“My Name Is Seepeetza” is based on the author Shirley Sterling’s life.
Shirley Sterling was a member of the Interior Salish Nation of British
Columbia. She was born on the Joyaska Indian Reserve, (just like Seepeetza
in the book) in 1948 and was at the age of 6 taken to a residential school. At
the residential school, she was no longer called “Seepeetza” but instead the
teachers at the school gave her another name; Shirley. She has no “good
memories” while being at the residential school, the happier ones are when
she would dance at competitions and parades, much like the character
“Seepeetza” in the book. She was also not called by either of her nicknames,
Tootie or Mcspoot. Later in her life (1997) she attended the University of
British Columbia and received a Ph.D in Education. After receiving the
education she wanted, she spent much time living in Moricetown, B.C.
Much of this time was spent among the Wet’suwe’ten people, a group of
First Nations people. Sadly after a long 2 year battle with cancer Shirley
Sterling died on April 3rd, 2005. Many people saw her as a very loving and
intelligent person; lots of people said she had a very special passion for the
education of children. Shirley Sterling also won many won awards in her
lifetime including the Laura Steiman Award for Children’s Literature. She
was the first aboriginal writer to receive the Shelia A. Egofff Children’s
Literature Prize. “My Name Is Seepeetza” is the only book that Shirley
Sterling ever wrote.