Gibaajimominaan: Our Stories

In this lesson students will learn from residential school Survivors and consider what they can do to support the Survivors and their families.

Created by Connie Wyatt Anderson Governor General's History Awards Winner 2014 recipient of the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

Posted September 15, 2020

Grade Levels: 7/8, 9

Subject Area: Social Studies/History/Indigenous Studies

Lesson Overview

In this lesson students listen to a residential school Survivor* tell their story, respond with a personal comment or question, link the Survivor’s experiences with the Seven Sacred Teachings, and consider what they can do to support the Survivors and their families. (*Students may opt to personally interview a Survivor)

Time Required

One to three periods.

Historical Thinking Concepts

  • Identify continuity and change
  • Analyze cause and consequence
  • Take historical perspectives
  • Understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations.

Learning Outcomes

Student will:

  • Explore the history of residential schools in Canada.
  • Identify historical sources used to study residential schools.
  • Engage with a residential school Survivor testimony.
  • Value the importance of Survivor testimony/lived experience.
  • Appreciate Indigenous knowledge systems, using the Seven Sacred Teachings as a lens.


Gibaajimominaan means ‘our stories’ in Anishinaabe.

The Lesson Activity

Part 1:

Part 2:

  • Divide the class into table groups. Distribute Kitayánán: We are Still Here.
  • Facilitate a small group reading activity.
  • Check for understanding. Ask: what types of sources can we use to learn about student experiences in residential schools? Capture responses on whiteboard/flipchart.
  • Encourage questions; invite dialogue.
  • Pay special attention to Survivor lived experiences and personal testimonials.
  • Distribute Learning and Listening with RespectRead over with the class.
  • Engage students with a Survivor’s personal story. You may access stories here, invite a Survivor to class, have students interview a Survivor; or listen to a Survivor speak during the Every Child Matters virtual event.
  • Encourage questions; invite dialogue.
  • Make time for student introspection.

Part 3:

  • Introduce the concept of Indigenous knowledge by sharing the definition provided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life.

This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, ritual and spirituality.

These unique ways of knowing are important facets of the world’s cultural diversity, and provide a foundation for locally-appropriate sustainable development.

  • Explain that different Indigenous nations throughout Canada and the world will have different knowledge systems. Provide an overview of the Seven Sacred Teachings, which is a set of teachings that are common to many Indigenous groups in Canada. [There are many versions of these seven teachings which are sometimes referred to as the Seven Grandmother Teachings or the Seven Sacred Teachings. Nations and communities may use differing stories to impart these teachings, but the same guiding principles and morals can be found in all.]
  • Distribute Gibaajimominaan: Our Stories. Instruct the students to complete.
  • Guide and assist as necessary.


References/Further Resources:

Residential School Survivor Stories,” Legacy of Hope

Residential Schools in Canada,” The Canadian Encyclopedia

Seven Grandfather Teachings,” Our Stories: First Peoples of Canada 

National Student Memorial Register Book, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Extension Activity

Extension activity for grades 4-9:

Using Objects to Tell the Story of Residential Schools 

  • Introduce ‘The Witness Blanket’ to students by exploring the website
  • Click on the objects
  • Facilitate a class discussion
  • Explain how a curator pieces carefully selected objects together to represent a story.
  • Introduce the steps of curator:

1. The curator selects objects that represent the topic they are sharing.

2. The objects together must represent a story.

3. All of those stories together must represent an overall coherent narrative.

4. The objects must fit within a defined space

Have students design an exhibit dedicated to the history and legacy of residential schools in your class. Encourage students to bring items from home, items from school, etc.

There's more!

Connie Wyatt Anderson Governor General's History Awards Winner is a long-time educator from The Pas, Manitoba. She has been involved in the creation of student learning materials and curricula at the provincial, national, and international level, and has contributed to a number of textbooks, teacher support guides and school publications. She was one of the instructional designers for the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba’s education initiative and remains part of their pedagogical and facilitation team. Connie was awarded the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History and in 2017 was recognized as the Manitoba Metis Federation’s Distinguished Leader in Education.

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