A Native prophecy once said that our people would suffer unimaginably for a period of six generations. That we would see our land and our spirit stolen from us and that some of the original peoples of this earth would perish forever.
It also said that only when the seventh generation was born and made its way in the world would we truly start to get back to our ways, take back our identity and culture and ensure the survival of our languages for generations to come.
The sixth generation, often referred to as the lost generation, is the last one to have undergone terrible injustices and abuse in residential schools. As if what has been done to Native people over the years wasn’t enough, this generation had to suffer as bad or worse than any others in order for us to get back on our feet again. When you’ve been broken and beaten down to almost nothing, there is nowhere to go but up.
During that time something called the 60s scoop was happening in our communities. Indian Agents were swiftly and unjustly snatching our kids who were in turn being adopted by white families. Children were flown out to different cities and towns across the country to satisfy the appetite of those people who wanted a Native kid, but wanted to “civilize” them and break any ties to their language and culture.
Only now are some of those displaced individuals finding their way back into the Native fold. Many never will because they bought into their parent’s view of being inferior because they were Native. Their only salvation was learning the white man’s way and thinking like one.
As a Mohawk, a different divide-and-conquer tactic was introduced in the last 20 years – blood quantum. In Kahnawake, judging who is a Mohawk and who is not by their blood was a tactic bestowed upon us by the government to confuse and divide us – and is working almost perfectly.
The residential school era was the final nail in the let’s-assimilate-the-Indians coffin, one that will live on in each and every one of us for many many years. Even if my generation has never set foot into the cavernous buildings where souls came to die, some of those who have experienced it first hand are inadvertently passing the damage done onto us.
However, despite the harm that residential schools have caused us, there are many reasons to hold our heads up, especially within the Cree Nation.
Successful people like San Jose Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo, Dr. Darlene Kitty, motorcycle and snowmobile racing phenoms Katejun Coonishish and Jeremiah Capissisit are all examples of Crees whose inspiration and determination brought them to where they are today. The emotional and financial support of their families enabled them to grow into role models for the whole Nation.
We should keep our chins up, there are brighter days ahead and it begins with each individual. If we continue to pity ourselves and blame other people for the dreary situation we live in, nothing will change.