Elder Shirley


My Name is Shirley Dufour Shingoose, I am a mother, a Grandmother and Great Grandmother.
I am Saulteaux, and a member of the Cote Band.
When I was 5 years old, I was taken away from my home, my culture and my parents. I was robbed of my language and suffered many forms of abuse, they even took my name and instead of calling me Shirley, I was called by the number “57”. When I finally returned to my home, I could not remember the loving family that I was taken from. My years spent at residential school were destructive, I felt worthless and shame for being indigenous and I felt lost and had no idea who I was. Even though I spent most of my childhood in the school, I came out with very little education. As a result, I spent many years on the streets and struggled with addictions.

I met my first husband when I was young, it got me off the streets and my life became a little more settled and we started a family. The effects of residential school would always come back to haunt me, I was never taught how to be a parent, and I did the best I could with what I knew. Residential school stripped us of our traditional knowledge which is sad because family is so important in indigenous culture. One thing residential school taught me was how to be resilient, and this mindset brought me back to school. I started out with the equivalent of a grade 2 education, I didn’t quit, even when it was hard. I went from having limited education to passing with honors in university and I graduated as a social worker in 1994 and worked as an addictions counsellor. I also worked in 3 hospital sites as an aboriginal Liaison and some shelters. When I retired, I continued my own healing journey and helped others to heal as well, and with all I have endured I would say that I have a black belt in life experience.

As I walk this path of my own personal reconciliation, the truths I continue to discover replace the shame with acceptance, the feeling of being unworthy with unconditional love and forgiveness, and although grief is not a linear path, I pave the way to a brighter future.