Author has new book on residential schools he hopes will be used in education system

Brittany Hobson
APTN National News
A new children’s book by Cree author David Alexander Robertson explores Canada’s residential school system.

When We Were Alone tells the story of a young girl and her grandmother. Through the simple act of gardening the girl learns about her grandmothers past in a residential school.

Robertson was inspired to write the story after a conversation with an elder.

“An elder, Betty Ross, shared her story with me and she did it in a healing room in her office,” he said.

“She was wearing these bright, beautiful colors and she changed into them to share her story with me. I remember asking her, ‘Betty, why did you change into those clothes?’ and she said, ‘Well, I always wear these clothes now when I’m telling my story because I wasn’t allowed to when I was a kid.’ That stuck with me hard. That’s part of the inspiration for this book.”

Robertson has written about residential schools before, but this is the first time he’s written for a younger audience. The book is targeted at kids age’s four to eight. Robertson hopes it will become a tool for teachers in the classroom.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action includes education. The recommendation suggests that schools should include age-appropriate curriculums about Indigenous people’s history, including residential schools.

“The content and the amount of materials coming to schools to support classrooms and students in their learning has increased immensely and the quality is tremendous. It’s allowing teachers the option to now do multiple areas of teaching of Indigenous history and understanding who Indigenous people are,” said Robertson.

Rob Riel, with the Winnipeg School Division, is in charge of finding materials that support Aboriginal education initiatives in classrooms.

He hasn’t read Robertson’s book but said he is open to having a look.

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2 thoughts on “Author has new book on residential schools he hopes will be used in education system

  1. Sad you need age appropriate life stories when we were children at residential schools we were treated horrifically from ages 3 or whatever age we were when sent to residential schools until we left the school. We lived through horrible conditions. Many survivors cannot live with their pain that’s why they are alcoholics or drug addicts. How many generations has our people gone to residential schools? It will take long time to heal our people from the horrible traumas we’ve lived through.

  2. One good thing to emerge from the fraudulent actions of Joseph Boyden could well be a determined and wide spread effort to support genuine indigenous authors.

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