Just over a decade ago I was teaching grade ten and eleven English at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School. For one reading assignment I gave my students some memoirs written by residential school survivors. For most of them this was their first introduction to this shameful part of Canadian history. Many of my students were shocked. “Did this really happen?” they asked me in disbelief.
I led tours for more than a hundred teens during the recent seven months long Insurgence Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It featured indigenous artists from across Canada. The nature of some of the art pieces on display led me to ask the junior and senior high students if they had heard of residential schools. Without exception they all had, and most could tell me about their devastating legacy. The young people on my tours knew far more about indigenous history and culture then I ever would have growing up in Canada in the 1950s and 60s and far more than teens knew even a decade ago.
I realize we have a long way to go to achieve real truth and reconciliation but things are changing.