Saturday, October 15, 2011

When the Truth about What Happened to People is Told

@trc_en: I will hug my kids, tell them I love them and be thankful that they are safe in my arms and not in Residential School.

When I read the following tweets last night, I started to formulate a post about the residential school experience, its legacy and affect on First Nations people and the challenges that grow as a result.  But, I am silenced by the power of the tweets themselves and so I will just reshare them here for you.  I may, or may not comment on them later.  These are people who are living with ghosts and pain that I cannot even imagine.  The children and grandchildren of these survivors also deserve to be called survivors.  They have suffered at the hands of the policy that created the residential schools and they are allowed, finally, to start the healing journey now that the survivors have been allowed their voice.

@trc_en: We'd write letters to our parents that nuns wrote on the chalkboard so they wouldn't find out what was happening. -Ben Sillyboy #atlHearings

@trc_en: One girl was blind. She was told to read, but she couldn't because she was blind. They strapped her. -Survivor #atlHearings #aboriginal

@trc_en: One boy stuttered; was told to read. He couldn't. They stuck wedge of wood in his mouth; left it there all day. -survivor #atlHearings #fnmi

@trc_en: Some children were so afraid of peeing the bed, they slept on the toilet all night wrapped in a blanket. -survivor #atlHearings #fnmi

@trc_en: Parents wld send packages for xmas; we'd open them, allowed to look then the nuns'd take toys away to send to orphanage. -atlHearings #fnmi

@trc_en: I remember some children vomiting and being forced to eat their vomit. -Survivor #atlHearings #aboriginal #cruelty

@trc_en:  When I left res. school I was ashamed of being an Indian. When you watched TV, you rooted for the cowboys. #atlHearings #aboriginal

@trc_en:  I was ashamed of being an Indian until Rita Joe started writing her poems. -survivor #atlHearings #aboriginal

@trc_en:  Reconciliation is much more difficult when the truth about what happened to people is told. -Fr MacNeil #atlHearings #aboriginal

Thank you @trc_en for sharing these voices. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Word With Two Meanings UPDATED

I read the following tweet yesterday:

@starleigh_grass: Reading kiskinohamâtôtâpânâs by Stout and Peters. The word is used to describe schoolbus and contains the words "wagon" & "cry". #bced #fnmi

It has sort of stuck with me.  

I have been told by a reliable source that the Halq’eméylem word for school is the same word for prison.  I do not know the word myself and have not been able to verify it, but I have no reason to doubt the veracity.  Like I said, I have known the source of this knowledge for a long time.  I have also known the feeling that is conjured by that statement.  Whether it is true or not, the parallel is very much there.  For many of our children, school is a place we have to go to and a place to escape.

When I was a First Nations Support Worker, I was amazed to see so many students leaving to go hunting with their parents, or to attend smokehouse or winter dance.  I was also amazed at how many teachers were angry with this state of affairs. 

A few years later, I listened to a principal say that Native families needed to make the decision to put their children first, stop practicing the culture and their traditions and focus on getting their kids through the system.

I have never been the strongest on language and culture.  I consider it to be an aspect of our identity and not the whole being of it.  I was, however, struck by those words as if he had physically assaulted me.  Indigenous people have always been the ones that have had to give up something, to sacrifice a part of themselves.

I do not believe that you have to practice the language and culture to be considered Indigenous.  I do not believe that you need to choose between your BC “education” or your First Nations education.  I know that, as a teacher, I struggle to find the balance everyday, I have to choose one or the other in order serve my students.  We chose so that they would no longer have to.

And yet, I still hear these words: they need to give up that and put their education first; they need to make a choice between being First Nations, or Aboriginal, and being educated.

Whether or not it is one word for both school and prison, it doesn’t matter.  The meaning is still the same.
I received a tweet from Jenny Cho (@javafest):  Had to find out! H language tchr at our school says school=skwu:l & jail is q'iq'awtxw.
So, two words.  It is a bit of a heart break to learn that, although I am grateful to have this now.  I do not believe that this changes the meaning of my post in any real way.  I believe that the two meanings are still valid in my understanding and the need to challenge, or resist the need to have to make that choice between the one or the other.  Thanks Jenny!

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 4th Sisters in Spirit Vigil

The Following is from a Joint Statement to be read nationwide on October 4th 2011 as part of
Sisters In Spirit Vigils—A Movement for Social Change:

Each year on October 4th communities across Canada come together to honour the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. As we do so, we remember the lives of sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers tragically taken from us.

Today, we offer our support and sympathy to their families and we join with them in demanding justice.

Statistics consistently show that Aboriginal women face much higher levels of violence than all other women in Canada. The Native Women's Association of Canada has documented more than 600 cases of Aboriginal women and girls who have been murdered or who remain missing.

This violence has touched the lives of almost every First Nations, Inuit and Métis family and community. And it has moved Canadians from all walks of life to demand action. Violence against Aboriginal women is a national issue, one that must concern us all.

Please take a moment in your classrooms tomorrow to stand in silent vigil for these women.  Please take a moment to read the full Joint Statement, preferrably to your students.  Please ensure that the invisible and vulnerable are made visible and are protected as they deserve to be.  The Joint Statement can be found at

I will also be posting this on the site.