So true when it states that most Canadians weren’t even aware of the schools. I was born in 1956 and grew up in the 60’s. I remember studying the various Canadian “Indian” tribes that made up Canada at the time.
I remember it vividly because there was a picture of a Cree Chief on the wall of our classroom along with Chiefs from other Canadian Indigenous Nations. I asked the nun who was my teacher (Catholic School) if I could borrow the picture for the night.
I took it home and drew it using a grid to transfer the lines of the original to my drawing. The next day the kids accused me of tracing it. That was when I knew I could draw.
That memory has never left me, and confirms for me that we were indeed studying our Indigenous neighbours back in 1965. But I can also say that nowhere were Residential Schools ever mentioned. Never. Not in school. Not in the media, and certainly not in a Catholic home, though I now know why.
We were fed this romantic ideal of the “Indian” as the silent, noble warrior along the lines of Tonto from the Lone Ranger.
Being an empath, and being able to feel other people’s pain as well as strongly sense their energy, I have a burning need to do whatever I can, in whatever way a white, 60 year old man can do by himself, to right a massive wrong. It hurts my heart to have been fed such mush in the guise of education all those years. Like that song from Australian band Midnight Oil says, “Bed’s Are Burning.”
Driving and flying to the schools on the Reserves in Northern Saskatchewan and Alberta to do workshops on cyberbullying, teen suicide, and drug abuse prevention is now my passion.
In most of these schools the gym floors have huge chunks of linoleum missing, and the library shelves are completely bare.
Why? Because the various governments do not give these Indigenous schools the same funding per child as every other school gets in this country. Talk about an apartheid system at work right here in supposedly modern, progressive country built on human rights.
It’s criminal IMHO.
Working with my amazing friends in Saskatoon, Tisha Paget, the owner of D’Lish Cafe on Temperance Ave., and Sheila Maximuik, owner of the most incredible daycare in the city, we are collecting books and games, and granola bars, and other such nonperishables for these schools. A throughly amazing amazing experience. Concerned citizens are dropping off their donations at D’Lish Cafe weekly.
I have 15 huge boxes of these items in the bed of my truck from Tisha’s D’Lish Cafe, and from Sheila’s daycare parents to take up north with me on the next trip.
When we have girls as young as ten completing suicide on the very reserves I speak at, it causes me such sorrow that’s it’s almost unbearable. TEN YEARS OLD Good fright Charlie Brown, what does a ten year old have to be depressed about? Right? Right?
Come with me sometime as I head north to Stanley Mission or Grandmothers Bay, and see for yourself.
Houses without windows, siding half gone, swaths of shingles missing. No lawns, gardens, or fences. Graffiti everywhere, and dogs…hundreds of dogs running loose in the street. Not a sidewalk in sight. Nothing but dirt roads leading to dirt yards.
But they have hope, and that hope stands in the middle of the community, their school with its beautiful teal metal roof, and bearing massive, and incredible Indigenous themed paintings of a bear or an eagle or one of the other sacred animals so revered in the Indigenous traditions on the side of the schools. This building is their future. It’s where the next generation is learning about the past but also forging a new connection with the future. Our children are our future and education gives them that future. Every kokum (grandmother), and Elder I’ve ever met on either the Cree or Denesuline Reserves of Saskatchewan and Alberta have told me the importance of education.
It’s called “Lateral Violence”. It’s called “Intergenerational Trauma.”
“Lateral Violence” is where the victim is not strong enough to lash out at the aggressor so they lash out at themselves and those around them who are not seen as strong enough to fight back. This lashing out at themselves can take many forms such as alcohol and substance Abuse, mental illness, depression and feelings of worthlessness.
“Intergenerational Trauma” occurs when one generation is traumatized and sent back home bearing the physical and psychological wounds of their experience.
An entire generation of Indigenous kids were taken away from their families, way of life, traditions, and beliefs, forced to adopt a Christian life then after turning 16, were sent back home some having been gone for a decade. This generation had no parenting skills taught to them, did not see parenting, did not know how to parent yet were sent home as “Rehabilitated Indians” (my term).
They didn’t fit in white society because they looked Indigenous, and they didn’t fit in their Indigenous society because they were now psychologically white. They knew nothing of their native tongue, traditions, family, or culture. This generation was lost, caught in no man’s land between racism and ignorance. With no where to go, and no sense of belonging, many turned to the bottle, which lead to violence, zero self-esteem, hopelessness, and death. That’s “Intergenerational Trauma”.
This is giving back. This is giving hope, and this is empathy at work folks. The time to right a wrong is long overdue.