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Loyie Brissenden Archives Initiated at the University of British Columbia

By Constance Brissenden, Edmonton

(From left) Archivist Elizabeth Shaffer, Constance Brissenden, Larry's tour organizer Trude Huebner and Larry’s youngest son Brad Loyie.

SGI practitioner, residential school survivor, and award-winning Cree author Larry Loyie (1933-2016) has been honoured at UBC’s new Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre with the Loyie Brissenden Archives. The new centre representing B.C., Alberta, NWT, and Yukon survivors opened on April 9, 2018. 

Constance Brissenden, a longtime SGI practitioner, was Larry’s life partner and co-author. Larry joined SGI after SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s visit to Vancouver in 1993. Larry always enjoyed his Buddhist practice and chanted every day.

The Loyie Brissenden Archives, which includes thousands of files and photographs, is in the process of being digitized. The documents and images offer insights into the history of Canadian residential schools. 

Children like Larry Loyie were taken from their families over a 100-year period and placed in residential schools in an effort by the federal government to eradicate Indigenous culture. Larry Loyie was one of the first grassroots survivors to write about this hidden history more than 25 years ago. 

In the centre’s public area are comfortable couches and two digital kiosks where visitors can put on headphones and listen to Larry’s extended interview on his life and six years in residential school (video courtesy High Prairie Oral History Project, 2011). There are six additional computers for research. 

Each of Larry Loyie’s books is featured on the centre’s website with cover, description, and library link. Archivist Elizabeth Shaffer worked closely with Constance Brissenden to create this feature. 

“UBC is honoured to have the Loyie Brissenden Archives,” said Shaffer on opening day. “The website is set up to continuously add information from the archives, from Constance and from others. We’ve only just started.” 

The following day, April 10, Constance attended a special tea with the couple’s many friends at UBC. In attendance was Director Linc Kesler, First Nations House of Learning, a supportive voice for Larry Loyie. Close friends at UBC’s Xwi7xwa Library, Sarah Dupont (Aboriginal Engagement Librarian), and Kim Lawson (Reference Librarian) also attended. Larry Loyie’s longtime relationship with UBC began with a friendship with Kim Lawson. 

Copies of Larry Loyie’s books, Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, and Two Plays About Residential School (Indigenous Education Press) were featured at the opening. Larry Loyie wrote two additional books about his traditional early life and six years in residential school: As Long as the Rivers Flow (Groundwood) and its sequel Goodbye Buffalo Bay (Theytus). All books are in print.