Background History

About Wawahte

The Indian Act, passed by Canada in 1876, was central to Federal Government control over virtually all aspects of First Peoples (Indigenous) daily life. The Indian Act was the legislative authority for the establishment of Indian residential schools, though Church run residential schools did exist as early as the 1830s. The Indian Act was employed beyond its legislative mandate to include Métis and Inuit societies into what became a massive and traumatic alienation from their cultures, families and communities.

To assimilate First Peoples into European-influenced Canadian society, an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were taken from their families and communities over the course of 100 years of Canadian history.

The last residential school closed in 1996.

Wawahte began as a book written by Robert P. ‘Bob’ Wells. When Bob was nine years old, his dear friend Moochum Joe told him to “draw words on paper” that told of how badly Indian people were being treated, and to “draw them true”. Sixty-five years later, Wawahte was finally published (2012). The book tells the story of residential schools from the perspective of three of its survivors. They trusted Bob to tell their very personal stories so that all Canadians might find mutual healing and understanding.

In 2015, Wawahte was made into an educational documentary produced by John Sanfilippo of Tyton Sound. The documentary combines archival images with elements from the Wawahte audio book. The result is a presentation that is more powerful and accessible than ever.

Visit ReconciliationCanada.ca to learn more about what we are doing to revitalize the relationships among Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.