Welcome to the Indian Residential School Survivors' Storybase
Trigger warning: Many of these items deal with extremely difficult subject matter relating to physical, mental, sexual, and emotional abuse that survivors experienced in Residential Schools. If you do not currently have the capacity to engage with these Stories, we encourage you to join us again when you feel more supported. Please see the "Processing emotions" section below for further support resources.
The Indian Residential School Survivors' Storybase is a project that seeks to bring together the multitude of Stories from Residential School Survivors available online in one searchable format. These items are created by organizations external to the University of Toronto Libraries, and this collection brings them together and places them in conversation.
The collection emphasizes audio and video recordings with the aim of connecting directly to the individual storytelling styles, personalities, emotions and experiences of Survivors. Recordings are primarily in English or Indigenous languages with English transcriptions or subtitles available.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that there are over 3 200 unmarked graves (estimated to be up to 6 000 total) of students that had been undiscovered in 2015. Those 3 200 children will never be able to tell their stories. Leddy Library at the University of Windsor has compiled a map of unmarked grave discoveries and investigations.
We hope that by using this resource, students, educators and community members will be able to more easily find these Stories and listen to them, in order to reflect on the Indian Residential School System and ongoing settler relations with Indigenous peoples and gain a deeper understanding of both the personal and societal impacts of residential schools.
Want an introduction to the history of the Indian Residential Schools System? See the Residential School History overview by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation or An Overview of the Indian Residential School System (Anishinabek Nation).
We have added tags and metadata to make these stories more navigable:
- Users can browse Stories by tag or by all items
- Users can search Stories via Survivors' names or the Residential School name
In addition, we have compiled two smaller collections within the storybase:
- A smaller group of Stories paired with reflection questions if you are looking for a place to start
- Stories appropriate for K-8 Classrooms
Processing emotions and taking action
This is a difficult topic and we recognize that there are many emotions such as grief, guilt, shame, sadness, and anger that are surfaced. It is important to acknowledge these emotions while ensuring that we process them in our own time and with our own support networks. Please do not reach out to an Indigenous person to ask them for help with processing these feelings. We want to limit the additional emotional labour and burden for our Indigenous friends. We recommend that you articulate these emotions and emotive responses into actions that will support and benefit Survivors and Indigenous communities. We have compiled a Take Action page to get you started.
For Residential School Survivors and their families, there is a 24-hour hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-721-0066. Please only use this resource if you are a Residential School Survivor or a family member of a Survivor.
When emotions are raised while engaging with these Survivors' Stories, we recommend starting with self-guided emotional regulation and self-care resources such as these created by mental health professionals:
- RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture by Tara Brach
- Mindful Walking from Mindfulness.com
- Tender Self Compassion by Kristin Neff
- Coping with Grief: Exercises to supplement the book Transcending Loss by Ashley Davis Bush
Every child matters.