The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford hosts a bi-weekly virtual book club starting Sept. 30 focusing on a residential school survivor’s story.
The club will focus on the book They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars.
Sellars was born in Soda Creek, Xatsu’ll First Nation in Williams Lake. She spent part of her childhood as a student in a church-run residential school.
These institutions practised strict discipline, endeavoured to “civilize” Indigenous children through Christian teachings, and forced separation from family, language, and culture.
The most symbolically potent strategy used to alienate residential school children was addressing them by assigned numbers only – not by the names with which they knew and understood themselves.
In her frank and poignant memoir of her years at St. Joseph’s Mission, Sellars breaks her silence about the residential school’s lasting effects on her and her family – from substance abuse to suicide attempts – and eloquently articulates her own path to healing.
The book club welcomes adult learners of all ages who are interested in learning more on the topic regardless of their familiarity with the history of residential schools.
Participants will meet online every other week to engage in peer-to-peer learning, guided by facilitator Celine Ahodekon. Sellars will join the final session on Dec. 9 to take part in the discussion and to answer participant questions.
Laura Schneider, executive director of The Reach, said with Sept. 30 being the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, there comes an the opportunity to embark on a learning journey.
“There can be no reconciliation without truth, so we are hoping to encourage our community to begin to learn about, or deepen their understanding of, Canada’s fraught history of engagement with Indigenous peoples,” she said.
Registration for the book club can be done in person at The Reach (32388 Veterans Way), online at thereach.ca, or by calling 604-864-8087. The $25 cost includes a copy of the book.