- Posted January 3, 2014 by
Prince George, British Columbia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Multi-generational legacies of Canadian Indian Residential Schools
It is spoken about in certain groups; however, the information that is out there doesn't fully educate the public about what truly happened. The reason is between the Canadian Government, and the different church groups do not want to take responsibility for what happened. Those who are choosing to discuss it are still uncovering the horrible truths. Memories of a child who just disappeared, to unmarked graves that don't answer how, who or why that are being found around the properties of Indian Residential Schools. Books are being written that speak about what happened, and what is still happening as a result. Studies that correlate the loss of familial connection and how it degrades our identity as Aboriginal People, results in high suicide rates, violence in the homes, addictions and the high birth rates at young ages are the visible minority issues that surface within society. These peg the Aboriginal communities as messed up, a negative life and lower on the totem pole when a good quality of life is doled out to other society groups. Despite that though, there have been many positive attributes that are noted within the Aboriginal Communities. For example, Education is growing beyond our expectations. We are getting more Nurses, Doctors, Lawyers, Social Workers, Educators, etc. Which expands knowledge and inspiration to the communities. Our list of Role Models are growing and the difficult discussions on Mental Health, Addictions, Suicide and Violence are being had by Youth and other vocal Role Models. There is a strong sense of positive energy that is beginning to emanate from the newer generations. The tools and information needed to have a safe and positive choices in life are surfacing. Communities are bringing culture pride back to the communities. The ability to share nationally is beginning to bring back traditional ways of life. Case in point, my Father attended Lejac Residential School where he was medically neglected to the point of losing parts of his lungs and damaging his heart and severely sexually abused by a Priest. Imagine the grief, fear, abandonment, loss of power, loss of a voice and lack of support by a steely unemotional upbringing he was given by Nuns and Priests. As a Father, he was distant, and he lacked the knowledge on how to have life-long discussions to mentor or teach his children. He taught alcohol as a way of life, and sexually abused many children in the family and community. As a Daughter, the guilt I packed because of the damage my Father had inflicted upon others was not mine to carry. However, it took years to learn how to separate his consequences to mine. If not for a respectful and loving Mother who taught: love him, respect him and do right by him in order to be right with myself was my only healing grace. Before he passed away in May of 2010. I made my peace with him without guilt or making him wrong, and I was able to go home to our First Nation community and show those who saw his wrongful deeds, that I am my own person and nothing like the legacy he had inherited. What a blessing that I don't feel like a victim, a stranger, or a guilt by association amongst my own family and my own community. I have my Mother to thank for that. In raising my children, it made it easier to encourage education and being involved within our communities. And being open to others who can be a positive influence on the kids, rather than just myself. As well, family is what we make of it. As we live in urban centers, the other Urban Aboriginal people become our supports and our Sisters, Aunties, Brothers, and their children become our Cousins, Nieces and Nephews and we are able to have that healthy connection to community. Fortunately, within my Niece and Nephew and Son, I have one just a few years shy of getting his PhD. and one who has a Bachelor of Arts in International Hotel Management and one on his way towards Applied Sciences and Engineering. All have been involved either as Board of Directors for local, Provincial and National Aboriginal Organizations. The kids travel regularly and see how other people live elsewhere to add to their arsenal of knowledge that they can bring back to their peers and relatives. This from years and generations of fear, anger, disconnect, loneliness and uncertainty. The journey isn't over, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel and we strive to add learning our language and Clan traditions as a way of life. One to be proud of, to show case as a shining way of living. Learning to value one another and those who can teach us for what we haven't been taught yet. I Thank Creator and I Thank all of those who walked before us, for their journeys become our lessons.
The pictures attached are from an Annual Canoe/Kayak Trip for community members to take on our territory to see historical sights and pictographs. On the last day, there was a greeting between paddlers and community members by drumming back and forth to each other. The paddling song, in our Carrier Language.