Ashley meets her great-uncle by the old train tracks near their community in Nova Scotia. Ashley sees his sadness, and Uncle tells her of the day years ago when he and the other children from their community were told to board the train before being taken to residential school where their lives were changed forever. They weren't allowed to speak Mi'gmaq and were punished if they did. There was no one to give them love and hugs and comfort. Uncle also tells Ashley how happy she and her sister make him. They are what give him hope. Ashley promises to wait with her uncle by the train tracks, in remembrance of what was lost.
Mi’gmaq author Jodie Callaghan has created a sensitive and flowing text that, in the course of describing a short afternoon’s encounter between a child and an elder, embodies a generation’s suffering. A touching line near the end of the story states, “I am waiting for what we lost that day to come back to us.” But the hopeful note of Uncle’s pride in his young relatives leaves us waiting for better things too.
“Through Uncle's story, Callaghan (Mi'gmaq) presents a harsh topic in a gentle way. Lesley's soft color palette and expressive characters blend beautifully with the story without lifting its heaviness. Keeps a critical memory alive. ”
"'The Train' is a vital story that helps readers learn about residential schools and intergenerational trauma.”
Mi'gmaq storyteller Callaghan recounts this sad episode from Indigenous history using simple, understated text that conveys the lingering pain of this injustice.