I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer & Gillian Newland (Illustrations)

This book matters to me. 

I have friends who survived their own residential school school experiences. They are also survivors of the dysfunctional families created because their elders and previous generations were dragged from their families and forced to attend one of these institutions. 

The last residential school in Canada didn't close until 1996. I Am Not A Number is the true story of Irene Couchie Dupuis, grandmother to the author, Jenny Kay Dupuis. When Irene was eight years old, an Indian agent came and took her and two brothers away from their home and community of Nipissing First Nation, to go to the Spanish Indian Residential School. The children's names were taken away and replaced with a number. Irene's number was 759. Her story reveals the cruelty and neglect these children endured at the hands of the nuns in charge. When Irene and her two brothers returned home for the summer, they told their parents about their experiences. The family came up with a plan to hide and protect the children so they wouldn't have to return.

Many, if not most other children were not so fortunate. Not only were they unable to escape, their experiences were much more horrific than what is revealed here. 

This is not a comfortable read, but it is an important, necessary narrative for building knowledge about this despicable aspect of our history. At least one copy should be in every school and public library to use with elementary and older students. Adults should read it too. 

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