We are out of our depth in knowing how to respond . . .

Attawapiskat is a First Nations community of about 2,000 people located in northern Ontario. Earlier this month, Canadians were shocked by a cluster of suicide attempts among the community’s youth: 11 attempts in a single day.

As our collective focus turns in bewilderment to the realities of communities like Attawapiskat, Canadians are learning ugly truths about our history and our present. Uncomfortable personal prejudices are being exposed – and challenged. And while so many of us – whether Canadian or not – want to DO something about it, we are out of our depth in knowing how to respond to such depressing tragedy.

But we’ve been given some clues on how to “change the narrative”

In a recent Ottawa Citizen article, Elizabeth Payne writes, “A group of youth from the community . . . have held summits in recent days and have vowed to change the narrative in Attawapiskat, helping youth and others to find more outlets and support to reduce depression and suicide attempts, and to put the community onto a more positive path.”

Among the things that the youth of Attawapiskat have identified as part their vision for this changed narrative? A library.

The students and staff of Ridgemont High School in Ottawa would like to help make that vision come true. Here is a list of books that has been created by an English teacher at the school, in consultation with a contact person in Attawapiskat as well as youth from outside of the community who know which books young people like to read. We will need to have books ready to ship by Friday May 13, so please consider buying one now:

Click here to buy a book for the youth of Attawapiskat. When young people in crisis ask for a library, it’s time to listen.

* Image courtesy of Vijetha Vijayan

Join the Conversation


  1. I read about the cluster of suicides and was deeply saddened. Like you Canadians, and most nations, we Americans have our own ugly truths; ours with respect to the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Africans.

    The library is a great idea. What is the address for where the books should be sent?

    1. Disregard the question with respect to where they should be sent. When I first went to Amazon, it prompted me to go to the U.S. site. Clearly I need to stay on the Amazon Canadian site and the page setup for this effort.

    1. I’m only starting to learn about the generational trauma behind this dysfunction. Residential schools played a huge part in alienating First Nations people from their families and communities. Thank you so much for helping, Tonya!

  2. I will be glad to buy books for this cause. In addition, I am a teacher and have many books in great condition that I would love to donate. Are they taking used books?

    1. Hi Angie. Thank you so much! We are sending new books only, but if schools in your city are like ours, they would be happy to accept your donation of used books. (If you live in Ottawa, our school would be happy to accept them.)

  3. This is incredibly sad and heartbreaking! I’m just now hearing about this but I’m in complete shock that so many young people are suffering. Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue as I’m sure not enough people know about it.

    1. Thanks, Latoya. Depression among First Nations people is so devastating. You’re right that there is not enough awareness about the issue. I’m trying to learn more about it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *