By Strength, We Are Still Here

Indigenous Peoples and Indian Residential Schooling in Inuvik, Northwest Territories


The first comprehensive study of Indian residential schools in the North

In this ground-breaking book, Crystal Gail Fraser draws on Dinjii Zhuh (Gwitch’in) concepts of individual and collective strength to illuminate student experiences in northern residential schools, revealing the many ways Indigenous communities resisted the institutionalization of their children.

After 1945, federal bureaucrats and politicians increasingly sought to assimilate Indigenous northerners—who had remained comparatively outside of their control—into broader Canadian society through policies that were designed to destroy Indigenous ways of life. Foremost among these was an aggressive new schooling policy that mandated the construction of Grollier and Stringer Halls: massive residential schools that opened in Inuvik in 1959, eleven years after a special joint committee of the House of Commons and the Senate recommended that all residential schools in Canada be closed.

By Strength, We Are Still Here shares the lived experiences of Indigenous northerners from 1959 until 1982, when the territorial government published a comprehensive plan for educational reform. Led by Survivor testimony, Fraser shows the roles both students and their families played in disrupting state agendas, including questioning and changing the system to protect their cultures and communities.

Centring the expertise of Knowledge Keepers, By Strength, We Are Still Here makes a crucial contribution to Indigenous research methodologies and to understandings of Canadian and Indigenous histories during the second half of the twentieth century.


By Strength, We Are Still Here demonstrates an intergenerational process of love and strength. Fraser’s methodology, theory work, and incredibly thorough research are in and of themselves lifegiving, vital, and serve as an example to all other scholars.”

Omeasoo Wahpasiw, Carleton University

“By integrating survivor testimony with archives, Fraser points towards the Indigenous resistance revealed in the ellipses and gaps in the colonial record. This is very important work.”

Chris Trott, University of Manitoba

About the Author

Crystal Gail Fraser is Gwicyà Gwich’in and has Scottish and English ancestry. Originally from Inuvik and Dachan Choo Gę̀hnjik (Tree River), Northwest Territories, Crystal works as a historian and Indigenous studies scholar in the amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton) region, on Treaty 6 and Métis Lands.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


A Note on Region and Terminology

Introduction—By Strength, We Are Still Here.

Chapter One—“If anyone is going to jail for this, I’m taking it”: Our Relatives Speak

  • Education in Nanhkak Thak Before the Arrival of Settlers
  • Indian Day and Residential Schools
  • The Construction of Inuvik

Chapter Two—Calls Grow. “Listen! It’s louder now. From here, from there. Indian voices, Métis voices, demanding attention, demanding equality!"

Chapter Three—“The long process of tearing our family apart”

Chapter Four—“Making us into nice white kids.”

Chapter Five—“The hazards that can result from too permissive or undisciplined sexual behaviour.”

Chapter Six—“To find that inner peace, it was so important for us all.”

Chapter Seven—“These are our children and they are very precious to us.”

Conclusion—“We knew the value of strength.”

Appendix A