10 Books about Indian Residential Schools - for young people

September 02, 2013

For parents and teachers the topic of the Indian Residential Schools system can be a difficult one to tackle - you want to present this aspect of Canadian history in terms children can relate to without overwhelming them. Age appropriate books are a great way for children to develop a base of understanding and a natural empathy for the characters.


Below is a list of books recommended by the Saskatoon Public Library that are appropriate for young children.


Shi-shi-etko. Nicola I. Campbell; pictures by Kim La Fave, 2005

Shi-shi-etko knows she has only a few days left before she leaves for residential school. She spends her time renewing her memories of special places and nature around her village.


Shin-chi's Canoe. Nicola I. Campbell; pictures by Kim LaFave, 2008

In the sequel to Shi-shi-etko, Shi-shi-etko tries to help her little brother during his last days at home before Shin-chi starts school himself. Can her gift of a small canoe sustain Shin-chi through the school terms?


No Time to Say Goodbye: children's stories of Kuper Island Residential School. Sylvia Olsen; with Rita Morris and Ann Sam, 2003

Five children from a Saanich village in British Columbia are suddenly taken to a residential school on an isolated island. They need each other as they learn to survive away from their land and their families in a strange world.


Fatty Legs: a true story. Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton; artwork by Liz Amini-Holmes, 2010

8 year old Olemaun, an Inuit girl, thinks that going to residential school and learning to read will be a great adventure. The harsh reality at her school doesn’t break her spirit.


A Stranger at Home: a true story. Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton; artwork by Liz Amini-Holmes, 2011

In this sequel to Fatty Legs, the changes Oelmaun finds within herself and her family when she returns home two years after leaving for residential school threaten to break her spirit.


The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book. Gord Hill, 2010

This graphic book by British Columbia writer, Gord Hill, surveys Indigenous resistance and protests across North and South America. His Assimilation section includes residential schools as one of the main ways of erasing Indigenous culture and history.


Ends/Begins. David Alexander Robertson; illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, 2010

This third book of the 7 Generations graphic book series chronicles the lives of two brothers, James and Thomas, at residential school in the 1960s and James’ plans to rescue his little brother from abuse.


The Pact. David Alexander Robertson; illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, 2011

This fourth and last book of the 7 Generations graphic book series focuses on how James still suffers from his time at school and his struggles to build a family with his son, Edwin.


As Long as the Rivers Flow. Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden; illustrations by Heather D. Holmlund, 2002

The summer he is ten is memorable for Larry – he and his father raise an orphaned owl, he and his grandmother tackle a giant grizzly bear, but there are also the daily pleasures of living with his family in Northern Alberta. But this summer is different, as he learns that he has to go away to school in the fall.


Goodbye Buffalo Bay. Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden, 2008                                        

This is a continuation of Larry's story from As Long as the Rivers Flow.

Here's another version of Fatty Legs: a true story


When I Was Eight. Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton; illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, 2013

A picture-book format based on Fatty Legs: a true story and complemented by stunning illustrations 


If you would like to go a little further with your children or students, here's a map of the location of residential schools in Canada produced Google Earth. Canada's Residential Schools


If you are in education and have Indigenous students, here's a series of books you might want to share with your students "Turtle Island Voices". We also offer a series of education related emails for teachers. Visit our Free Resources page to sign up. 


Looking for more information like this or training to assist you in your work with Indigenous Peoples? Consider registering for one of more of our Training Week courses. We hope to see you there.  




Updated July 21, 2016

Topics: Indigenous Education

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