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Truth and Indignation: Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools (Teaching Culture: UTP Ethnographies for the Classroom) Paperback – October 22, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Teaching Culture: UTP Ethnographies for the Classroom
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division; First Edition edition (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442606304
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442606302
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Truth and Indignation is the result of a detailed research project that examined the still-ongoing work of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that is respectful both of the work and the participants and yet highly critical of the enterprise. It is a tremendous step forward from a scholarly human rights culture that has been overly awed by the truth commission phenomenon and far too slow in probing beneath the surfaces. (Human Rights Quarterly)

This is a sensitive, sometimes abstract, exploration of the moral and practical terrain of this truth commission, and all truth commissions. There is serious, almost abrasive intellectual honesty in the text. The author avoids the temptation just to reproduce the indignation evoked from testimonies, and to give simple expression to what he describes as 'a kind of persistent, nagging, sympathetic sense of wrong' that accompanies any thinking on residential schools. Certainly responding to that sense of wrong is one's first instinct. After all, as Niezen neatly summarizes, the schools represent 'quite possibly the worst crime in private life, the sexual abuse of children, applied in the context of one of the worst wrongs in public life, the purposeful, policy-driven elimination of a people.' But Niezen opts for a clinical remove from the moral content of the story, in order to observe the TRC more critically. There was an easier book to write, but Truth and Indignation is more nuanced, more challenging, and as a result more stimulating. (Literary Review of Canada)

Truth and Indignation is the first attempt by an eloquent observer to document what has become of the Truth and Reconciliation process. Oddly, the commission almost resembles the Indian schools themselves—a cruel, ambiguous, institutional response to conflict and failure. Niezen's book is a crisp analysis of an unfolding drama that seems certain to end badly. (Blacklock's Reporter)


A rare combination of intellectual poetry and absolutely necessary social science. This study of Canada's attempts to come to public and national terms with one of its darkest legacies can and must be read on a number of different levels: as a superb and sophisticated ethnographic encounter with the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as an innovative reflection on the ambiguous ways in which law constitutes its multiple and shifting objects, and as a profound meditation on the ultimate limits of public categories to capture, shape, and mobilize sentiment on a grand, social scale. (Mark Goodale, George Mason University)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ursiform TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 27, 2014
Format: Paperback
Having read about the abuse of First Nation's children in residential schools, I was interested in reading this book. I suppose if I'd read the description more carefully I would have realized that this was an academic monograph about the commission itself, not a work more specifically about the history of the schools. No fault of the author there.

Niezen is fair upfront about what the commission was and what it wasn't. It wasn't an attempt to learn historical truth. It offered people who had been hurt an opportunity to tell their stories and, possibly, achieve some catharsis. But he also discusses how some people suffered from remembering long-suppressed injuries, and how some witnesses were really more aggrieved by events that happened to them later in their lives.

While the commission was was titled "Truth and Reconciliation", Niezen titles this work "Truth and Indignation". That is appropriate, because the commission didn't try to "reconcile" the two sides. It was a relocating forum for victims to testify to their molestation. But while there is no question that many native children where harmed, that in and of itself doesn't tell a complete story. What fraction were harmed? While any child abused is one too many, a system that abuses 1% of children is not the same as one that abuses 99% of them. Were the people--mostly from religious orders--who ran the schools mostly monsters, or mostly good people with a few monsters among them?

Niezen also interviews people--primarily priests and nuns--who worked at the schools. They present a very different version of history, and also express their hurt that the commission seemed focused on publicizing the bad while burying the good that happened in the residential schools.
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