Survivors

This Manitoba Education and Training resource was developed in response to the Government of Canada’s formal apology to Aboriginal people who attended residential schools. The project was created to help Manitoba students in Grades 9 and 11 understand the history of the residential school experience, its influence on contemporary Canada, and our responsibilities as Canadian citizens. This resource includes a video of the stories of survivors and intergenerational trauma as well as lesson plans and blackline masters organized in three clusters: The Past, The Present and the Future.

We Were Children: A film by Tim Wolochatiuk

For over 130 years, more than 100,000 Indigenous children were legally required to attend government-funded schools run by various Christian faiths. These children endured brutality, physical and mental hardship and cultural denegration. Told through their own voices, ‘We Were Children’ is the shocking true story of two such children: Glen Anaquod and Lyna Hart. Adapted from EV Staff.

America’s Native Prisoners of War-Aaron Huey TEDtalk

Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota. His haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson.

They Call Me Number One by Bev Sellars

The first full-length memoir to be published out of St. Joseph’s Mission at Williams Lake, BC, Sellars tells of three generations of women who attended the school, interweaving the personal histories of her grandmother and her mother with her own. She tells of hunger, forced labour, and physical beatings, often with a leather strap, and also of the demand for conformity in a culturally alien institution where children were confined and denigrated for failure to be White and Roman Catholic.

500 Years of Resistance Comic Book by Gord Hill

A powerful and historically accurate graphic novel which portrays Indigenous peoples’ resistance to the European colonization beginning with the Spanish invasion under Christopher Columbus and ending with the Six Nations land reclamation in Ontario in 2006.

Rabbit Proof Fence- A movie directed by Phillip Noyce

This award winning film set in 1931 documents the journey of three aboriginal girls in Australia who were plucked from their homes and sent to a Residential school where they were to be trained as domestic staff. The story focused on their escape from the school and their trek across the Outback.

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is located in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba. Part of the mandate of the NCTR is to house the statements, documents and other artifacts gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to make them accessible to all Canadians. As a result the NCTR continues to create ways to ensure that teachers and students are able to access primary and secondary source documents. The website provides access to the following:

  • Links to a variety of educational resources that can be used in the classroom (Educational Resource Tab under “Resources”)
  • Access to the NCTR database (Access Your Archive Tab under “ Access the Database”). Examples of documents that teachers and students are able to access include but are not limited to: descriptions of Residential schools, student enrollment records, school newsletters, photographs, news stories and  financial records.

Additional Resources

Muffins for Granny (Film 2006) Director: Nadia McLaren

Looking to understand her loving but troubled grandmother, McLaren interviews seven First Nations elders about their experiences in residential schools. Mixing stark animated moments with human faces and home movie footage, Muffins For Granny is a raw and honest documentary about a difficult chapter in Canadian history.

Stolen Children: Residential School Survivors Speak Out

Stolen Children: Residential School Survivors Speak Out (YouTube) is a short documentary, produced by CBC, consists of a series of interviews with Residential school survivors about their experiences attending school.

RIIS from Amnesia

RIIS from Amnesia (Youtube) is a short documentary on the Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS), its descendants and legacy. Run by the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the school opened its doors in 1891 and was located on the outskirts of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Finding Heart

Finding Heart (Youtube) is a short documentary on the life of Dr. Peter Bryce who as a Chief Medical Officer worked to highlight the mistreatment of Indigenous students within the Residential school system and advocate for improved treatment and environmental conditions

British Columbia Teachers Federation Project of Heart E-book

This eBook is intended to be an interactive resource leading educators from the story to the ‘back story’ utilizing links on each page to offer related resources. Throughout this book you will find Project of Heart tiles with an ‘aura’ which indicates that this is a link. Click on each of these tiles to find additional resources including films, videos, documents, articles, activities and more.

More Resources:

Phyllis’ StoryPhyllis-1 (Phyllis (Jack) Webstad)

I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, and there was no welfare, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school! When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never saw it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.

I was 13.8 years old and in grade 8 when my son Jeremy was born. Because my grandmother and mother both attended residential school for 10 years each, I never knew what a parent was supposed to be like. With the help of my aunt, Agness Jack, I was able to raise my son and have him know me as his mother.

I went to a treatment centre for healing when I was 27 and have been on this healing journey since then. I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don’t matter. Even with all the work I’ve done!

I am honored to be able to tell my story so that others may benefit and understand, and maybe other survivors will feel comfortable enough to share their stories.

Phyllis Today

Phyllis is married, has one son and two grandsons aged nine and five years old. She is Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). She comes from mixed Secwepemc and Irish/French heritage, was born in Dog Creek, and lives in Williams Lake, BC.

She earned diplomas in Business Administration from the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; and in Accounting from Thompson Rivers University.

Phyllis’ Story ENG | FRE