The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) launched its new website and archive database to provide Survivors, educators, researchers and learners interested in the residential schools’ history an accessible tool for resources.
NCTR has access to approximately five million documents kept in locations such as government and church offices.
These documents were primarily collected to meet these institutions’ colonial needs. The website and archive database connects the information gathered so that it can be easily accessible to all.
“I think that the access to the NCTR achieves and the records they hold are a public good. Canada should acknowledge its exploitive history, and Indigenous communities need this understanding to heal and prosper,” said Raymond Frogner, Head of Archives at NCTR said on Wednesday.
“This digital infrastructure promotes reconciliation through acknowledgement. It is recognition that we are who we choose to remember but we are also what we choose to forget. As you see on the opening page of our website, it is Canada’s story, not just an Indigenous story.” The easy-to-navigate website at nctr.ca includes a space where communities can submit their Truth and Reconciliation-related news and events, to bring people together on the path to reconciliation.
Educational resources are categorized by grade level, including adult learning as well as pre-developed resources for teachers to use in their classrooms in English and French.
The centre also delivers free demonstrations on the available tools for teachers, organizations and researchers to support their work development and programs using the records.
“The website enables advance discovery and access of the digital archival records of the NCTR. It will promote innovative research which is meaningful to Indigenous communities,” said Frogner.
“It provides research materials that examine the colonial relationship between academic researchers and Indigenous communities, and it allows for the understanding of the rights and identity of Indigenous peoples,” he added.
The new data system, Access to Memory, makes it easier for Survivors and the general public to search for the location of schools and gravesites of children who attended the schools, as well as dates, statements, attendance records, pictures and other archival material.
As it is open-sourced, it gives the NCTR the ability to maintain its work decolonizing the archives while incorporating Indigenous languages into the records.
This web-based platform has high international standards in archiving along with several multilingual capabilities.
Free presentations to navigate the archives are also available to those who need them.
“By itself, the database is a portal that promotes discussion, recognitions, acknowledgement and engagement across Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadian society,” said Frogner.
Presently, the NCTR is actively engaging with Indigenous communities to bring out the voice of the records collected by the centre.
While the administrative records take notes of building records and salaries of those working in residential schools, within them still hold the experiences of Indigenous children.
“These are the documents that record some of the most traumatic incidents of their lives. With that in mind, we are trying to find the Indigenous voices of these administrative records,” said Frogner.
After the launch of the website and archive database, Frogner hopes that researchers, Indigenous communities, Survivors and Canadians in general start engaging with the records and educate themselves on the history of residential schools.
The database can be viewed online at nctr.ca.
Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.