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My Name is Seepeetza (1992)

by Shirley Sterling

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17610158,211 (3.72)4
An honest look at life in an Indian residential school in the 1950s, and how one indomitable young spirit survived it -- 30th anniversary edition. Seepeetza loves living on Joyaska Ranch with her family. But when she is six years old, she is driven to the town of Kalamak, in the interior of British Columbia. Seepeetza will spend the next several years of her life at an Indian residential school. The nuns call her Martha and cut her hair. Worst of all, she is forbidden to "talk Indian," even with her sisters and cousins. Still, Seepeetza looks for bright spots -- the cookie she receives at Halloween, the dance practices. Most of all, there are her memories of holidays back at the ranch -- camping trips, horseback riding, picking berries and cleaning fish with her mother, aunt and grandmother. Always, thoughts of home make school life bearable. Based on her own experiences at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, this powerful novel by Nlaka'pamux author Shirley Sterling is a moving account of one of the most blatant expressions of racism in the history of Canada.  Includes a new afterword by acclaimed Cree author Tomson Highway of the Barren Lands First Nation in northern Manitoba. Key Text Features afterword dialogue journal entries maps Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6 Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.… (more)
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» See also 4 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
This book, set up as journal entries did not hold my attention. I am always glad to hear about historical stories of first nations people, but i could not finish it. There are some heavy issues, not just the forcing Native people to send their children to boarding schools, but also the death of children at the schools and some abusive behavior from the nuns. ( )
  mslibrarynerd | Jan 13, 2024 |
Novel, but based on her own experiences at Residential School, in journal format. Feels like a very authentic child voice, telling her own story. Not super heavy in plot, but I don't think it's meant to be. While the stories of Residential school life are heartbreaking, the portrait of the community, the ranch, and the way her family interacts and supports each other is a lovely remembrance of a time past. I really enjoyed it. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
My Name is Seepeetza is the diary of 12 year old girl’s experiences as a sixth grader at the Kalamak (Kamloops) Indian Residential School in British Columbia in 1958. The entries, based on the author’s own experiences at the school, give the reader an idea of what everyday life was like for Indigenous students forced to attend these schools. Diary entries capture the confusion and fear of first being admitted to the school, and the cold, and often cruel, nuns. They detail the taunts of fellow students due to her whiter skin, and the indoctrination of Christian theology over the complete denial of her Indigenous culture. The entries also include the times where she is at home on the family’s ranch in BC’s Cariboo region, living with multiple generations of her family, exploring the land and just being a kid.

The entries will provide young readers with examples of how these schools tried to eradicate Indigenous culture. There are also examples of intergenerational trauma as many relations attended the school. Her father, who struggles with alcoholism, speaks six Indigenous languages, but won’t teach her them because he knows she will be punished for speaking them at school as he was.

The entries allude to other abuses but do not go into detail, so it is a good entry point for younger readers to understand residential schools. For adults, and older students, there is Behind Closed Doors, where adult survivors of the same Kamloops Residential School share their legacy of trauma, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. ( )
  Lindsay_W | Nov 3, 2018 |
At six years old, Seepeetza is taken from her happy family life on Joyaska Ranch to live as a boarder at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Life at the school is not easy, but Seepeetza still manages to find some bright spots. Always, thoughts of home make her school life bearable. An honest, inside look at life in an Indian residential school in the 1950s, and how one indomitable young spirit survived it.
  unsoluble | Feb 1, 2018 |
There isn't much of a plot here, but the writing is skillfully done. The story is told in the form of twelve-year-old Seepeetza's diary, which she keeps over the course of one year while attending an Indian boarding school in British Columbia in the 1950s. At the time, the law mandated that all Native American children should be sent to their schools, where they were given Anglo names (hers was Martha) and punished if they spoke their native languages. Seepeetza's school, run by nuns, was a bleak institution where the children's physical needs were taken care of and they got a decent education, but they were bullied and generally treated harshly by the nuns. But she did get to go home on vacations.

It's hard to write a novel in diary format and keep it realistic. Most writers go overboard and put way too much details in the diary, which moves the story along and lets the reader know what's going on, but you know nobody would write like that in their diary in real life. But Shirley Sterling struck the right balance here: Seepeetza's diary was detailed enough to be interesting, but short enough to pass for a real diary. It sounds like it really could have been written by a twelve-year-old girl. ( )
1 vote meggyweg | Nov 3, 2012 |
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Today my teacher Mr. Oiko taught us how to write journals.
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An honest look at life in an Indian residential school in the 1950s, and how one indomitable young spirit survived it -- 30th anniversary edition. Seepeetza loves living on Joyaska Ranch with her family. But when she is six years old, she is driven to the town of Kalamak, in the interior of British Columbia. Seepeetza will spend the next several years of her life at an Indian residential school. The nuns call her Martha and cut her hair. Worst of all, she is forbidden to "talk Indian," even with her sisters and cousins. Still, Seepeetza looks for bright spots -- the cookie she receives at Halloween, the dance practices. Most of all, there are her memories of holidays back at the ranch -- camping trips, horseback riding, picking berries and cleaning fish with her mother, aunt and grandmother. Always, thoughts of home make school life bearable. Based on her own experiences at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, this powerful novel by Nlaka'pamux author Shirley Sterling is a moving account of one of the most blatant expressions of racism in the history of Canada.  Includes a new afterword by acclaimed Cree author Tomson Highway of the Barren Lands First Nation in northern Manitoba. Key Text Features afterword dialogue journal entries maps Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6 Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

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