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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Guiding Conversations in the Classroom and Beyond

By Press Staff | Date: August 31, 2023

How will you observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation/Orange Shirt Day? This day of recognition presents an opportunity for educators to engage young people in important discussions about the harm inflicted by residential schools and its legacy in structures of systemic racism. It also offers the opportunity to explore positive aspects of Indigenous histories and cultures, and the beauty and resilience of Indigenous communities.

So, where are we to begin?

Before addressing these topics with your students, we encourage you to do your own learning outside of the classroom. One way to begin is to learn about the Indigenous Nations whose traditional territory your school is located on. The mapping website highlights the territories, languages, and treaties of Indigenous Peoples across multiple countries including Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Australia. See it here≫ Take your learning further with the helpful resources in the “For educators” section below.

Bring Indigenous-authored stories into your classroom, including the books for students listed below. Each title was chosen to witness and honour Indigenous residential school Survivors and their healing journey, and to show the strengths, beauty, and achievements of Indigenous people and communities.

Investigate what you can do in your own community to make a positive difference. We encourage you to exemplify allyship, demonstrate cultural appreciation, and seek more information about Indigenous Peoples, particularly in your region. The following resources offer a starting point for educators and students.

See What does it mean to be an ally to Indigenous Peoples? (CBC Kids News) here≫

See the Indigenous Ally Toolkit (Montreal Indigenous Community Network) here≫

See He created a logo to honour residential school victims. Now retailers are using it to 'make a buck' (CBC Radio) here≫

At Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press, we are honoured to have published the stories of Survivors, and many books by Indigenous authors about the histories and cultures of Indigenous Peoples.




Spíləx̣m: A Weaving of Recovery, Resilience, and Resurgence
by Nicola I. Campbell
ages 18+

Spíləx̣m is a putting away of pain, a letting go of sorrow, a poignant unburdening, and a return to self and community. With it, Campbell establishes herself as a visionary with the capacity to gather what is broken and weave it into a new story.
—Quill & Quire

In this exceptional memoir, bestselling author Nicola I. Campbell deftly weaves together rich poetry and vivid prose to illustrate what it means to be an intergenerational survivor of residential schools.

Find your copy of this White Ravens 2022 selection here≫

In Search of April Raintree
40th Anniversary Edition
by Beatrice Mosionier
ages 18+

I am endlessly indebted to Beatrice Mosionier and April Raintree for lighting the way to my own stories.
—Cherie Dimaline, award-winning author of The Marrow Thieves

Rediscover Beatrice Mosionier’s groundbreaking classic with this 40th anniversary edition. Intimate, hopeful, and impossible to put down.

Learn more here≫

Last Standing Woman
25th Anniversary Edition
by Winona LaDuke
ages 18+

Hopeful, irreverent, and deeply moving, Last Standing Woman chronicles the stories and struggles of an Anishinaabe community across seven generations.

Written by Winona LaDuke, who was named to Forbes' first “50 Over 50—Women of Impact” list in 2021, find Last Standing Woman here≫

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Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada
by Chelsea Vowel
ages 18+

[Chelsea Vowel] punctures the bloated tropes that have frozen Indigenous peoples in time, often to the vanishing point… What this book really is, is medicine.
—Shelagh Rogers, O.C., Broadcast Journalist, TRC Honorary Witness

In 31 essays, Chelsea explores the Indigenous experience from the time of contact to the present, through five categories—Terminology of Relationships; Culture and Identity; Myth-Busting; State Violence; and Land, Learning, Law, and Treaties. She answers the questions that many people have on these topics to spark further conversations at home, in the classroom, and in the larger community.

Get your copy of this national bestseller here≫

Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies: An Act for Reconciliation and Anti-Racist Education
by Jo Chrona
ages 18+

It was an honour to read this book. With immense expertise, humility, and care Jo Chrona has created a path for each of us to examine the personal and systemic racism that is preventing Indigenous learners, their families, and communities from achieving their rightful place and success in the education system. As we work towards reconciliation, the historic and current truths of oppression and injustice against Indigenous peoples must be known, understood, and addressed. Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies examines the truths of education and how they can be dismantled. This is an essential read.
—Teresa Downs, President, BC School Superintendents Association

With over two decades of experience in Indigenous education, author Jo Chrona encourages readers to acknowledge and challenge assumptions, reflect on their own experiences, and envision a more equitable education system for all.

Find your copy of the starred selection for CCBC's Best Books Ideal for Teachers 2023 here≫

Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools
by Pamela Rose Toulouse
ages 18+

Every educator in Canada needs to know what is in this book.
—Leah Fowler, Education Canada Magazine

This book is for all teachers that are looking for ways to respectfully infuse residential school history, treaty education, Indigenous contributions, First Nations/Métis/Inuit perspectives and sacred circle teachings into their subjects and courses. The author presents a culturally relevant and holistic approach that facilitates relationship building and promotes ways to engage in reconciliation activities.

Get a copy here≫

The Footbridge Series
Edited by Katya Adamov Ferguson and Christine M’Lot
ages 18+

★ Starred selection for CCBC's Best Books Ideal for Teachers 2023!

Resurgence is an inspiring collection of contemporary Indigenous poetry, art, and narratives that guides K–12 educators in bridging existing curricula with Indigenous voices and pedagogies.

Through critical engagement with each contributor’s work, experienced educators Christine M’Lot and Katya Adamov Ferguson support readers in connecting with Indigenous narratives and perspectives, bringing Indigenous works into the classroom, and creating more equitable and sustainable teaching practices.

Use this book as a springboard for your own learning journey or as a lively prompt for dialogue within your professional learning community.

Order it here≫



Echo Omnibus_Cover_Approved_07Sept (1)

A Girl Called Echo Omnibus
by katherena vermette
line art by Scott B. Henderson
colour by Donovan Yaciuk
ages 12+

After the TRC, how do we invite rethinking of the rich story of the Métis in Canada for Métis youth in relationship to their kin—past and present, and to other citizens in this country? We tell an engaging, inclusive, and relatable story of family, love, and resistance that spans time, a story that is both truthful and hopeful for the future.
—Rita Bouvier, former Indspire Education Laureate and author of a beautiful rebellion

Métis teenager Echo Desjardins is struggling to adjust to a new school and a new home. When an ordinary day in history class turns extraordinary, Echo is pulled into a time-travelling adventure. Follow Echo as she experiences pivotal events from Métis history, gains new perspectives about where she came from, and imagines what the future might hold.

The A Girl Called Echo series of four graphic novels is a story about identity, isolation, and finding strength and hope through family. Find Echo’s entire time-travelling adventure in the omnibus here≫

Hopeless in Hope
by Wanda John-Kehewin
ages 12+

As Eva navigates serious challenges like living in a group home and being separated from her family, she observes the world around her, learning lessons about love, the ties of family and friendship, the unfairness of poverty, and the power of finding your voice. Oh, and also soup—the tremendous healing power of a bowl of homemade soup.
—Jennifer Moss, UBC Creative Writing Instructor and New Media Storyteller

When Eva Brown’s Nohkum is hospitalized, her mother struggles to keep things together for Eva and her younger brother, Marcus. After Marcus is found wandering the neighbourhood alone, he is sent to live with a foster family, and Eva finds herself in a group home. Heartbreaking and humorous, Hopeless in Hope is a compelling story of family and forgiveness.

Find this story, listed among CBC’s 25 Canadian YA Books to Read in Fall 2023, here≫

Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story
10th Anniversary Edition
by David A. Robertson
line art by Scott B. Henderson
colour by Donovan Yaciuk
ages 15+

For those Canadians who know little about the residential school system, Sugar Falls is a crucial text in their education about a truly shameful episode in the history of Canada. Highly Recommended.
—CM Association

Inspired by true events, this story of strength, family, and culture shares the awe-inspiring resilience of Elder Betty Ross. This anniversary edition includes a foreword by Hon. Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and a touching afterword from Elder Betty Ross herself.

Get the updated and full-colour version here≫ as well as the guide for teachers here≫

7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga
by David A. Robertson
illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
ages 12+

Reconciliation is about respect...and self-respect is where it starts. A good story is worth telling, and when told well is worth reading. Especially this one.
—Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Illustrated in vivid colour, 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga is an epic story that follows one Indigenous family over three centuries and seven generations. This compiled edition was originally published as a series of four graphic novels: Stone, Scars, Ends/Begins, and The Pact.

Find this compiled edition included on CCBC's Best Books for Kids & Teens list here≫ as well as the teacher guide here≫

This Place: 150 Years Retold
by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, katherena vermette, Chelsea Vowel
illustrated by Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Andrew Lodwick, Scott A. Ford, Donovan Yaciuk, Ryan Howe, and Jen Storm
ages 15+

This Place is a groundbreaking graphic novel anthology that re-frames Canada’s history, present, and future through the perspectives of Indigenous writers. Through the anthology’s 10 beautifully illustrated stories, readers will encounter Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and even time travel. Now a CBC podcast.

Get a new perspective on the past 150 years—and beyond—by ordering your copy here≫ as well as the teacher guide here≫



Heart Berry Bling
by Jenny Kay Dupuis
illustrated by Eva Campbell
ages 6–8

A touching story about perseverance, family, and the tradition of beading from the bestselling co-author of I Am Not a Number.

On a visit to her granny, Maggie is excited to begin her first-ever beading project: a pair of strawberry earrings. However, beading is much harder than she expected! As she learns about patience and perseverance from her granny’s teachings, Maggie discovers that beading is a journey, and like every journey, it’s easier with a loved one at her side.

In this beautifully illustrated book, children learn about the tradition of Anishinaabe beadwork, strawberry teachings, and gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

Find it here≫ Explore themes of social justice, cultural continuity, and resilience through art with the Teacher Guide for Heart Berry Bling found here≫

When We Were Alone
by David A. Robertson
illustrated by Julie Flett
ages 6–8

An empowering story of resistance that gently introduces children to the history of residential schools in Canada.

In When We Were Alone, a young girl notices things about her grandmother that make her curious. As she asks questions, her grandmother tells her about her experiences in a residential school.

Order the Governor General’s Award-winning book that continues to captivate readers across the globe here≫

Amik Loves School: A Story of Wisdom
The Seven Teachings Stories Series
by katherena vermette
illustrated by Irene Kuziw
ages 3–5

In this heartwarming story, an Anishinaabe child shows his grandfather how his school celebrates the culture that residential schools tried to erase. A pronunciation guide for the Anishnaabemowin words can be found at the back of the book.

Introduce young readers to the legacy of residential schools with this uplifting story of hope and reclamation with your copy here≫ as well as the teacher guide here≫


Giju’s Gift
Adventures of the Pugulatmu’j series
by Brandon Mitchell
line art by Veronika Barinova
lettering by Britt Wilson
ages 6–8

A Mi’kmaw girl battles an ancient giant and forms an unexpected friendship in the first volume of the Adventures of the Pugulatmu’j series of graphic novels inspired by traditional stories.

Join Mali and Puug as they race to keep one step ahead of the ancient giant!

Bonus instructions for making your own memory box included at the back of the book.

Order the graphic novel here≫

Stand Like a Cedar
by Nicola I. Campbell
illustrated by Carrielynn Victor
ages 3–5

Exquisitely written and illustrated....[The book] offers learners a window through which to explore concepts of environment, seasons, family, traditions, mindfulness, and Indigenous languages….Students will be engaged by its content and enjoy many conversations and themes that emerge from its pages.
—ETFO Voice

Award-winning storyteller Nicola I. Campbell shows what it means to “stand like a cedar” on this beautiful journey of discovery through the wilderness.

Explore new sights and sounds with every read. Order here≫

Dancing With Our Ancestors
Sk'ad'a Stories Series
by Sara Florence Davidson and Robert Davidson
illustrated by Janine Gibbons
ages 6–8

In this tender picture book, Sara Florence Davidson transports readers to the excitement of a potlatch in Hydaburg, Alaska—her last memory of dancing with her late brother.

The invitations have been sent. The food has been prepared. The decorations have been hung. And now the day of the potlatch has finally arrived! Witness this bittersweet but joyful celebration of Haida culture and community by ordering the American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) Best Book (2022) here≫

We Need Everyone
by Michael Redhead Champagne
illustrated by Tiff Bartel
ages 6–8

We Need Everyone echoes a universal truth: we are in this world to be supportive and respectful of each other's gifts and talents. Michael's love for and commitment to this powerful idea is revealed on every page.
—Fred Penner, Juno Award-winning entertainer

We Need Everyone empowers children to identify their gifts and use them to overcome challenges, achieve goals, and strengthen communities. Inspiring and uplifting, this interactive picture book celebrates diverse cultures, perspectives, and abilities through playful illustrations. Perfect for reading aloud.

Pre-order here≫


The National Indian Residential School Survivor Society Crisis Line provides 24/7 support for Survivors and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling 1-800- 721-0066 or visiting

Books, education, and knowledge are not enough. For those looking to take meaningful action, visit

To learn more about the legacy of Orange Shirt Day, visit