Books on Residential Schools in Canada

Content warning: residential schools

McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudensaunee and Anishinabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today.

The discovery of 215 children buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has awoken many Canadians to the horrors of the residential school system in Canada. Starting in the late 1800’s, the Canadian Government and several churches devised the school system as a way of removing Indigenous children from their homes and cultures with the purpose of assimilating them into settler culture. This horrific practice has left generations of trauma among Indigenous peoples and has been labelled a cultural genocide by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The truth about residential schools may not be known by all in Canada and may even be a completely new revelation for international students studying here at McGill University. We encourage all to take advantage of the resources available to them to learn more about this school system and the devastating impact it is had on Indigenous peoples. At the McGill Library we have many books and films that you can use to expand your knowledge and view of residential schools. The books included in the list below are told by Indigenous voices whenever possible and include both non-fiction and fiction titles.

List of books and films on residential schools in Canada.

Some of the books and films that are a part of this list were created in a time when the perspectives and language used to describe residential schools did not reflect the horrors that were inflicted within them. Please consider the time-period and the societal views of the creators as you delve into these works.

For those looking to find academic research on residential schools, our Indigenous Studies guide is a great place to start.

Other resources include:

While this is not en exhaustive list of resources, we encourage all to seek out and educate themselves not only on residential schools, but also on the history of Indigenous peoples as we all take steps forward in reconciliation.

If you have any questions about the resources shared in this post, please contact hssl.library@mcgill.ca.

Redpath Book Display: E-Scholarship

As members of such a large (and busy) University, it can be easy to forget one of McGill’s main purposes as an institution: scholarship. With over 48,000 thesis and dissertations, a fantastic way to look back on the rich history of our University’s academic excellence is through e-scholarship; the complete archival data basis of McGill thesis and dissertations, spanning from 1833 to present day.

In order to celebrate another year of scholars completing their studies at McGill, the Humanities and Social Sciences Library created a virtual book display featuring a few thesis published this past year. These are especially impressive, as some are from scholars whose works were successful even in unprecedented times. Access this display to see some of the fantastic thesis here.

E-scholarship is an excellent– and underutilized – resource. Created in 2005 in order to increase accessibility to the thesis archives, the e-scholarship institutional repository ensures that research produced at McGill is visible, free, accessible, disseminated, and preserved for future interests – all while maintaining researchers copyright.

“My favorite part about e-scholarship – beyond the fact that it’s open access of course – is the history” Jessica Lange, e-scholarship librarian added, “you can delight in interesting gems [in the archives]. McGill research is really imbedded in the history of Montreal. You might find stories or projects that tell you more about the history of this city than you were expecting; stories you can’t find other places.”

One of the benefits of this free history is the quantity of famous or successful works in the collection. To view some of the more well-known alum on record, such as Harriet Brooks, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, and  John O’Keefe , visit the Highlights from McGill theses and dissertations.

To learn more about e-scholarship and to access the database, visit e-scholarship at McGill.

Have any questions? Contact escholarship.library@mcgill.ca for concerns on e-scholarship or hssl.library@mcgill.ca for other assistance.