Bronze Medal in IPPY 2020 Regional Nonfiction Awards

May. 7 2020
Sharon Berg

I am happy to report that my cross-genre history, 'The Name Unspoken: Wandering Spirit Survival School' won a Bronze medal for Best Book in the Regional Awards (Canada: East). This book tells the story of Elder Pauline Shirt's realization that she needed to found a 'Native Way' school for her own children and those of her neighbours and friends in Toronto. She began the school in her living room at The Bain Housing Co-op in September 1976. It soon grew and was moved to the Native Canadian center on Spadina Avenue. Wandering Spirit Survival School was adopted by Toronto Board of Education as an Alternative school in February 1977. There was some political in-fighting and the school name was change to First Nations School in 1990, though that vanilla name insulted the founders and the grandfather it was named after and actually served no one. However, despite the odds, it survived in otherwise empty rooms of other school buildings until it was moved to its own building in January 2017. That building was large enough that they began to offer high school classes in September 2018. On February 28th, 2019, Elder Pauline Shirt and the Harper-Shirt family led a ceremony to reclaim the schoo;l's name as Wandering Spirit School. This book tells you about all of this, about the man known as Chief Wandering Spirit, about Pauline's residential schooling experience, about the 1974 Native People's Caravan to Ottawa, and so much more. Through May 2020, the book can be purchased for $35 instead of the regular $40 from Sharon Berg. Email her at