Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, Christopher Benjamin, 329 pgs, Nimbus Publishing, www.nimbus.ca, $24.95
As the scheduled conclusion to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation commission grows nearer, the pressing question — “what’s next?” — grows ever more pressing in the minds of those concerned with our shameful shared history of native residential schools.
Halifax-based author Christopher Benjamin offers no distinct sense of what is to come, but chooses instead to illuminate the shadier corners of the past. Specifically, Indian School Road documents the history of Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia, describing in depth its students, staff, teaching methods, and its hand in Canada’s attempt at cultural genocide.
Benjamin writes largely in response to Paulette Regan’s Unsettling the Settler Within, a text which has become somewhat of a staple in Native Studies courses across Canada. Benjamin’s Indian School Road takes an outsider’s point of view to life inside the residential school, depicting graphic accounts with great empathy.
The text is well-researched and lengthy enough to devote time to Shubenacadie’s past, present, and future (or rather, the future of the students who attended it), but one wishes that Benjamin would have provided an appendix of notes and references, especially considering his history-thesis approach to the text. Still, for a nation that prides itself on justice and multiculturalism, this kind of text is extremely necessary. Indian School Road is a welcome and essential addition to the Canadian historical canon. (Joel W. Vaughan)