Learning and Talking About Residential Schools

Learning and Talking about Residential Schools can be challenging for all community members: Survivors, Intergenerational Survivors, neighbours and friends, Indigenous as well as non-Indigenous. This page provides resources for a variety of community members who are looking for support and resources on talking about residential schools.

Resources for Survivors

This video was created by Survivors to support Survivors who want to tell their personal stories and are looking for support and resources on how to so. We hope this video supports our community members to share in whatever way they choose to do so.

We are so thankful to the Survivors who chose to talk with us and share their voices through this video: Jennifer Wood, Neyaashiinigamig First Nation; Jim Sinclair, Selkirk (St Peters); Geraldine Shingoose, Tootinaowaziibeeng First Nation; and Katie Whitford, Sandy Bay First Nation

Resources for Families & Young People

When addressing the topic of residential schools in Canada with children, adults should approach the subject with empathy, honesty, and age-appropriate language. We have also created a guide for families and parents to talk about residential schools with the young people in their life.

Click here to Download the Guide for Families when Talking about Residential Schools with kids

  • This workbook contains activities and discussion topics to help parents, teachers, and caregivers engage in meaningful conversations with children about this important topic.
  • For example, a good place to begin is explaining that these schools were places where Indigenous children were taken, often far from their families, in an attempt to make them forget their own culture and traditions. Emphasize that what happened was wrong and caused pain to many children, families, and whole communities for generations.
  • When discussing Orange Shirt Day, explain that it's a day we remember those children and show our support for Indigenous communities. Next, explain how Orange Shirt Day and the subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Day came to be. Emphasize that by wearing orange on this day, we acknowledge the past wrongs, show our commitment to learning the truth, and take steps toward healing and reconciliation. Parents should encourage open dialogue, allowing children to ask questions and express their feelings, ensuring they understand the importance of respect and empathy for all cultural histories.

Resources for Businesses & Organizations

Finally, business and organizations are increasingly seeking guidance on commemorating, witnessing, and honouring the healing journeys of residential school survivors and their families.

Click here to Download the Guide for Businesses & Organizations who wish to commemorate the National Day of Truth & Reconciliation

  • While commemorating this important day of remembrance, it is crucial to approach it with utmost respect and sensitivity. Here, we outline how to center residential school survivors, where to buy orange shirts, how to partner with survivors, Indigenous organizations, or create your own commemoration event, including what not to do, while emphasizing the need to avoid self-centered actions and instead focus on genuine support for the cause and those affected by it.
  • First and foremost, it is essential to refrain from centering your own organization or profiting from the event. Orange Shirt Day is about honoring survivors and their families, not about financial or other gains. Supporting organizations that have long been dedicated to this work and prioritizing their voices should be the primary goal.
  • Furthermore, using free artwork for profit or turning this commemoration into a oneoff profit-making event is discouraged. Instead, genuine commitment to the cause and its ongoing support is vital. In fact, there are many ways to meaningfully commemorate Orange Shirt Day. Organizations may want to attend Indigenous-led community events, buy orange shirts, partner with survivors, partner with Indigenous organizations, and/or create their own commemoration event. Download the guide to read more best practices for each.
This project was funded in part by the Government of Canada.
Unite Interactive