Review: UpGhost River
By: Christine Smith McFarlane
Separated from his family as a young child, and placed in one of Canada’s worst residential schools-St. Anne’s in northern Ontario, Edmund Metatawabin along with Alexandra Shimo tells a heart wrenching story of survival, resilience and recovery in UpGhost River.
Metatawabin details the abuses he and his friends endured at St. Anne’s, and the atrocities of some of these abuses can be triggering at times. I found it especially hard reading it when I heard about the use of electric chairs for punishment, and the physical and sexual abuse etc.
After leaving St. Anne’s residential school, Metatawabin goes on to build a life as best as he can. He gets married, has kids, goes to school and builds a career, but it all comes to be too much for him and his alcoholism and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) tries to get the best of him.
Struggling personally and professionally, Metatawabin first tries conventional healing through AA meetings and rehab, but it confuses him more. After speaking to friends, he finds healing by reconnecting with his Cree culture and connecting to the ways of the Red Road (Sobriety). He travels across Canada to Edmonton where he participates in culturally specific teachings, ceremonies and healing circles.
Metatawabin has since worked tirelessly to expose the wrongdoings of St. Anne’s Residential School, and comes full circle in his healing, by showing in his memoir, it is possible to come through anything. His narrative is haunting, but also brave and eloquent, a must read if you need inspiration yourself.
UpGhost River is 307 pages and published by Penguin Random House. ISBN: 978-0-307-39988-5