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They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential Schoolby Bev Sellars
Synopses & Reviews
Xatsull Chief Bev Sellars spent her childhood in a church-run residential school whose aim it was to civilize” Native children through Christian teachings, forced separation from family and culture, and discipline. In addition, beginning at the age of five, Sellars was isolated for two years at Coqualeetza Indian Turberculosis Hospital in Sardis, British Columbia, nearly six hours drive from home. The trauma of these experiences has reverberated throughout her life.
The first full-length memoir to be published out of St. Josephs Mission at Williams Lake, BC, Sellars tells of three generations of women who attended the school, interweaving the personal histories of her grandmother and her mother with her own. She tells of hunger, forced labour, and physical beatings, often with a leather strap, and also of the demand for conformity in a culturally alien institution where children were confined and denigrated for failure to be White and Roman Catholic.
Like Native children forced by law to attend schools across Canada and the United States, Sellars and other students of St. Josephs Mission were allowed home only for two months in the summer and for two weeks at Christmas. The rest of the year they lived, worked, and studied at the school. St. Josephs Mission is the site of the controversial and well-publicized sex-related offences of Bishop Hubert OConnor, which took place during Sellarss student days, between 1962 and 1967, when OConnor was the school principal. After the schools closure, those who had been forced to attend came from surrounding reserves and smashed windows, tore doors and cabinets from the wall, and broke anything that could be broken. Overnight their anger turned a site of shameful memory into a pile of rubble.
In this frank and poignant memoir, Sellars breaks her silence about the institutions lasting effects, and eloquently articulates her own path to healing.
One woman's account of triumphing over a childhood at an Indian Residential school.
Like thousands of Aboriginal children in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere in the colonized world, Xatsu'll chief Bev Sellars spent part of her childhood as a student in a church-run residential school.
These institutions endeavored to "civilize" Native children through Christian teachings; forced separation from family, language, and culture; and strict discipline. Perhaps 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 this 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. Number One comes at a time of recognition—by governments and society at large—that only through knowing the truth about these past injustices can we begin to redress them.
Bev Sellars is chief of the Xatsu'll (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, British Columbia. She holds a degree in history from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the University of British Columbia. She has served as an advisor to the British Columbia Treaty Commission.
About the Author
Bev Sellars: Bev Sellars is Chief of the the Xat'sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake, British Columbia. She holds a degree in history from the University of Victoria and a law degree from the University of British Columbia. She has served as an advisor to the BC Treaty Commission.
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Biography » Native Americans