In my country, Canada, today is the second official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
There were 140 federally-run residential schools all across Canada that operated between 1867 and 1996. The intent was to ‘teach the Indian out of the child’: complete assimilation, in other words. The children were forcibly removed from their homes. Their hair was cut; they were forbidden to speak their native tongue; they were forbidden to practice their spirituality and their traditions; they were not allowed to go home and they endured unimaginable abuse: either of neglect, physical and sexual abuse, or worse.
They were sent home when they were eighteen.
And many never made it home at all.
A year-and-a-half ago, ground-penetrating radar located the remains of 215 children buried in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.
Those little bodies were the first that were found but they were not the last. As the search to bring those children home is ongoing, I could not find a final tally but it will likely be in the thousands.
It took that terrible discovery for non-Indigenous Canadians to finally start paying attention to what First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples had been telling us for generations about the terrible abuse they have suffered, and continue to suffer.
Intergeneration abuse does not just go away on its own.
I am a white woman, likely of European descent. The only thing that would afford me with more privilege would be if I were a white man.
I cannot pretend to know or understand the horrors that all those children – and their families – suffered for generations.
But I am a Mom. And a daughter. And a sister. And a life partner. And a friend.
I do understand love.
And so, I am most imperfectly doing what our Indigenous brothers and sisters have asked us to do. I am listening. I am exploring the rich and diverse cultures, the voices, the experiences and the stories of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
And I am believing every word.
I think, at the very least, we owe our Indigenous brothers and sisters that much.
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com
I reside on the unceded and unsurrendered lands of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq and Peskotomuhkatiyik