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Indian Residential School System in Canada: Primary Sources

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Primary Sources

UBC Library Catalogue

Try a KEYWORD search to identify primary source material.
   Example: "residential school?" AND autobiography

Try a SUBJECT heading browse to help find primary source material in the catalogue.

UBC Rare Books & Special Collections

RBSC has archival material related to residential schools. The best way to search for this material is to use RBSC's database search page. RBSC's search does not use phrase ("residential school") or truncated (residential school?) searching.

Try a KEYWORD search:
   Example: residential school

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

The NCTR has made government and church records available online, sorted by school. Records created by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission itself are also in the process of being put online. Website users will find a great deal of contextual information available on schools. The NCTR has replaced some church websites.

Search the NCTR

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP)

The RCAP database, available via Library and Archives Canada (LAC)'s website provides enhanced access to over 600 RCAP documents, including transcripts of more than 175 days of public hearings, consultations and roundtables; research studies by academics and community experts; and submissions by non-governmental organizations.

Database Access

Archival Records

Government of Canada:  Record Group 10 (RG10)

School Files Series, 1879-1953 (RG10-B-3-d)

Links to the Library & Archives Canada Web site to help guide you through the Indian and Inuit Affairs Program sous-fonds: School Files Series, 1879-1953 (RG10-B-3-d). The files deal with all aspects of Indian school administration in Canada. For more information on the RG-10 Record series as a whole, please see the Aboriginal Studies Guide.


United Church of Canada  (The Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congretional Churches of Canada merged to form the United Church in 1925. Methodist and Presbyterian school records are located within the United Church archives.)

Catholic Church in Canada

Anglican Church of Canada

Newspaper Articles

CBCA Complete (Canadian Business, Reference & Current Affairs)
Indexes academic periodicals, special interest publications, and newspapers, including the Aboriginal press. To find primary source material, narrow results by selecting Aboriginal press publications: Windspeaker, Kahtou, Inuktiut.
Search terms: "residential school$", "truth and reconciliation", "residential schools$" survivor

Research Archives

What is a Primary Source?

The definition of a primary source depends upon the discipline and on how one is using the source.
Usually, a primary source is a direct, first-hand account of an event. It is usually something that was created at the time of an event, or shortly thereafter. Examples include:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Statistics
  • Photographs
  • Art
  • Newspapers
  • Maps
  • Video and audio recordings
  • First-hand narratives or stories

For more information, check out Defining Primary and Secondary Sources or the UBC Library research guide to Primary Sources and Archival Research.