by Joshua Iserhoff

I love this quote from one of the best movies of all time, Forrest Gump: “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”

How profound is that?! Life isn’t fair at times, but that’s okay. Life goes on. It all depends on how you play the cards you’ve been dealt. I am a strong believer of putting everything into the Creator’s hands and moving on with humility.

As I have heard many times throughout my life: “With every obstacle you face, your character is being built.” I live by these words and they seem to have impacted my life in one way or the other. So let’s move on…

I was honoured to emcee the Indian Residential School Gathering 2015, hosted by the Cree Nation of Nemaska in collaboration with Nemaska Miiyuupimatsiiwin Centre. The location was superb and everyone was freed from any connection to the social network. That’s the best thing at Old Nemaska! Full of beauty, peace, soothing waves and no distractions, except for the certain photographer hovering over the grounds taking shots. Hey, Ian! I hope you caught my wave! (I was in my All Saints light blue attire.)

The Walking Out Ceremony, conducted by Abraham Bearskin, was powerfully moving. I took part in the ceremony and I felt what our parents endured when their children were taken away. I felt their loss, their immense loneliness. I felt their pain.

The theme was “Let’s bring them home” and during the ceremony as we began to come out of the tipi, I felt a release. As soon as I stepped out I felt I was coming home to Eeyou Istchee. I can’t explain it; all I could do was cry. I know I cried for the many people who suffered and the ones who perished during the residential era.

MP Romeo Saganash shared a story about his brother “Johnnysh,” who never came home. Romeo’s sister Emma found his final resting place only a few years ago, almost 40 years later. Romeo shared his mother’s emotional journey. There was not a single dry eye in the tent.

It hits home when you hear our people share their stories. I was angry. I was saddened and yet in all of this, hope was in our midst. We are stronger and we are helping ourselves. All professionals were First Nations! I was so proud of us. Every belief was respected. Eyes were opened and healing is still flowing freely into our people.

As we ended the ceremony, a prayer was said and everyone hugged each other. Surely I thought, that whatever they tried to get rid of, they couldn’t. Our culture is strong, our language is here, and our people are still here… We’ve been through a tough ride, but we never gave up and we will never!

Whatever the circumstance you are faced with, count it all joy. One day, you’ll help someone. That is life. To you all, I say: “Run Forrest Run!”