Graphic novel developed as learning tool to educate on residential schools

·3 min read

A graphic novel called A Knock on the Door will be developed as a new learning tool to educate kindergarten to Grade 12 learners on the history of residential schools.

This project is a collaboration between the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Department of Native Studies, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) and the U of M Press.

The goal of this project is to establish innovative linkages on the U of M campus to support knowledge mobilization and education throughout Manitoba and Canada.

“If Canada is going to make meaningful strides towards reconciliation and strengthening Indigenous-settler relations, then the next generation of Canadians would need to be better prepared and informed about the country’s history,” said Sean Carleton, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Native Studies and History on Friday.

“The better informed the next generation is on its history, the better prepared they will be to make a change in the present and make a better future.”

A Knock on the Door is inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action No. 62, which calls for an age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools.

There are plenty of resources that currently exist in educating adults, including the TRC’s publication called A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which will be used as the launching point for the graphic novel.

“A lot of the materials that exist don’t necessarily talk about the history. They focus on experiences in the schools and the way in which people navigated those experiences,” said Carleton.

“The reason the history is so important is that only by understanding how the system was created and why it was allowed to continue for so long, will we be able to prevent similar kinds of situations from happening.”

This prompted Carleton and other project collaborators to apply for the Indigenous Initiatives Fund (IIF) at the U of M to create a learning tool in the form of a graphic novel based on the TRC’s report.

“Why graphic novels? Quite simply graphic novels and comic books are extremely popular amongst the youth. They are very accessible and can be read by different kinds of learners with varying levels of literacy,” said Carleton.

“Children, young adults and even adults enjoy reading and engaging with this kind of medium. All in all, there was a gap in terms of the materials available currently and this project aims to fill that gap.”

The project was awarded $30,000 and is one of eight projects selected this year through the IIF for a total of $350,514 in funding. It will begin this summer, and the publication is set to be available for distribution in two years.

Work alongside educators in the K-12 system will take place to develop a meaningful way for young learners to become more aware of residential school history.

The novel will be illustrated by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Gord Hill.

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun