Indian School Days

Front Cover
University of Oklahoma Press, Mar 1, 1995 - Biography & Autobiography - 256 pages

This book is the humorous, bitter-sweet autobiography of a Canadian Ojibwa who was taken from his family at age ten and placed in Jesuit boarding school in northern Ontario. It was 1939 when the feared Indian agent visited Basil Johnston’s family and removed him and his four-year-old sister to St. Peter Claver’s school, run by the priests in a community known as Spanish, 75 miles from Sudbury.

“Spanish! It was a word synonymous with residential school, penitentiary, reformatory, exile, dungeon, whippings, kicks, slaps, all rolled into one,” Johnston recalls. But despite the aching loneliness, the deprivation, the culture shock and the numbing routine, his story is engaging and compassionate. Johnston creates marvelous portraits of the young Indian boys who struggled to adapt to strange ways and unthinking, unfeeling discipline. Even the Jesuit teachers, whose flashes of humor occasionally broke through their stern demeanor, are portrayed with an understanding born of hindsight.


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User Review  - charlie68 - LibraryThing

A book about a man's life in a Indian residential school. A tough life for students and staff during the forties and fifties. While nowadays the Indians were unquestionably the innocents. You won't ... Read full review

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My Grandfather attended St Peter Clavers residential school. This book really gave me some insight on how he was treated and what he went through. It is honestly devastating how people were treated back then. I highly recommend.


Sentenced to Spanish
Holidays and Holy Days
The Year Round
Summer Holidays
The Cattle Drive
And One Beast
Farewell Spanish Justice and Farewell
New Learning and Cultural Conflict
Football Chemistry and Tired Chickens
The Bean Rebellion and Graduation

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About the author (1995)

Basil H. Johnston was born on the Parry Island Indian Reserves in Ontario, Canada on July 13, 1929. He was a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation in Ontario. He graduated from Loyola College, Montreal, Quebec in 1954. He was an author, storyteller and preserver of the Anishnaabe language. He was the author of 25 books and often wrote about Anishinaabe history. Five of his books were written in Anishinabemowin, the language of the Anishinaabe. He also worked at the Royal Ontario Museum in the Department of Ethnology for over two decades. He received several awards during his lifetime including the Order of Ontario and the 2004 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Heritage and Spirituality. He died on September 8, 2015 at the age of 86.

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