Up Ghost River

Up Ghost River

A Chief's Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History

Book - 2014
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A powerful, raw and eloquent memoir about the abuse former First Nations chief Edmund Metatawabin endured in residential school in the 1960s, the resulting trauma, and the spirit he rediscovered within himself and his community through traditional spirituality and knowledge. After being seperated from his family at 6, Metatwabin was given a number and stripped of his Native identity. At his residential school, he was physically, emotionally and sexually abused. The trauma haunted him throughout his adult life until he reconnected with his Native past.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2014.
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780307399878
Branch Call Number: 971.0049 METATAWA
Characteristics: xvii, 316 pages, 10 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map, portraits ; 23 cm.


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Nov 05, 2017


Residential school students did not receive the same education as the general population in the public school system, and the schools were sorely underfunded.

Teachings focused primarily on practical skills.
Girls were primed for domestic service and taught to do laundry, sew, cook, and clean.
Boys were taught carpentry, tinsmithing, and farming.

Many students attended class part-time and worked for the school the rest of the time: girls did the housekeeping; boys, general maintenance and agriculture.

This work, which was involuntary and unpaid, was presented as practical training for the students, but many of the residential schools could not run without it.

With so little time spent in class, most students had only reached grade five by the time they were 18. At this point, students were sent away. Many were discouraged from pursuing further education.

In addition to unhealthy conditions and corporal punishment, children were frequently assaulted, raped, or threatened by staff or other students.

In 1969, the Department of Indian Affairs took exclusive control of the system, marking an end to church involvement.

Yet the schools remained underfunded and abuse continued.

Many teachers were still very much unqualified; in fact, some had not graduated high school themselves.

The process to phase out the residential school system and other assimilation tactics was slow and not without reversals. In the 1960s, the system’s closure gave way to the “Sixties Scoop,” during which thousands of Aboriginal children were “apprehended” by social services and removed from their families. The “Scoop” spanned roughly the two decades it took to phase out the residential schools, but child apprehensions from Aboriginal families continue to occur in disproportionate numbers. In part, this is the legacy of compromised families and communities left by the residential schools.

The last residential school did not close its doors until 1986.


Equay-wuk(Women’s Group) is a no-profit organization serving 31 First Nation communities in remote Northwestern Ontario

Jun 30, 2017

Poorly written (in spite of two authors); better suited to young adults.

Jan 23, 2017

This is a must read book for all Canadians. I was a bit afraid to read it as I already know more than I want to know about the residential school system. Although it relates a number horrific residential school experiences, the book is not front to back horror stories. It is so much more. Its about native spiritual beliefs, how traumatic experiences affect an individual, the challenges in getting over trauma and the restrictions that First Nations people faced under the Indian Act that held them back from making a life for themselves. For example: until 1951, they needed a pass from the Indian agent to travel off the reserve, they needed permission to cut down trees on their reserves so could not build their own homes in spite of overcrowding, did not get the right to vote until 1960. Beautifully written. You are not an observer in this story. The writer brings you right into his mind and his world.

brianreynolds Jan 23, 2015

Up front, I'm not a memoire fan. Because I know the author, his parents and siblings, my rating is unabashedly biased. I worked at St. Anne's off and on in the late 70's and early 80's right after the residential students were set free, and I can verify that the building itself and many of the staff even then were hauntingly perverse, a disgrace to the government, the church and Canadians everywhere. I am honoured to have worked with Alex and to have taught Danny. I am fortunate to have lived on both sides of the creek, to have hauled water and made fire in addition to correcting spelling and math. Ed's book says more than I could possibly say about his home and his life. I think you need to read this book. It's not easy, especially if you are white or Canadian or human, but it is important and it is honest. It is a book that pleads for you to understand, to freaking DO something to change things for the better, to try to make things right. I salute your courage, Ed Ten Sunrises. I salute your integrity and your intelligence.

VIRGINIAP123 Oct 18, 2014

This is an excellent book to read.
Edmund is very honest when talking about his childhood and what his thoughts and feelings were, what life was like. He contiues through, schooling at the residential school and on into adulthood.
It helps one to understand what a child's life was like and how it affected them as an adult.
It is difficult to believe that his story takes place in Northern Ontario.


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