Looking Forward Looking Back

...an Aboriginal artists' perspective of Vancouver's Eastside

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Shin-chi's Canoe cover

Shin-chi's Canoe 

The moving sequel to award-winning Shi-shi-etko is the haunting and beautifully written story of two children’s experience at residential school. Shi-shi-etko is about to return for her second-year, but this time she is not alone – her six-year old brother, Shin-chi, is going, too. As they begin their journey in the back of a cattle truck, Shi-shi-etko tells her brother about all the things he must remember. Shin-chi won’t see his family again until the salmon return in the summertime.

In telling this story Nicola I. Campbell has drawn on interviews with her family and elders who are survivors of Indian residential schools. Written in lyrical free verse and poignantly illustrated by Kim LaFave, Shin-chi’s Canoe is an important contribution to children’s literature about the First Nation’s devastating experience in the government-sponsored, church-run residential schools.

To read a review on Shin-chi's Canoe, click on this link: 
http://umanitoba.ca/cm/vol15/no7/shinchiscanoe.html

Shin-chi's Canoe is available at all bookstores in Canada and the United States and can be purchased online at Amazon Books. Here is a link to purchase Shin-chi's Canoe online:
http://www.amazon.ca/Shin-Chis-Canoe-Nicola-Campbell/dp/0888998570

Author's Statement:
Writing Shin-chi's Canoe was definately a challenge. I knew when Shi-shi-etko was published that the story wasn't finished and that I had to tell the rest of Shi-shi-etko's story. The difficult thing was where to start. It is a story that definately can not be told in one book, or even two books for that matter. For a couple years, the story was comprised of a couple unfinished paragraphs. Everytime I sat down to work on it, I envisioned my elders as small children leaving our communities and was so overwhelmed with sorrow I could not carry on. Until one day, after spending many hours listening and talking with many survivors of residential school, including: family members and community elders; I knew I had to write a beginning, a middle and an end--even if it wasn't written in order. I had to write the story.

Imagine thousands of communities without children all across Canada, the United States and elsewhere. Children whose basic human right is to be encircled within the love and protection of their family and community. Many of these children are now our elders and many are in my family, including my mom.  Many of these children had good memories, learned alot from their time in Residential School and went on to lead succesful lives, and raise families despite the loss of language and culture; sometimes even without basic skills such as how to communicate and express love to their own children in a healthy manner. However, many of these children are now the people who live on Vancouver's lower east side and each day remains a struggle. Many of these children have now passed on to the "otherside" or the spirit world; some after having lived long, succesful and healthy lives. However many just disappeared--as small children and as adults they left this world with an overwhelming amount of sorrow in their hearts, sorrow that remains unresolved. Many are still living today with sorrow in their heart, for something that they can or cannot talk about.

And so when I wrote Shin-chi's Canoe, it was with the awareness that I wanted to honour my elders, family and survivors for the immense strength of spirit it took them to "survive," residential school; for what it took to persevere despite all the sorrows, trials and tribulations they were faced with. To carry forward the love for our languages, cultures and traditions and pass those values, beliefs and way of life on to our future generations. If it were not for their steadfast determination and love of all that is "us" we would have nothing.

I faced a lot of discrimination growing up in my community, however cannot imagine growing up in a society where the basic goal of the Canadian Government, according to Canadian history was to "kill the Indian within the child." Their specific purpose was to sever all ties the "Indian" child had with their family, community and culture. This can be found in documents such as RCAP 1996, The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which is published in full online.

Although for many, Canada's Apology was not enough, I for one am thankful for the apology. I feel it is a significant step in the direction towards healing, awareness and positive change for Canadian Society. Canada acknowledging their responsibility for the current issues faced by Aboriginal people is important. This process of healing for Aboriginal people in Canada will not occur over night, but every step, big or small, brings us forward.

 

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