First learning about residential schools in Canada during my undergrad degree is a defining moment in my life. I discussed this in detail in my blog post Starting a Journey of Reconciliation.
I recently re-read sections of the two primary sources I used for a major research essay in my undergrad class: Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools by J.R. Miller and A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1996 by John S. Milloy. As someone who is fascinated by history and how it relates to our society today, I can honestly say that these books are both illuminating and devastating. Miller’s book juxtaposes Chief Shingwauk’s vision of education – a teaching wigwam where his people could acquire the necessary educational tools of modern society while honoring the values of their culture and traditions – with the Indian Residential School system that was developed by the federal government and run primarily by religious groups. Milloy’s book uses the paper trail of memos, reports from field inspectors, and letters of complaint to expose that the residential school system was horribly underfunded and mismanaged, affecting the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.
In recent years, witnessing the stories told by survivors of residential school has been both heartbreaking and healing. The vulnerability, courage, and strength shown by survivors is inspiring. I use many of these stories in my classroom to encourage truth and reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day (which I blogged about earlier this week) is the result of Phyllis Webstad sharing the story of an incident she experienced in residential school. The documentary We Were Children tells the stories of Glen Anaquod and Lyna Hart. In his memoir The Education of Augie Merasty, Joseph August Merasty tells of his experiences. His humour in the midst of telling the horrors of his experience is inspiring.
These resources make me feel the weight of injustice, but they also leave me hopeful that healing can occur. Sharing the stories is an integral part of a healing journey.
“There is no concept of justice in Cree culture. The nearest word is kintohpatatin, which loosely translates to “you’ve been listened to.” But kintohpatatin is richer than justice – really it means you’ve been listened to by someone compassionate and fair, and your needs will be taken seriously.”
― Edmund Metatawabin,
It is not about justice but about growing a mutually respectful relationship for the betterment of all who dwell in the land we call Canada.
Click HERE to access a Wakelet collection of Residential School resources I use and recommend.