Did You See Us?

Reunion, Remembrance, and Reclamation at an Urban Indian Residential School

Reviewed by Nelle Oosterom

Posted May 29, 2022

In the affluent Winnipeg neighbourhood of River Heights, a residential high school once housed Indigenous students from reserves in Manitoba and elsewhere. Assiniboia Indian Residential School (1958–73) had vast, wellgroomed playing fields, a well-stocked cafeteria, and caring and competent staff, and it produced many graduates who went on to succeed in life.

As such institutions go, it was on the far end of the spectrum of being a “good” school. But it was still the product of a system designed to isolate Indigenous children from their families, to “kill the Indian in the child.” Its students — who often arrived traumatized by abuse they had experienced in remote residential schools — were hemmed in by tall wire fences. Young white neighbourhood troublemakers sometimes drove by and harassed the students with war whoops, and they once even tried to break into the girls’ dormitory.

The book Did You See Us? tells the story of one of Canada’s few urban residential schools through the memories of its former students, staff, and neighbours, with additional contributions by academics and archivists. It’s an easy-to-read but multi-faceted tale that is augmented by dozens of black-andwhite photos and other illustrations. Readers interested in reconciliation will likely gain a more nuanced understanding of residential school history.

Buy this book at Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the June-July 2022 of Canada’s History.

Related to Books