The horror and scale of the atrocities of Canada’s Indian residential Schools came to light in 2021, raising uncomfortable conversations about what happened and how we as a society can make meaningful amends. It was disheartening to read about the extent of all that took place at the hands of those supposed to protect and care.
Stolen: Surviving St. Michaels is a podcast that narrows its focus down to one specific school, St. Michaels Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, and what happened there. It is hosted by award-winning investigative journalist Connie Walker, and is the story of her late father’s experience of abuse as a First Nations child at the school.
Walker’s father – an RCMP officer – never spoke of his experience, and Walker only learned of it through a story her brother narrated of him beating up a priest at a traffic stop. It led Walker to dig deeper into her father’s past, and the podcast takes the audience through her discoveries.
The podcast is heart wrenching in the details in uncovers – a lot of Walker’s father’s siblings went to the school – and a trigger warning has never been more apt. Her investigation takes her home and makes her have uncomfortable conversations with family members. She comes across more victims, and more stories.
All along, she is looking for the priest who abused her father, and delving into how those experiences may have affected the relationship she had with her father. It is a story not just of the schools, but of the reconciliation she’s yearned for.
It also explores the generational trauma that Indigenous communities all over North America continue to face from these schools. While compensation mechanisms have been put into place, not a lot has been done in terms of accountability and bringing those responsible to justice. It asks questions about what options have there been for survivors, and how it is not as easy or safe to pursue them.
Walker’s tone throughout is introspective and thought provoking. The podcast has been edited in a way to leave in a lot of the rough edges, from background sounds to wandering conversations and musings. It adds a sense of realism that would be absent if it was too polished. It lets the horror sink in, and makes for a riveting listen.
Stolen: Surviving St. Michaels is not the sort of podcast you want to listen on Sunday morning. But it is a hugely educational and insightful look at society, power structures, culture, racism and how all of this continues to affect us all. And it’s a deep look into reconciliation.