When I first arrived to the Secwepemc Museum & Heritage Park on a beautiful brisk September afternoon, my eyes were taken on a colorful journey of pickle green grass, hickory brown trees, and the vibrant reds and zesty yellows of Autumn. If I did not know any better, I would think that the place where I stood was that of serene beauty and peace, not, what I later learned, a dark labyrinth of pain, destruction and death.
I am finding it hard to move on from the words that were spoken about the residential schools. The words are ping ponging around in my head, slamming into my brain and finally retreating into my stomach where I want to vomit them out in an effort to understand what I just ate…. But I cannot. So the cycle starts again. My ears are pounding with the phrases, Residential School, children imprisoned in the name of education and Christianity, and identity sliced from their hair and ripped out from their hearts.

 

My 2016 brain is unable to process or understand the why’s behind what happened. The world I have bubbled myself in would never allow something this disgusting to occur and yet, it did. The fact that it did not end until 1996, the year the last school closed, pulls the fabric seam of my world view bubble exposing the ignorance I have been dreaming in. And so I decided to do some research.

According to the CBC website, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/a-history-of-residential-schools-in-canada-1.702280, 150, 000 First Nation, Inuit and Metis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the {Residential} schools. 150,000 children bowed to fate because the Canadian government developed and implemented a policy called “aggressive assimilation”. The very fact that a policy created about children would even have the word “aggressive” in it speaks volumes, to me at least, about how appalling the policy was. Even more repugnant is the fact that the very people who the children were supposed to trust, the authorities in the school, were regularly abusing and experimenting on them. I am aware that the abuse, at least sexual or psychical, did not happen to every child nor did it occur in every school, there are a few children who came out unscathed and went on to do great things. But I seriously challenge the emotional damage all children would have incurred from the moment they were seized from their homes and families.

 

There is so much more to say, more than 500 words will ever allow me explain. I am thankful for this filed study and that my eyes have been opened. It is one thing to learn about what happened through the news, on social media or in a google search. It is so easy to feel bad for a moment, get distracted, get busy and move on. But to have a survivor stand in front of you, forces you to listen. There is no delete, there is no next page, there is no bookmark, just the naked truth of a healing heart.