September 5, 2005
This week, we have a story written by Maurice Pine, from Toronto, Ontario. Maurice is 42 years old, and he is of Ojibwa descent. Hes been at East End Literacy for three years, and they are very proud of the progress hes made. He hopes one day to be a storyteller.
This writer, a second-generation residential school survivor, looks back and sees the down sides of that era, and there are many. For example, the many forms of abuse are still being recognized in children today. It is somewhat like an inheritance of shame, guilt, anger, and frustration. Some forms of abuse which still remain are found in addictions, family breakdowns, suicides, low self-esteem, and loss of identity, loss of spiritual beliefs, loss of values, and loss of a connection with the elders. There are a lot of negative things that came from that era.
However this writer's focus is not on that, it's with the positive things that came out of that time. Our First Nations People now have lawyers, doctors, judges, people in government offices, better-educated Chiefs, and the list goes on.
It's my understanding that my own Father and Mother had met and fallen in love together in one of those schools. However, they came away with the legacy of abuse and transmitted it to the family. In the way of family abuse, they lacked parenting skills, and suffered depression. In the end, they gave up all their children to the Catholic Children's Aid Society (CCAS). As a result this writer came to understand why my parents gave up. It was for the betterment of the children in hopes of a better future for us.
I'm not saying it was the right or wrong thing to do, but it sure put me in a weird world of discovering myself. Although I never knew my parents, I've come to forgive them and thank them for caring.
There are some successful lives that emerged from that Dark Age for Native People, although it is hard to swallow. We do have people in professional positions all around the world. Natives have learned to turn things around for their people and themselves.
This writer, not being of the Deer Nation, has also learned not to stay stuck in the headlights. I too suffered from the effects of the Dark Age and more than likely have passed it onto my own children. The cycle hasn't been broken as of yet. However, maybe by learning more about the effects and how to change them, plus informing my children and myself, the next generation may be able to turn things around.
A key step in turning this around is not being afraid to ask for help. Being paralyzed by fear was a way of life for me. I'm not that way now! Overcoming my feelings of shame, anger, guilt, and frustration is an on-going healing one that may take the rest of my life. However, I have come a long way since not knowing who I am or where I come from. Some success stories come in big ways; others in little ways. For this writer, I wake up most days with a smile and a simple gift from my Creator. That gift is breath, and another chance to forgive myself.
There are many struggles I've been through, and more to come. But, this writer dances to a different drum. Whether these residential schools were an act of spiritual genocide masked behind paternalism, or just colonialism gone wild, we'll never know. It still was wrong in the way it was carried out. Can you judge a man by the colour of his skin? It's a mystery to me that one would think he's a better man than the next. Residential Schools left a Nation of People confused about what happened, why it happened, and who we are now. Where do we go from here?
There's something wrong in the world today; everybody in power thinks they're right. Something's wrong with all our eyes. We're seeing things in a selfish way, and God knows it isn't His way. For me my biggest struggle is getting from my head to my heart.