October 20, 2021 Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice News from The United Church of Canada Community Education for Reconciliation

St. Michael’s Residential School: Lament & Legacy

Two former staff of Alert Bay Student Residence (formerly the St. Michael’s residential school) in British Columbia have published the story of their time at the residence in 1970. Nancy Dyson and Dan Rubenstein were hired as child care workers, and had no prior knowledge of the residential school system. In their published reflections, rare from former staff, Nancy and Dan take us into the residence to experience from their young adult eyes what life was like in a residential boarding institution for Indigenous children. Through them we also experience the Indigenous community celebrating the historic raising of a totem to memorialize Mungo Martin and an accompanying potlach. We listen as community members react to the infamous 1969 White Paper during a visit from then federal Minister Jean Chretien. We meet parents whose children were housed at the residence. We observe efforts by a local United Church minister to get parishioners to sign a petition drafted with the local First Nation seeking federal inspection of the residence.  And, we see Nancy and Dan struggle with their growing awareness of the residential school system.

Using excerpts from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, they share their story as a witness and contribution to the journey of truth telling, healing, and reconciliation. St. Michael’s Residential School: Lament & Legacy is available by direct order from Ronsdale Press and through major book retailors. Dan and Nancy may be contacted through their website.

[Photo: Don and Nancy’s book. Credit: Lori Ransom]

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