The Sleeping Giant Awakens

Genocide, Indian Residential Schools, and the Challenge of Conciliation

Table of contents


1. Understanding Genocide: Raphael Lemkin, the UN Genocide Convention, and International Law
2. Pluralists, Indigenous Peoples, and Colonial Genocide
3. Forcible Transfer as Genocide in the Indian Residential Schools
4. The Sixties and Seventies Scoop and the Genocide Convention
5. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Question of Genocide
6. The TRC, Indigenous Death, Inside and Outside the Residential Schools
7. Indigenous Genocide: Remembering, Commemorating, Forgetting
8. Indigenous Peoples and Genocide: Challenges of Recognition and Remembering
9. Reconciliation, Resurgence, and Rollback in the Aftermath of Genocide


Confronting the truths of Canada’s Indian residential school system has been likened to waking a sleeping giant. In The Sleeping Giant Awakens, David B. MacDonald uses genocide as an analytical tool to better understand Canada’s past and present relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples. Based on archival research, extensive interviews with residential school survivors, and officials at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, among others, The Sleeping Giant Awakens offers a unique and timely perspective on the prospects for conciliation after genocide.


  • Short-listed, Best Subsequent Book of 2019 in Native American and Indigenous Studies 2020
  • Short-listed, Shortlisted for the 2020 Donald Smiley Prize 2020


“In addition to residential school survivor memoirs, the superb The Sleeping Giant Awakens should be mandatory reading for all Canadians. ”

- Jane Griffith

"MacDonald’s argument that the harms of forcible transfer are genocidal is compelling and well made. As he also acknowledges, however, the settler state cannot resolve or fully address these harms unless it is prepared to enter into a new relationship with First Nations on profoundly different terms. "

- Sarah Maddison