Boy from Buzwah, The

18 November 2022

The Boy From Buzwah: A Life in Indian Education
by Cecil King
Published by University of Regina Press
Review by Toby A. Welch
$29.95 ISBN 9780889778504

I’ll admit it – I live in a bubble. I have a routine life that is cozy. That said, when something comes my way that pushes me out of my comfort zone, I love it! The Boy From Buzwah did just that – it ripped me out of my sheltered life and deposited me into a fascinating new world that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. This book is the self-written memoir of Cecil King. King grew up in Buzwah on the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. A residential school survivor, King moved to Toronto to earn his teaching degree before spending his career striving for much-needed changes in Indigenous education. 

I am not a fan of the current trend to write memoirs with a timeline that jumps all over the place, skipping around from current day to birth to young adult, back to childhood and everywhere in between. Thankfully King avoided any of that and The Boy From Buzwah unfolds in seamless chronological order. We start with King’s childhood attending the Buzwah School before moving on to the St. Charles Garnier Residential School for his secondary education. After graduating, King entered the workforce for a period of time before taking a school teachers course. That evolved into King working at schools and taking more teacher training. Then King’s career in the education field and the tremendous struggles that followed are covered. He helped create CITEP – the Canadian Indian Teacher Education Program – and eventually took a position with the Indian and Northern Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan. The book wraps up with more of King’s life as an educator and the fascinating way that his journey unfolded. 

As a foodie, it was interesting to read about what meals were like during King’s childhood on Manitoulin Island. The family wasn’t financially rich but their table was full. They used the land extensively and had an abundant garden, a variety of animals, and were surrounded by water full of fish. 

My favourite section in The Boy From Buzwah is chapter ten – Some of What I Have Learned. It was so compelling that I had to read it twice to absorb the knowledge that King was passing on. Very informative and powerful stuff!

I recommend The Boy From Buzwah for anyone who enjoys reading about Indigenous experiences, Canadian history, and education in our country. It’s also the perfect book to pick up if you are looking for a rich memoir that will keep you engrossed to the very last page!


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