They Were Happy

Meet the author of the award-winning poem about residential schools, Sadie Antoine.

My name is Sadie Antoine, I am 15 years old, and I was 14 when I created the poem “They Were Happy.”

I am in Grade 10 this year, and I am a member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. My grandparents lived in Fort Chipewyan and they were in residential school. For the majority of my life I have been interested in arts and crafts, and creating characters and stories.

When I started learning how to write stories and poems in elementary school, it always came to me quickly, but I only recently got back into writing poems. I’ve always loved to write, and especially when I wasn’t limited to anything. The impact of writing for me keeps my imagination going even if it’s true or not, and it keeps me busy and  entertained. This means it helps me in school, with my vocabulary and grammar. I also feel that my writing can bring memories to others. For example, with “They Were Happy”, people came up to me saying they had different interpretations of my poem. These memories varied from tears, emotions, feelings, etc., and I believe that’s powerful that a person’s words bring so much emotion.


I believe to honour the people affected by residential schools is to not judge a book by its cover, have compassion, be considerate and always be kind.

This poem was left open to the interpretation of the reader.


They Were Happy

I am happy…

I am singing with my family and favourite people

The deer prancing along our home

The stars glittering across our globe

Our stories carved among stone

I am happy…

Down the lake I hear two Loons

I hear wolves howling at the moon

Dangling from leaves are Cocoons

I am happy…

The fragrance of the flowers

The passing of hours

Oh, the community of ours

I am happy…

Then the first snow

The sun glare glows

The crow flying over the meadow

I am happy…

The stew was on the fire, the

bannock was getting cooked

Then a big bang, we all looked.

A peaceful family, now all shook.

Many white men crawl over the brook.

I was taken away, along with my breath.

I never until now had a fear of death

My beautiful long hair was cut to length

I was happy…

I woke up, and was sad it wasn’t a dream

Desperately clinging to the beam for strength

Yet my weak limbs gave up on me

I was happy…

They constantly called me words

I tried to call help to the birds

They made me constantly call them “sirs”

I was happy…

My favourite clothing was ripped away

We had to portray a white child’s way

We were forced to our scrawny knees to pray

Some of my friends began to turn grey

I was happy…

I woke up to bad dreams one night in my nightgown

It sounded like cries of the lone loon, or being struck down.

But I wasn’t allowed to turn the corner, I frowned.

I was happy…

I tried to find my siblings, they were all hidden

I only saw them one more time, I was smitten.

I tried to talk to them, but it was forbidden.

I was happy…

In honour of all people affected by residential schools.

About the author

Author Profile
Sadie Antoine
YMM Weekly
We bring you the current, the quirky, and the uniquely Fort McMurray what’s-a-shakin’s.

Subscribe now so you don’t miss out on all the latest news, stories and fun in YMM!

No, thank you. I do not want.
Safe & Secure - No spam!