Still, to this day, it’s hard for me to fully comprehend why — let alone believe that – not only one but two residential schools would be part of my life in this world.
I am very grateful to have come through alive in these “Indian prisons” that took people’s lives for granted. And as humans later on in life, we find out some things in life can affect us more deeply than others and for eternity.
I was a former student of these residential schools in the time they were just starting to close them down. So I guess I just got transferred to another residential school, so as to “kill every little Indian left in me.” (I would like to think I was a tough nut to crack.)
I know for sure that some former students of these residential schools will never come forward to acknowledge or admit that these residential schools did ever exist. I do not blame them. Who would want to relive horrible stories or reveal to the world (which does not care) or to their new and large families, deep, dark secrets of the past?
As one person put it to me in an angry tone, why now! All this time, I had lived only to “forget.” I have a friend, a former student of the residential schools, who is in a psychiatric ward today. He and many others like him will never come home to our villages. They will always remain in the big cities for the rest of their lives.
I found out also some former students of these residential schools did not want to even come home in the summer. Why?
For me, I had never wanted to leave home in the first place. The only thing that got me through the residential school was looking forward to going home. Even when I was going to residential school, I tried several times to escape and run home, but to no avail. It was just too far away.
But there are “victory stories” of former students who made it all the way home, eating whatever they could find on the way. And there are sad stories too, to watch a friend die; these are not my stories.
There are seven siblings in our family. Four speak French fluently and three English only, and we have one common language, Cree taught to us by our mother.
I guess it all depended on which residential school they could stick you in the fastest. While we were attending these residential schools, when a family member passed away, we were not told right away, let alone allowed to go home for the funeral. Sometimes the older students were forced to relay the message(s) to us.
Physical and sexual abuse was rampant in these residential schools, perpetuated by people or persons who ran these schools.
Even if these perpetrators were caught, they were just moved on
to other residential schools to continue on whatever they were doing before.
I heard that one perpetrator went to eight different residential schools sexually and physically abusing children.
For me, fear and bewilderment are real, to know a country can commit or allow such sins and crimes of this nature to happen in establishments they ran and to have turned a blind eye. Also to a certain extent, not wanting to acknowledge it ever happened, the era of the residential school days in this province.
I will not blame former students of the residential schools if they consider or not a lawsuit(s) against the residential schools and the people who ran them.
In life, I want to move on. I do not want to live in the past, but nobody should be left off the hook that easy.