The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

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Every Child

Examining the legacy of residential schools
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ANJALI BHURJI, KATHERINE HARTIG, EMILY SHI/THE VARSITY
ANJALI BHURJI, KATHERINE HARTIG, EMILY SHI/THE VARSITY

Content warning: This comic discusses abuses committed as part of the residential school system.

Our comic was inspired by the quote, “Where have you been? Why have you waited so long? How did you ever find us, buried… under whips and lies?” from Deborah Miranda’s memoir, Bad Indians. In POL195, we talked about how Indigenous comics were ‘stories from below’ rather than ‘stories from above’ — stories told by and about people who have been oppressed by writers of colonial history.

When we were asked to create a comic about an ongoing Indigenous conflict, we decided to cover the remains of the 215 children found buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School this May. In our early stages of planning, we decided to quite literally tell a story both from below and from above. We imagined what the children who were buried and erased might say, while narratives from above denied their existence.

Our comic reflects how contemporary Indigenous activists made it possible for past victims and present-day survivors of residential schools to receive justice. It shows how, despite the attempts of settler colonial systems and governments to feign ignorance and pretend that these children were never missing or murdered, Indigenous communities have never forgotten about their existence. It is that enduring resistance of Indigenous communities that has forced Canada to reckon with the violence of its colonial past at last.