Reports of hundreds and now thousands of unmarked graves associated with Residential Schools have shaken many Canadians and re-opened past traumas for many Residential School Survivors and their family members. These unmarked graves were not “discovered” they have been known about for years. The TRC’s report produced 94 Calls to Action. Calls 71 to 76 are recorded under the heading “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials.”
Few of us read the report and the Calls to Action with the mindset of building active relationships and community with Indigenous, Metis and Inuit people. Take a moment to think about this:
What would your response be if your family members told you about their children who did not come home from school and were never found?
We need to shift from asking, “What can we do?” to “What have we been?” and “What can we be both now and in the future?”
These questions may lead us towards some truths and activate a reconciling process that builds relationships with Indigenous, Inuit and Metis peoples.
The first thing we can be is a listener. Now is the time to listen carefully and walk together on a journey that responds to the concerns and issues that are identified by the Community Leaders and Residential School Survivors.
David A. Robertson shared this perspective on the CBC for Canada Day 2021:
Residential school history is not indigenous history. It is not Canadian history. It is not history at all when we are still healing, even as new wounds have been opened. This is Canada now. Reconciliation is a shared responsibility and you need to figure out what your role is. Educate yourself with stories told by Indigenous people. Share what you have learned and use that knowledge to take action that will create lasting meaningful change.
The Residential School system fractured and sabotaged family relationships at every level. Children were separated from their own siblings by separating boys from girls and younger from older. The process separated parents from their children. Intergenerational teaching and child rearing processes were eliminated. The family “being” was attacked until it collapsed into frightened, abused individuals feeling guilt, anger and loneliness in all directions.
For many, reading about an experience does not engage us the same way as seeing and hearing it. If you have not done so already, listen and see these four presentations regarding Residential School and the consequential trauma they caused that continue to the present day. I have included the titles and a summary along with their network affiliations. These films are relatively easy to source online.
An emotional film showing the life changing impact the Residential School system inflicted as seen through the eyes of two children.
A beautifully shot movie detailing a canoe journey along the Taku River and the medicine that comes from such a process.
Join us as we honour the resilience of residential school Survivors and the journey of Truth and Reconciliation that lies ahead.
A young couple from Treaty 6 Territory, Andrea and Colby, record a message to their young daughter as they consciously work with the historical and personal trauma in their families and the goal of not passing the trauma on to the next generation.
There are no actions, however well intentioned, that can “turn around” or undo the multi-generational trauma intentionally created by the actions of the Canadian government and the implementation of the churches. What is needed is a journey of healing and wholeness, which is done by working towards justice with our Indigenous, Inuit and Metis sisters and brothers.
What does that journey look like? That is for you to determine, in your specific place and given the individual details of your community and parish and the First Nations people who have lived there for thousands of years. To begin the process, as in how all friendship starts, we need to reach out, to be engaged to become Allies at both collective and individual levels.
In 2012 Wab Kinew wrote these words for The Winnipeg Free Press about the canonization of the first native American saint: Kateri Tekakwitha by the Roman Catholic Church:
The truth about reconciliation is this: It is not a second chance at assimilation. It should not be a kinder, gentler evangelism, free from the horrors of the residential school era. Rather, true reconciliation is a second chance at building a mutually respectful relationship.