Canadian Geographic and its publisher, The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, with funding from the Government of Canada, created this interactive website as part of a larger initiative to raise awareness of residential schools in Canada and highlight the experiences of residential school students and their families.
The Orange Shirt Society — an organization dedicated to supporting residential school reconciliation and to creating awareness of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of residential schools, and founders of Orange Shirt Day (September 30) — was a critical partner in this project.
This map charts the hundreds of residential schools not recognized by the federal government’s Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement because they had been run by the provinces or other organizations. It also includes links to a series of first-hand accounts and related original-source materials from survivors and, in some instances, family members of survivors of these schools.
In addition to this website, Paths to Reconcilliation also includes a documentary film, a feature story in Canadian Geographic, a poster map, educational resources and more.
The RCGS acknowledges that its offices are located on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Peoples, who have been guardians of, and in relationship with, these lands for thousands of years. We further acknowledge and recognize that our work reaches across all of the distinct First Nations, Métis Homelands and Inuit Nunangat, and for this we are grateful.
Canadian Geographic Education, in consultation with cultural experts and residential school survivors and their families, has produced a moving and unflinchingly candid teacher’s guide for educators looking to take part in making truth and reconciliation a reality. The Paths to Reconciliation teacher’s guide will help teachers and students in actively working toward a just and inclusive nation where all peoples and stories are valued.
This four-part teacher’s guide for grades K to 12 begins with an introductory piece on the under-represented and less-known realities of the residential school system and the damage it inflicted on Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The introduction also highlights some of the schools that were not acknowledged in the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The three remaining chapters focus on the deeply personal stories of Leah Idlout, Mike Durocher, and Clara Claire — all survivors of the residential school system. Each story introduces the survivor’s difficult past and eventual triumphs, providing a comprehensive set of learning activities that emphasize reflection, empathy, understanding and compassion. These activities have been tailored to comply with standard curriculum-based competencies as well as primary, intermediate and secondary school comprehension levels.
The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of CanadaGiant Floor Map and tiled map are equally valuable resources that intertwine geography and spatial awareness with an understanding of the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The Giant Floor Map comes with hands-on learning materials and activities focused on the legacy of residential schools. It can be booked by educators free of charge for three-week periods. The tiled map can be printed, laminated and used in various settings.
In browsing through these educational materials, educators will quickly understand that these are one-of-a-kind resources rooted in well-researched facts and infused with deeper insight. Canadian Geographic Education hopes these educational tools will assist teachers, students and others on their paths toward reconciliation.
Canadian Geographic Education thanks all collaborators who kindly helped develop the Paths to Reconciliation teacher’s guide.
DOCUMENTARY Returning Home (working title), directed by Sean Stiller
The legacy of Canada’s Indian residential schools and the decimation of wild Pacific salmon stem from a common story: a world where relationships are severed in the service of power, where we become detached from one another and the environment. Returning Home is a one-hour documentary comprising…
MAGAZINE FEATURE STORY Survivor, by Lisa Charleyboy
A feature profile of Phyllis Webstad, creator of Orange Shirt Day (September 30), a grassroots-turned-global movement — that commemorates the residential school experience and honours the students who attended them. Learn how Webstad turned her own ordeal into a powerful tool for reconciliation, and how Orange Shirt Day itself flourished across the country, buoyed by the will and interest of everyday people.
“I know what I can talk about. I can talk about my first day, when Granny got me my shirt,” Webstad says she told her friend Joan Sorely.
No sooner were those words out of her mouth than she broke down. It was a deeply personal story that she had never shared before, not with her husband, nor with her children. Armed with a message, Webstad now had a mission. She had less than an hour to check out local shops for an orange shirt to wear during the big announcement.
“I had nothing orange. I hate orange,” she explains. “I’ve always hated orange.”
The next day at the news event, much like her fateful first day at the residential school, Webstad was a bundle of nerves in her bright new orange shirt.
“I was to be a part of the media announcement,” she says. “So, there’s the Chief, and the mayor, and all these people with big titles, and there’s me, unemployed residential school survivor.”
But on April 24, Webstad courageously shared her story about the orange shirt that was taken from her. Little did she know, she was about to share her story with the world.