WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.
The term Secwepemc Tsqelmucwílc (pronounced cha-CAL-mux-weel) loosely translates to “we become human again” and is seen as a testament to Indigenous healing and renewal.
The term has also been borrowed for a new book by author and researcher Celia Haig-Brown that looks at the experiences of residential school survivors and how their lives continue to be affected by the horrors they faced. at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Tsqelmucwílc: The Kamloops Indian Residential School—Resistance and Judgment is sort of a sequel to a book Haig-Brown published in 1988, which at the time was a bit controversial.
The original story, Resistance and Renewal: Surviving Residential School, was one of the first books to detail the experiences of residential school survivors. At the time, publishers were skeptical of the book; the truth about the abuse suffered in the so-called schools was not widely accepted by those unaffected by it.
But then she met Randy Fred. Fred is a survivor of the Alberni residential school on Vancouver Island and knew the truth of these stories firsthand.
Editor at Tillicum Library Imprint, a division of Arsenal Pulp Press, Fred agreed to publish his first book – and wrote the foreword – which he did again to Tsqelmucwilc.
But over the past 35 years, Haig-Brown said, things have changed.
“People are more aware of what to talk about.”
When T’kemlups te Secwepemc First Nation first announced their work identifying 215 possible burial sites at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in May 2021, Fred reached out to Haig-Brown to encourage him to revisit its decades-old text.
Haig-Brown said she was reluctant at first and felt that work was being done by Indigenous people through various mediums available to the general public. However, she said, Fred insisted.
“When a native tells me I have to do something, I pay attention,” she said.
Before writing the book, Haig-Brown sought the express consent of the T’kemlups te Secwepemc First Nation.
“I think there are a lot of researchers who haven’t taken the time to build long-term relationships with the people they do their work with,” Haig-Brown said.
“For me, it’s a complex part of working — especially as a white woman — in an Indigenous community, to make sure the relationships I’m building are worthy of continuing in the eyes of the Indigenous peoples I work with. .”
With their consent, she set to work.
Haig-Brown reconnected with survivors and their families to better understand what they endured at the time and how those experiences continued to affect them.
Some were happy to talk. Others, Haig-Brown said, were reluctant to bring up their painful pasts.
Now, Tsqelmucwílc: The Kamloops Indian Residential School—Resistance and Judgment was published by Vancouver-based Arsenal Pulp Press, the company that printed the original version and will be released by the publisher on September 27.
Fred said he hopes the book will contribute to Canada’s continued journey towards reconciliation.
“People have heard a lot about the truth,” Fred said.
“I hope this new edition will spark new discussions and help us to embark on the path of reconciliation.”
Support is available to anyone affected by their residential school experience or recent reports.
A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis hotline: 1-866-925-4419.
Mental health counseling and crisis support is also available 24/7 through the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.