The Assiniboia school is unique within Canada’s Indian Residential School system. It was the first residential high school in Manitoba and one of the only residential schools in Canada to be located in a large urban setting. Operating between 1958 and 1973 in a period when the residential school system was in decline, it produced several future leaders, artists, educators, knowledge keepers, and other notable figures. It was in many ways an experiment within the broader destructive framework of Canadian residential schools.
Stitching together memories of arrival at, day-to-day life within, and departure from the school with a socio-historical reconstruction of the school and its position in both Winnipeg and the larger residential school system, Did You See Us? offers a glimpse of Assiniboia that is not available in the archival records. It connects readers with a specific residential school and illustrates that residential schools were often complex spaces where forced assimilation and Indigenous resilience co-existed.
These recollections of Assiniboia at times diverge, but together exhibit Survivor resilience and the strength of the relationships that bond them to this day. The volume captures the troubled history of residential schools. At the same time, it invites the reader to join in a reunion of sorts, entered into through memories and images of students, staff, and neighbours. It is a gathering of diverse knowledges juxtaposed to communicate the complexity of the residential school experience.
What People Are Saying
“A thoughtful, community based project rooted in the needs of the Assiniboia Residential School community. This book is a must read for those working on the history of Residential Schools and those engaged in community based restorative justice projects.” Krista McCracken, Arthur A. Wishart Library and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University
“Did You See Us? was born out of a reunion, and readers are invited to the reverberations of this coming together. It offers multi-vocal perspectives primarily from survivors but also from non-Indigenous staff, archival documents, and settler community members. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission begins to accumulate anniversaries, now more than ever the testimonies of residential school survivors are much needed.” Jane Griffith, Assistant Professor School of Professional Communication, Ryerson University
“Did You See Us? is a thoughtfully constructed, well-informed, true historical narrative. This collection tells the stories of the survivors who lived at Assiniboia during the residential and hostel years, shares the perspectives of the school’s staff and the residents of neighbouring River Heights and presents relevant articles and artifacts alongside records from the school itself.” Emily Unrau-Poetker, The Manitoban
“This book is an excellent example of people telling their truths and a community realizing the mistakes of the past, coming together, and moving towards reconciliation. Within these stories, there are lessons that we can all learn from and step towards reconciliation.” Carrie MacKenzie, Anishinabek News
About the Authors
The Assiniboia Residential School Legacy Group is a non-profit organization with a mandate to: honour the legacy of the Assiniboia Residential School through commemorative and educational activities; promote positive and reconciliatory relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people; foster awareness, understanding, and healing; feature culture and language as interpreted and presented by the Survivors of the Residential School.
Andrew Woolford is a professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba and the author of This Benevolent Experiment: Indigenous Boarding Schools, Genocide, and Redress in the United States and Canada.