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They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  325 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Xat’sull Chief Bev Sellars spent her childhood in a church-run residential school whose aim it was to “civilize” Native children through Christian teachings, forced separation from family and culture, and discipline. In addition, beginning at the age of five, Sellars was isolated for two years at Coqualeetza Indian Turberculosis Hospital in Sardis, British Columbia, nearly ...more
Paperback, 227 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Talonbooks (first published May 17th 2013)
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Jun 01, 2013 Kat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, first-nations
Bev Sellars takes us on a tri-generational journey through the horrific realities of life & living in St. Joseph's Mission Residential School. Bev is able to paint pictures with words. As a result, the images are at times horrifying, at times perplexing and confusing, sad, angry and, yes, even at times joyful and filled with hope and humour. But make no mistake, as one person stated, if they had known earlier in their life what jail/prison was like, they would have chosen to go there instead ...more
Frank Busch
Jul 23, 2014 Frank Busch rated it it was amazing
It seems that many books have come out telling Residential School stories, many of them written by non-survivors. "They Called Me Number One" by Chief Bev Sellars is the real deal and an ideal primer for anyone curious about the Residential School era. Without sensationalizing the physical and sexual abuse that was all too common, readers can experience exactly what it was like to be incarcerated in an Indian Residential School as a child, as well as dealing with the effects of being ...more
Sep 09, 2016 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-canadian
This is an excellent book to help people really understand the impact Residential Schools have had on First Nations in Canada. Bev Sellars account of her experiences is honest and forthright. It is unique in several respects. First, she is a member of the last generation to attend residential schools in her area of British Columbia. However, she also relates aspects of her mother's and grandmother's experiences with the schools; the book, therefore, actually covers three generations quite well ...more
Linda Hopf
Jun 05, 2016 Linda Hopf rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Bev Sellers & I are roughly the same age but our experiences as young Canadians couldn't have been more different. I thank her for telling her story. It helped me understand the impact that residential schools & racism had/have on the minds & hearts of our Aboriginal people. What shocks me is how the Catholic Church managed to find so many cold hearted sadists from their flock of priests & nuns to man all those schools. I mean bad apples are supposed to be the exception not the ...more
Olivia Claire
Feb 27, 2016 Olivia Claire rated it it was amazing
I read this book start to finish on my ferry ride from Tsawassen to Victoria. I never put it down. I had always been interested to learn more about this horribly dark time in Canadian history that never gets spoken about, and this book gave me more insight than I could have imagined. It was fascinating in the most awful way, making me feel ashamed, horrified and heartbroken for every person who had to go through a residential school and the aftermath that followed them. This book should be ...more
Jan 30, 2014 Shambe rated it liked it
I have lived in Canada almost all my life and never knew of some of these injustices. It is excellent that Sellars told this lost story in an easy to follow, enjoyable and informative way.
Jennifer Bonnell
Nov 24, 2013 Jennifer Bonnell rated it really liked it
Such a brave book, plainly and powerfully told. It made me see beyond the gross abuses of the residential school system to the everyday, routine and systematic ways that children were demoralized.
They called me Number One is a first hand account of the impact of the St. Joseph’s Mission, a Residential School located in Williams Lake, British Columbia (B.C.), Canada. This is the first full length memoir out of St. Joseph’s Mission and was written by Bev Sellars, chief of the Xat'Sull First Nations in Williams Lake, B.C. The memoir is primarily about Sellars’ family including four generations of women – her grandmother, her mother, herself and her daughter. Only her daughter did not spend ...more
Jules Goud
Dec 27, 2014 Jules Goud rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Residential schools are a dark part of Canadian history and the sad part is that most Canadians do not know about them. They are avoided and not talked about along with the many other problems that Native people face today.

I myself didn't know much about residential schools before I read this book. I just knew what they were trying to achieve and that the means that they used were terrible. However, this book explained just how terrible they were treated in those schools. They were abused physic

Review by Dr. Theresa Turmel

I usually get very excited about reading a book written by a residential school survivor and this instance was no exception. I experience joy in that we are now hearing survivors’ voices that had in the past been silenced.

Bev Sellars’ They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School details Sellars’ life from the time she was five years old until the age of 58 and she notes four reasons she felt co
Oct 19, 2015 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bev Sellars memoir has no literary pretensions. It feels more like sitting down and having coffee with a friend, relating the story of her life. Ms. (Chief?) Sellars approach toward the telling of her story is simply linear and very conversational.

Despite the title of the book, Mr. Sellars story of her experiences as a child in a residential school only take up maybe a third of the book. However, it's obvious that much of the First Nations' own experience has been embittered by the residential s
Annie Lapointe
Jun 26, 2016 Annie Lapointe rated it it was amazing
Pour l’occasion du mois du club de lecture autochtone, mon club de lecture, Le King’s book club a décidé de lire They Called me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School.

Comme mentionné dans l’introduction par le Chef Bill Wilson, Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla, ce livre devrait être enseigné à l’école. L’horreur des écoles résidentielles est une réalité. Comme Bev Sellars le dit «I have been told many times that I need to forgive in order to move on with my life. I say bull to that. It
I just started this book today, yet I am nearly halfway through. Bev Sellars illuminates for the reader in her optimistic, matter-of-fact voice, the years of trauma she, her family, and so many other children endured at the cooperative hands of the church and state. Some of it is gutwrenching stuff: beatings, sexual abuse, being deprived of one's family and culture, being forced to consume rotten food and/or endure starvation--and how these childhood experiences have shaped her adult ones, as ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
I knew only vaguely of Indian residential schools and I thought they only existed around the turn of the 20th century and were yet one more example of backward, colonial thinking left over from the 18th and 19th centuries. I had no idea that they still exist today (at least in the U.S.) and that their enrollment (again, in the U.S.) peaked in the early 1970s! This book is really more Chief Sellars' memoir instead of just a look at Indian residential schools. Not only does she describe in detail ...more
Mar 13, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it
I feel very conflicted giving this book 4 stars when it was such a heart wrenching true story of the horrors of residential school, the power of the Catholic Church and the nuns and priests who had no experience in parenting but were put in charge of these poor native children without their families consent.

I applaud Bev Sellars for having the courage to share her experiences and my heart goes out to her for all the losses and abuse she has survived. Clearly she is a strong intelligent woman who
Carolyn Gerk
Dec 02, 2014 Carolyn Gerk rated it it was ok
Does Bev Sellars have a worthwhile topic and story to tell? Certainly. Is she skilled enough as a writer to do so? No. Suddenly hitting the afterword felt like a breath of fresh air and i realized how poorly written the novel was. Ms. sellars ought to have hired out on this projext in an effort to get to the meat of her experience and focus on the weightiest issues. She gets off topic and the chapters seem to spin away from her. At the novels conclusion there are listed many other works about ...more
CL Ross
Jan 11, 2015 CL Ross rated it it was amazing
It is a book that I couldn't put down. I know a few characters and locations so it made for an interesting read. Bev. Sellars wrote the book in such a way that it draws the reader in. It was a genre about cultural knowledge, life, and residential schools. The book took you through memorable moments, sadness, and humor. The one that stands out the most is life at the residential school and how this had such an impact on her life down the road. Definitly a book I would recommend
Katrina Sark
Nov 19, 2015 Katrina Sark rated it really liked it
Well-written and important memoir. A must-read for every Canadian!

p.ix – Foreword by Chief Bill Wilson: Despite the much ballyhooed Canadian government apology for residential schools in June 2008, and the billions of dollars being spent ton compensation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, few people know anything about the collaboration between church and state to destroy races of people and their cultures, a pursuit that lasted more than a hundred years in this “civilized” country.

Baron Deschauer
Sep 23, 2016 Baron Deschauer rated it it was amazing
Bev Sellers has written a memoir of her life and the impact Canadian Residential Schools have had on her and her family (and members of First Nations generally). I am Canadian, from Manitoba, and I was totally unaware of this issue. Manitoba has the largest aboriginal (First Nations) population in Canada. I grew up with a very prejudiced view towards the Indians (as we all called them). I now feel ashamed at my ignorance and at Canada for what it has done to these people.

The Residential School
Sarah Roach
Nov 07, 2016 Sarah Roach rated it it was amazing
Very good depiction of life in Canadian residential schools (and "Indian Hospitals"!) and the impact that they have had on generations of native peoples. I wish everyone in North America would read this book. She makes the great point that when you see men and women on the street they have had help getting there, and the legacy left by residential schools was a big helper.
Nov 08, 2016 Holly rated it liked it
This book puts a personal face to my understanding of the residential school systems. I previously read A National Crime - which, while very thorough, lacked that personal feel. I feel I needed that book to put this book into context though.
Morgan Pollock
Oct 21, 2016 Morgan Pollock rated it liked it
Bev Sellars is an excellent writer and her memoir is captivating. There were times I was so angry about the injustice I had to put the book away to calm down. I would recommend this book to everyone and should be required reading in Canadian schools.
May 17, 2015 Chantal rated it liked it
Preface xv: “Aboriginal people in Canada have a story to tell, a story most non-Aboriginals don’t know about. Many Canadians are unaware of what happened in a country that proudly boasts of being one of the best places in the world to live; a supposedly democratic country where the freedoms and cultures of all are protected and respected. It is a greatest place to live for anyone, except for the original inhabitants of this land, the Aboriginal people.” Bev Sellars (Couldn’t have put it better ...more
This is a telling memoir of Chief Bev Sellars' experience as a native child forced to attend and live at a residential school in Canada. If you have studied about native peoples at all, you will be familiar with Catholic-run schools meant to acculturate native people into white Christian lifestyles. The school Bev attended was shut down after 100 years. Many students at the school had experienced hunger, lack of health care, cold, and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. I learned that it was ...more
Lj Ducharme
Sep 30, 2016 Lj Ducharme rated it it was amazing
A must read! But not necessarily an easy read. If you have any interest in learning about Residential Schools in Canada - this is an excellent place to start. I also recommend every high schooler read this.

Ms. Sellars gives us her first hand experience of residential schools in the 60's. Her willingness to share her experience should be applauded. She is a survivor!

I am ashamed of my lack of knowledge of what our Canadian Government and Churches did to the Aboriginal Nations for almost 100 year
Dec 11, 2015 Lester rated it really liked it
An extremely personal story. Very painful..very emotional..very positive.
I agree that this book needs to be on the curriculum for schools..grade 8 and up!!

From the Final Thoughts chapter...

"I have been told many times that I need to 'forgive' in order to move on with my life. I say bull to that. It is not up to me to forgive. Forgiveness is an easy out for those who have inflicted all the pain and suffering on aboriginal people. forgiveness and reconciliation too easily absolve us of our respon
Sep 08, 2016 Marmot rated it liked it
This was a good book to read because it gave me more persecutive on First Nations in Canada, and some of the awful things they went through, that resulted in some of the poor social conditions that can still be seen today. It became clear while reading this that the author of the book was really a lot luckier than most of the other FN kids growing up around the same time. It was good to see that she was able to rise above many challenges to become a leader and share her story with others. This ...more
Dorothy Hermary
Oct 11, 2015 Dorothy Hermary rated it liked it
Shelves: cultural, indigenous
This book is non-fiction and as such is full of details. So many details and characters that it is sometimes difficult to remember what happens to whom. My heart aches for the children who experienced the residential schools and my anger towards the nuns and priests and police and government officials, who participated in these children's trauma, grows beyond the limits of my body. The cook, who refused to feed the children rotten food and who insisted on providing the children the same ...more
Heather Bennett
Nov 01, 2015 Heather Bennett rated it it was amazing
I believe everyone should read this book. While not necessarily the best written book I have ever read, the message it relays is important. The damage done by residential schools, damage which is still occurring to this day as people who attended the school are still trying to heal, is mind blowing, especially when relayed by someone who has been there. The hurt, truth, and sometimes pure rage behind Bev Sellars words are palpable and she does an amazing job of describing the lasting legacy of ...more
Apr 17, 2014 Alexis rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I think this book should be taught in all schools and read by everyone, especially anyone who doesn't understand

1. The impact of residential schools
2. Why Canada's First Nations people have ongoing problems of poverty and violence
3. How Canada fucked up and failed First Nations people

Chief Bev Sellars tells her story in a straight forward, easy to follow format. It's almost as if she is sitting with you, telling you what happened to her. You can tell that she spent a long time thinking about thi
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