The Assiniboia school is unique within Canada’s Indian Residential School system. It was the first residential high school in Manitoba and one of the only residential schools in Canada to be located in a large urban setting. Operating between 1958 and 1973 in a period when the residential school system was in decline, it produced several future leaders, artists, educators, knowledge keepers, and other notable figures. It was in many ways an experiment within the broader destructive framework of Canadian residential schools.
Stitching together memories of arrival at, day-to-day life within, and departure from the school with a socio-historical reconstruction of the school and its position in both Winnipeg and the larger residential school system, Did You See Us? offers a glimpse of Assiniboia that is not available in the archival records. It connects readers with a specific residential school and illustrates that residential schools were often complex spaces where forced assimilation and Indigenous resilience co-existed.
These recollections of Assiniboia at times diverge, but together exhibit Survivor resilience and the strength of the relationships that bond them to this day. The volume captures the troubled history of residential schools. At the same time, it invites the reader to join in a reunion of sorts, entered into through memories and images of students, staff, and neighbours. It is a gathering of diverse knowledges juxtaposed to communicate the complexity of the residential school experience.
“A thoughtful, community based project rooted in the needs of the Assiniboia Residential School community. This book is a must read for those working on the history of Residential Schools and those engaged in community based restorative justice projects.”Krista McCracken, Arthur A. Wishart Library and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University
"Did You See Us? was born out of a reunion, and readers are invited to the reverberations of this coming together. It offers multi-vocal perspectives primarily from survivors but also from non-Indigenous staff, archival documents, and settler community members. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission begins to accumulate anniversaries, now more than ever the testimonies of residential school survivors are much needed."Jane Griffith, Assistant Professor School of Professional Communication, Ryerson University
"Did You See Us? is a thoughtfully constructed, well-informed, true historical narrative. This collection tells the stories of the survivors who lived at Assiniboia during the residential and hostel years, shares the perspectives of the school’s staff and the residents of neighbouring River Heights and presents relevant articles and artifacts alongside records from the school itself."Emily Unrau-Poetker, The Manitoban
"This book is an excellent example of people telling their truths and a community realizing the mistakes of the past, coming together, and moving towards reconciliation. Within these stories, there are lessons that we can all learn from and step towards reconciliation."Carrie MacKenzie, Anishinabek News
"Did You See Us? It’s the heartbreaking question any survivor of a residential school could ask. But in this case, it’s the title of a book that includes firsthand accounts from 12 survivors who attended the Assiniboia Indian Residential School located in an upscale neighbourhood in Winnipeg."Shari Narine, Windspeaker
Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher (2022)
Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, Manitoba Book Awards (2022)
Margaret McWilliams Book Award for Local History, Manitoba Historical Society (2022)
About the Authors
Table of Contents
Land Acknowledgement Statement/ Theodore Fontaine
Preface / Theodore Fontaine
Section One: The Residential Years (1958-1967)
Section Two: The Hostel Years (1967-1973)
Section Three: Assiniboia and the Archives
Section Four: Staff Remembrances
Section Five: Neighbours
Section Six: Winnipeg Remembers
Section Seven: Reunion and Remembrance