________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009


Goodbye Buffalo Bay.

Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2007.
142 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-894778-62-6.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

***½ /4



Across the yard John yelled, "Come on you guys. Sister is giving turnips."

The boys ran to the side door. Sister Denise carried a dishpan full of cut turnips. One by one, she gave them a small piece.

Clutching their turnips, they went back to the sidewalk. They chewed in silence. Lawrence enjoyed the juicy turnip. After potatoes and onions, it was one of his favorite foods. "I just love turnips roasted in a campfire," he said at last.

"Me too," said Joseph. "Isaac, do you ever roast turnip in the Yukon?"

Isaac shook his head. "We never eat turnips at all. We eat smoked char and moose meat. I wish I had some now."

"I think the cows eat better than we do," John said.

Lawrence was interested. "Why?" he asked.

"They get turnips every day, all sliced thin. They get cabbage and oats all chopped fine. They get fields of grass to eat whenever they're hungry."

Joseph had finished his turnip. "I wish we'd get carrots at least once," he said.


At St. Bernard Mission residential school, Lawrence heard a nun say "Stop looking so dumb" and "You will not speak your heathen language in here again." He saw his six-year-old cousin's head being beaten against the cement floor by Sister Denise. For the six years he was there, he wasn't allowed to speak to any girls, not even his sisters, and he couldn't escape. When he tried, he was caught and then punched in the body by the Father Superior. At night in the Boys Dormitory, he would hear many boys (including his little brother) cry because they missed home, and he would shiver because the room was so cold. During the day, he would be working on chores (such as piling wood or washing floors) or learning how to serve mass, say the rosary, or sing and pray in English and Latin. He was never to speak Cree. If he did, he would be punished. There was only one teacher at the school whom Lawrence trusted. Sister Theresa didn't treat Lawrence like a nobody, and she encouraged him to read, learn, and travel. Sister Theresa's kind words helped Lawrence survive his six years at the residential school, but when he finished the school at the age of 13, he would have to learn how to survive in a world in which he felt invisible, angry, and confused.

     Like many of the tens of thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children who were taken from their families and sent to residential school for years, Lawrence felt like a stranger in his community when he returned, questioning both his place and his role in the world. But with the help of his grandmother and grandfather and the experiences he had while working at his first jobs, Lawrence gets stronger, takes pride in himself, and learns to feel like a part of his family and community again.

      Goodbye Buffalo Bay is based on the author's life at a residential school. A short epilogue in the back of the book, as well as a three page section entitled, "A Brief History of Residential Schools," explain why these poorly funded schools opened, how they operated, and why they were finally shut down. Other back matter in this book includes a small Cree glossary and a website link where readers can see photographs of students and activities at a residential school.

      Born in Slave Lake, AB, Larry Loyie is the author of the books The Gathering Tree, When the Spirits Dance, and As Long as the Rivers Flow. His joining the Canadian Forces at 18 years of age allowed Larry to spend time in Europe. His other jobs have included fishing, logging and native counseling. Goodbye Buffalo Bay was written in collaboration with author and editor Constance Brissenden.

Highly Recommended.

Tanya Boudreau is a librarian in the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.