Remembering the 215 Indigenous Children that never made it home.
I am struggling to write this one. I want it to be perfect. My intent is not to offend anyone. I only want to encourage everyone think. To have compassion. And I want to keep the awareness of this story in peoples minds and hearts for as long as I can.
I read a book a few years back titled ‘Indian Horse’ by Richard Wagamese. It is a story about a native boy who survived the residential school he was forced to attend. It was my first knowledge that these residential schools even existed.
I was angry when I read this book. But just a little. Because I still didn’t understand the magnitude of it. It was in the past and there was nothing I could do about it now so basically, I could ignore it. And after all, it was just a book.
And I didn’t recall learning anything about these schools through my formal education so it was easy to put it out of my mind. I dawns on me now that it is possible I didn’t learn anything about them when I was in school because they were still open. That is how current this story is. And that is why I wanted to write this.
Because this is not hundreds of years ago. This was in my time.
I don’t view myself as a racist or prejudiced individual. I think of myself as not much different than anyone else around me so this is hard for me to admit but here it goes. The truth is, I am not innocent. I have been heard saying things like, “I didn’t take anybody’s land so why am I paying for it”… “None of this is my fault so why should it affect me”. My attitude was one of complete ignorance and indifference. And I am ashamed of it now.
Because recently, everything changed for me.
When they discovered the remains of 215 children buried at a Kamloops residential school last month my heart hurt. 215 CHILDREN. Children that were taken from their homes and forced to go to a school where they suffered and/or witnessed unthinkable abuse. A school that was in full operation until 1969 and as a day school until 1978.
1978. I was eight years old when it closed. Eight. These children could have been playing in a playground at my school. They could have been my playmates or my parents playmates.
This is not hundreds of years ago. This is in my time.
And I, like so many people I know, have had the ability to ignore any concern for the challenges that indigenous people face today. People that lived through and survived these abhorrent schools. People that lost loved ones in these schools. Lost their children.
These people suffered an incredible trauma and like any person that suffers from trauma, they learn to cope as best as they can. And sometimes that best is not so respectable. But why do we treat them differently than our own loved ones who may be using unrespectable coping methods to deal with trauma? Why do they not deserve our compassion just as much as a family member or a friend suffering from PTSD?
And why do we judge them so harshly? I have heard people ask what indigenous people have contributed to society? Well, what have you contributed? Really. And if you know someone close to you that suffers from trauma, PTSD, alcohol or substance abuse, or any other debilitating disease, ask yourself what have they contributed?
So I ask you please to stop and think about this a little bit more. Really think about this. This is not hundreds of years ago. This is now.
This is in my time. Your time. Our time.
We need to keep this story going. We need awareness. We need compassion. We need change.