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Book launch at Tk'emlúps marks legacy of residential schools in Canada

With new essays from survivors and their families, Tsqelmucwilc: The Kamloops Indian Residential School — Resistance and a Reckoning is an update to Celia Haig-Brown’s 1988 book, Resistance and Renewal

Friday, Sept. 30, marks not only the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, but will also see the launch of an expanded second edition of Celia Haig-Brown’s comprehensive book on residential schools, Resistance and Renewal, published in 1988. It was the first book published on residential schools in Canada.

In an expanded second edition, Tsqelmucwilc: The Kamloops Indian Residential School — Resistance and a Reckoning, Haig-Brown and co-authors Randy Fred and Garry Gottfriedson revisit work with new essays from survivors and their families.

Haig-Brown said Tsqelmucwilc (pronounced cha-Cal-mux-weel), which translates to “We return to being human,” is a testament to Indigenous healing and renewal as much as it is a history of Kamloops Indian Residential School.

"I really think it’s important that we understand what occurred in residential schools across Canada and how complicit the government and the Church and, therefore, the Canadian people were in those initiatives.”

“The most important part for me, is the strength of the survivors — the people who tell the stories in the text and who managed to find their way through some of the horrors, some of the education that happened, to come out the other side as strong Indigenous Secwépemc people,” Celia Haig-Brown said.

Haig-Brown said the new book is a re-examination of her masters thesis, published in 1988, having sold 16,000 copies across Canada.

The book is used in libraries and in courses at high schools and universities. Haig-Brown said she is hoping “this one [book], which really takes that text and brings it up-to-date, will be also attractive for people working to indigenize curriculum.”

As many people will be donning orange shirts and Indigenous-related clothing on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, KTW asked Haig-Brown her thoughts on the growing problem Indigenous artists are facing with theft and unauthorized use of their artwork or logos.

She said she looks at appropriation in two different ways — and one is cultural theft.

“That is intolerable,” Haig-Brown said. “I just find it horrendous that that is being done.

“The whole ‘pretend Indians’ situation is appalling. There’s people who are trying to take advantage of what is finally being done to give some justice to what’s happened to Indigenous people in Canada.”

Haig-Brown added that appropriation has another meaning, which has to do with learning.

She believes Canadians must take the opportunity to learn from Indigenous knowledge.

As an instructor, one of Haig-Brown’s oft-repeated phrases in the classroom is, “I believe even white people can learn.”

She encourages people to acknowledge their teachers, to talk about how they know what they know, to indicate that they have not had the experience of being Indigenous, but they have learned from being with Indigenous people who have taken the time to teach them.

“That’s good,” Haig-Brown said. “But you have to acknowledge the teachers. You have to be very clear about the position that you’re speaking from.”

Haig-Brown and other contributors will be at the book launch on Friday at the Kamloops Indian Residential School Monument, 330 Chief Alex Thomas Way, at 3 p.m.

“I find this event incredibly moving,” she said. “It brings sadness, but it also brings a celebration of persistence and strength of people.”

The free event is open to the public and authors will be on hand to welcome a conversation about the legacy of residential schools in Canada and the strength of the students and survivors who attended them.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

About the authors

Celia Haig-Brown is an educator now based in Ontario. Her published books include Resistance and Renewal: Surviving the Indian Residential School, Taking Control: Power and Contradiction in First Nations Adult Education and With Good Intentions: Euro-Canadian and Aboriginal Relations in Colonial Canada.

Garry Gottfriedson is a Secwépemc poet with 10 books to his credit. He is the Secwépemc cultural advisor to Thompson Rivers University.

Randy Fred is an elder of Tseshaht First Nation who survived nine years at the Alberni Indian Residential School. After a lifelong career in multimedia, he is the Nuu-Chah-Nulth elder at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.