Jun 7, 2022

Vancouver, BC As Canada observes National Indigenous History Month, snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ Langara College will offer students a unique opportunity to learn about a side of history that has traditionally not been the focus of textbooks.  

In partnership with the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS), Writing Lives: The Residential School Survivor Memoir Project is a two-semester course in which students meet with Indigenous Elders who survived the residential school system, and help tell their stories through memoirs. 

Writing Lives presents Indigenous and non-Indigenous students with a chance to deep dive into the personal narratives of individuals who experienced the atrocities of residential schools first-hand. Students are invited to be part of reconciliation in action by participating in a transformative experience that supports communities to heal from decades of trauma. 

In the first semester, students read literature by Indigenous writers to learn about the history of colonization and contemporary Indigenous life. They hear from guest speakers and attend field trips as they begin to prepare to meet with Elders. In the second semester, students learn how to conduct interviews, transcribe stories, and start to draft and workshop the memoirs. The course wraps up with a closing ceremony, and the memoirs are given to the Elders to keep. 

“Writing Lives is an important part of Langara College’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada,” said Darren Bernaerdt, Acting Dean of Arts. “I am pleased our students will have the opportunity to work with Elders and am grateful for the support of the IRSSS. This course provides a unique experience for students at Langara to explore writing in a deeply meaningful manner as they capture the stories of residential school survivors.” 

Part of Langara’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, decolonization, and Indigenizing its curriculum, this course allows First Nations, Inuit, and Métis survivors to speak and document their truth about a part of Canada’s past that has historically been kept out of the mainstream by colonial systems of power. 

As citizens of ‘Canada’ and settlers on Turtle Island, we have a moral duty to remember the real history of this place,” said former student Anita Shen. “We have the privilege of knowing what has happened here, and we have the privilege of still having witnesses and survivors alive with us. The stories of our Elders deserve to be remembered. We must honour Indigenous truths just as we honour colonial ones.” 

The course is being offered in partnership with the IRSSS for the second time in September 2022. Previous versions worked with Holocaust survivors in a similar way. 

About Langara College    
Located in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., Canada, snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ Langara College provides University, Career, and Continuing Studies education to more than 23,000 students annually. With more than 1,700 courses and 130 programs, Langara’s expansive academic breadth and depth allows students of all ages, backgrounds, and life stages to choose their own educational path. Langara is also known as snəw̓eyəɬ leləm 'house of teachings', a name given to it by Musqueam, on whose unceded traditional territory the College is located.   

Learn more.    
Coriana Constanda    
Communications Officer   
Langara College