Stories Introduction

Residential School Survior Stories

The following is a selection of Survivor stories drawn from the Our Stories…Our Strength video collection. We are grateful to the men and women who have shared their personal and often painful accounts of their experiences of residential school and its legacy. It is by sharing these truths that we can all continue to work toward understanding and healing.

Please contact us info@legacyofhope.ca if you are a Survivor who participated in the Our Stories…Our Strength project and would like to have your video posted on this site. If your story appears here and you would like it removed from the site or the collection, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@legacyofhope.ca

Warning: These videos contain subject matter that may be disturbing to some visitors, particularly Survivors of the Residential School System. Please call the Health Canada 24-Hour National Survivors Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 if you need assistance.

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http://wherearethechildren.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/45-Carol-Dawson.mp4
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Part 1 – 25:31

Carol Dawson

St. Michael's Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: I’ll get you to spell your first and your last name, please? CAROLE DAWSON: Carole Dawson; C-a-r-o-l-e D-a-w-s-o-n. Q. Okay. And what school did you go to? A. St. Michael’s Residential School at Alert Bay. Q. How old were you when you first went in? A. I was thirteen, I think, going on fourteen. Q. What was your first day like? Do you remember? A. It was horrible. My late sister, my late cousin and some other girls from Tlingit Inlet, which is where I’m from, were up for hours. We couldn’t sleep. It was very traumatic for us. It was a really stressful day to be coming from Tlingit Inlet, which is a really beautiful remote isolated area, surrounded by mountains. When we say it’s God’s country, we really believe it and we mean it. When we are there we are protected and we feel protected. We are protected and we were protected. Taking us out of there was just like taking fish out of water. It was a horrible experience. That’s the best I can describe it. I tried to be protective of my younger sister and my cousin and to not cry for their sakes, and to try to find things for them to do that might make them feel a little better, but there’s no way you can disguise Residential School. There’s a silly old expression which I don’t like but it always sticks in my mind. “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.” Residential School is really a nightmare institution. Q. So tell me about an experience that kind of sticks out more in your mind than other things you can remember. A. Probably the abuse that happened there. It’s not only my own abuse. I saw the abuse of other students. That was very compelling for me to see young girls getting taken out of their dorms at odd hours; eleven in the evening and midnight, and to hear them whimpering and crying and then find them in the bathroom later. I didn’t understand then about sexual abuse. It wasn’t explained to us by our parents or our Elders, or these people that operated the schools. But I knew there was something wrong. One of the things that stands out for me is I was constantly being punished. I was being either whipped or made to wash toilets because I physically attacked supervisors who beat the children, for instance, with radiator brushes. My cousin, Bob Joseph, who is one of the Residential School guys in BC, his wife is my cousin, her and I were always getting punished because we were always trying to defend the little children. That was just inherent in us to be protective. That’s one of the things I really resented about Residential School was violence begat violence, so I can see the pattern of where sex abuse comes from, but also violence. We felt we were protecting children and we would physically attack a supervisor. And we were being beaten up by older girls because the supervisors would say to someone from Bella Bella or whatever, “here’s these bad girls from Tlingit Inlet, you can do whatever you like to them”, and stuff like that. So after a period of time getting sick of the whole thing, the abuse of these children who were wetting their beds and being sexually abused and my own abuse by the staff and by the other girls in the school, my late sister, my cousin and her sister and I ran away. Little did we realize that you can’t escape from an island. That’s how stupid we were. Alert Bay is an island. We were gone for several hours and we foolishly went to the fish docks because my father was a fish packer and my cousins’ dad was a fisherman so he used to have a boat, a little gill netter. So we went down there hoping to find someone that would take us up on a boat and get us away from the Residential School. This was just within weeks of being there. So the guy who operated the school happened to be a Minister by the name of Reverend John Dalton. He immediately got the RCMP to start looking for us. There was a search for us. My sister and my cousin, the younger ones --- My older cousin and I, she was fifteen and I was fourteen, made sure that my sister and the other girl got away. Then her and I split up and I was the one that the RCMP Officer caught. So he took me. This was probably about midnight by the time they found us, and took me to the back of Alert Bay which is an island and sexually assaulted me. He didn’t bring me back to the school until I think it was about 4 a.m. The Minister that operated the school was furious. He knew there was something wrong. He could see physical marks on my body when I came in, and right away he said, “Where did you have her?” He started interrogating the Officer who was a younger Officer. So that was very traumatic because the Officer had said that if I said anything about this assault my parents would end up in jail and I would go to jail. When you’re fourteen you don’t know anything about sex to start with and something like this happens, all you’re trying to do is escape the stupid place you’re in, so for that to end up in this nightmare --- It was almost forty or fifty years before I told my mother. I’ll be sixty-three in September and I didn’t tell my mother until about 3 or 4 years ago and she wondered why. I said, “Mom, the Residential School has had such a hideous hold on me.” I’ve been an alcohol and drug counselor, a sex abuse counselor, but that’s one unfinished piece of business. I want to do something legally with it. That was a lot to happen in a short period of time. But I say it made me who I am. George Erasmus had over 600 people in Squamish at the beginning of the Residential Schools thing. I told the story there. The doors were locked. People weren’t allowed to go in or out and people must have thought I was insane. I said, “The RCMP did me the biggest favour the day they did that to me, because it has made me who I am.” It made me a very defiant person. I became very angry. For many, many years I was a fighter for rights, but not in a good way. That all came later. I managed to survive that abuse and I managed to survive my own abuse because that experience taught me that you cannot trust anyone. People in authority are not to be trusted. You have to defend yourself from them at all costs, whatever it takes to escape them, you have to do that. Even though I went to college and I became educated, I was involved in the sixties with many friends who are now dead, unfortunately, many of us were part of what is known as AIM, the American Indian Movement. I’m a real survivor. I survived Residential School. I survived the sixties. I’ve survived my own self-destructive ways and I’ve gone on to do other things, but always lurking around is this unfinished piece of business. So I think it was 1995 or 1996. I was working for fourteen Indian Bands as a Health Planner on Vancouver Island. I used to travel back and forth from Port Hardy to Vancouver. I thought this would be a good time to find a lawyer to deal with my sexual assault. That was really hard to do. When you’ve ran around over half your lifetime with that type of a filthy little secret and it’s not just some schmuck that worked in the Residential School, it’s an RCMP Officer, it’s really hard to face up to it. I’ve been an alcohol and drug counselor. I’ve been a sex abuse counselor. And one of the things I learned is a good counselor has a counselor, has counselors. I had an excellent one when I was doing my work. She said to me, “Carole, there’s one thing I want you to do for yourself.” “I want you to go back to Alert Bay by yourself, go into that Residential School alone.” “Don’t go in there with anyone.” “Don’t go with a tour group.” “Don’t go visiting anyone or bringing people with you.” “I want you to go there on your own and go through that school and relive what you lived there.” “I want you to come back and talk to me about it.” Unfortunately she was a Cree woman and she left BC because her family had some urgent matters back east and I didn’t get another counselor after that. But when I was working on the Island it came to me that I needed to do something legally about the matter. It took a lot of courage to find a lawyer that I could even say that this happened to me and I want to charge the RCMP. So I found a lawyer, Tom Berger’s daughter, Erin Berger. Unfortunately she got pregnant 2 or 3 months after I talked to her and she had started taking information and starting to look at putting the pieces together. So she said I would have to find another lawyer because she had gotten pregnant. I said, “Erin, it’s hard to find another lawyer.” “I had just screwed up all the courage I had to come and see you and tell you this story and now you’re saying I need to go find someone else to tell it to.” And not only that, because I lived on the Island I can’t find a good lawyer in Vancouver while I’m there. When I’m in Vancouver I’m there on business. I represent these chiefs from fourteen different Indian Bands and I can’t be there conducting my own affairs. That’s a luxury that if I can get to it, I will. That got left and abandoned about 1995 when I saw her. In 1998 Bob Joseph recommended this other lawyer, Karim to me, and I went to meet with him. Unfortunately another thing struck and I was going on chemo and he said, “Carole, do you think you’re really ready to take the RCMP on?” “They will fight back, they will drag out every dirty little piece they can find about you, they’ll attack you from every angle that they can, if you’re on chemo are you going to be able to live up to that?” I said that I was a really tough person to have survived all that crap, surely to God I can survive this other crap. But when I thought about it then I started to think, no, as I was on my chemotherapy I began to realize it’s really heavy duty stuff. It lays you out. And not only that, chemotherapy is a drug so like all drugs it affects you. I was horrified at how it affected me mentally. It was not just physical. I went through all the nausea and stuff they tell you, but I also went through severe depression and all these other things because chemotherapy just lays waste to you. Literally it’s supposed to kill something bad in you, but what happens is it kills what’s good in you, too. So you end up being exhausted all the time. You can’t think properly. You become very emotional so it would have been really unwise to proceed with a court case against the RCMP. I’m very glad you’re able to talk to me today Lisa, because I think every time I talk about the story of mine, it unburdens me. It makes me stronger, I believe. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the abuser, and of course Alert Bay being a small place, I’m sure the RCMP’s records if they really wanted to find this person who sexually assaulted me they would. Because we now know --- One of the things I learned as a counselor was for every individual who has been assaulted, you can say there’s ten more. But as a counselor I would say there’s probably up to a hundred more victims. I would say ten is very conservative. So I can be sure I was not the only victim of this RCMP Officer. Although one of the lawyer’s said to me, “Do you know of any others?” And I said, “No, I don’t.” Maybe fear --- I consider myself a strong person, but it took me over half a lifetime to even tell anyone about this, to relive it. Q. Do you even know what he looks like? A. Very, very little of that. I think that’s part of the self-protective mechanism of your mind to obliterate that experience. Q. Wow. A. But there are probably others and lawyers have said to me that they’re not trying to drum up other business, but can you find any others. I don’t think that’s my role to find other women or men that were possibly sexually assaulted by this individual. But certainly if I knew of them I would say to them that I would be willing to support them if they want to go forward with their story. Q. Now you’re at a place where you’re able to talk about things more, do you think you have come to terms with a lot of it? A. I think I have in many, many ways. One of the good things I think I’ve learned is that out of everything bad that has ever happened to me, I have learned to find the positive. I think that’s another survival mechanism. In order to be able to survive, people have to be able to find ways of doing that and ways of coping. I’m not talking about denial. There was a part of me for many years that was in denial about this assault. That has all changed. I don’t feel the fear that this person had over me at that time. Although the lawyers have kind of scared me, because 2 different lawyers have said to me that if I do pursue these charges against the RCMP, you know that they will probably start harassing you. And I thought, “Oh God, that’s all I need.” “I’m sixty-two and I don’t need them eavesdropping on my telephone or going through my mail, or whatever it is they’ll do.” So there’s that little part of me that feels I’ve unburdened myself and unleashed all of this garbage and it is unfinished, but there is still a little part of me that fears what are the repercussions for me speaking out about it. Because the RCMP are a powerful agency. They are the government. Q. So if you were to see this guy, this cop today, what would you say to him? A. I’ve thought of that. I think I would ask, first of all, if he remembered me. I think I would want to know, I would ask him how many other children he sexually molested, and don’t you feel that there should be any consequences for your behaviour. What a farce for someone to take an oath to protect the public and yet to go around and sexually molest young students. I don’t believe I’m alone. To me it is very repugnant and not just irresponsible; it’s reprehensible for someone with that much power. Q. So when you were in school back then did you have any classmates that you stayed in touch with? A. Yes, some of them, I did. Like I say, unfortunately many of the people I was in school with have died. Many of them have died tragic deaths. A lot of them have been murdered. Some of them through alcohol and drugs have killed themselves. There aren’t too many people that I went to school with that survive. Q. Wow. A. There just aren’t. And the interesting thing about the Residential School was when I told Erin Berger about my sexual assault with the RCMP Officer, I described what the Principal who happened to be the Minister, his reaction, and she said to me, “Carole, do you really want to sue the Residential School and this Minister?” Unfortunately, he has died. But she said her gut feeling was that maybe I shouldn’t be suing them because the Principal, the Minister, was very irate with this RCMP Officer and was very protective of me. But I know what that is. The students in the school were more his little possessions. His wards, I think. I think that’s my concept. I could be wrong because maybe he genuinely cared about us. But it didn’t seem to me --- I know he was really angry with the RCMP Officer and kept asking him repeatedly “what did you do with her?”, “where did you have her?”, “we know you picked her up at midnight”, “you’ve had her for over 4 hours, where did you bring her?” After a few minutes the RCMP Officer ran off. As I didn’t talk to my parents about that and the Minister had the matter in his hands, I had no idea what Residential School records would show about the events of that day, that morning, and the hours after that. But I’m sure the Principal tried to take some action against the RCMP. Q. Wow. Was your late sister one of the people who ran away with you? A. Yes. Q. She was sent back to school? A. Yes. We were all brought back and punished for running away. But then we tried running away again. We were just absolutely defiant of that system and hated it. Q. So if there was anything that you would want people to know about Residential School, and in particular the one that you went to, what would it be? A. I think probably I would hope, it would be hope --- There’s a lot of tragedy that happened there. Through it all and maybe I’m a bit of a foolish optimist, through it all I think you can attain survival and you can do it in a healthy way. You don’t need to die or try to kill yourself or let others kill you. You can take control. You can’t change what happened. I can’t undo the Residential School. That is just part of history. What I can redo is myself. Of course I’m not going to turn my back on those memories and what that experience was. That wouldn’t be a wise thing to do and it would not be a healthy thing to do. I think what my message and concern would be that people recognize that you can have optimism, you can have hope, you can have the power of your recovery. You can reclaim your soul. You can own that soul. Hopefully you can ensure that those types of experiences that were in those Residential Schools are not happening anywhere else. Because we now know that because of the abuse in these schools, many of us went on leaving them and we continue those offences that happened there. We become perpetrators, and that’s a thing that concerns me. People don’t need to be victims and they don’t need to be perpetrators. There is a place in between where they can be safe and they can be sane. They don’t have to go to the extreme and go over the edge. It’s a little too late for many people. Unfortunately we have paid a high price for these schools. Q. Are you connected to your culture and traditions? A. Not so much when I’m in the city. But where I come from, we’re very strong traditional people. I think that was the other thing that ensured we survived the school and the experiences there. Because our community was so remote and so isolated we could get out of the school for 2 months of the year and escape that hell. Those are things that stay with you for a life. They are not things you lose. Q. Thank you. That was a wonderful story. A. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 33:02

Velma Page

Kuper Island Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Velma, first I have to have your name spelled out for me, so can you tell me your name and spell it, please. VELMA PAGE: Velma Page; V-e-l-m-a P-a-g-e. Q. Thank you. A. My maiden name was Bob. Q. Cob? A. Bob; B-o-b. Q. That’s why Dave mentioned you were cousins. Right? A. Yes. Q. And where are you from? A. From the Nanoose First Nation. Q. Is that where you always lived? A. As far as I can remember, they told me that I lived in Comox, BC and Deep Bay, BC, them two places. Q. When you were a child? A. Yes, before my mother died in 1950. But after 1950 I lived in Nanoose until I left and went to Duncan, BC. Q. When did you go to Duncan? A. In 1956, I think it was. I think it was in ’56. Q. How old were you then? A. Fifteen. Q. Is that when you went to Residential School? A. No. I went to Residential School in 1950. I thought I went there two years but I looked at my paper and they said I went in 1948-49, besides 1950-52. I don’t remember being there in 1948-49. But I remember being there in 1950, 1951 and 1952, after my mom died. It’s like I just started remembering everything after she died. Q. When did she die? A. In 1950. Q. And you were how old? A. Eight. Q. Eight. So you went to Residential School in 1950? A. Yes. Q. Do you remember how life was before you went to Residential School? --- Speaker overcome with emotion A. It was just being on the Reserve all the time, seeing my mom around, though I don’t remember her ever talking to me or hugging me. I remember being happy there or feeling safe on the Reserve before she died. Everything changed when she died and they put me in Residential. I didn’t know she was dead. They didn’t tell me she was dead when they called us out of the bedroom to tell us to look at her in the coffin. I didn’t know it was a coffin and I didn’t know she was dead. They didn’t tell me where they took her. Q. When you were at the Residential School they took you out to show you? A. No. In March of that year, 1950, when she died. It was in September I went to Kuper Island Residential. But all my young years I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t know she was dead. Q. Did you have brothers or sisters with you? A. Six of my older siblings were in Residential in Kuper Island. I didn’t know that they were. I didn’t know I had brothers and sisters because they were there all the time, I guess. My one remaining older sister who lives in Duncan said that she went there for nine years. She was sixteen when my mom died. There were four of us younger ones at home; two younger brothers and a sister. They sent my younger sister and I there. But when I looked back, just this last year, I don’t remember seeing my younger sister there. I think they must have sent her home because I don’t remember seeing her in the school, though we got on the train together and went across on the little ferry to Kuper Island from Chemainus. I don’t remember seeing her there. And that older sister that is deceased now, she went with us that first year. I don’t remember seeing her there either. Q. What was it like for you when you got there? A. Right from the beginning I was scared walking down that dock in Chemainus to get on that boat. I didn’t know where they were bringing me. A Priest or a man picked us up and walked us down there from the train. Going on that ferry on the water for the first time – it was the first time I had been on a boat – and walking up that dock to school, I didn’t know why I was there. Q. Did anybody explain it to you? A. No. Q. Was there anybody you knew waiting for you at the school? A. No. And I didn’t see my dad before I left, either. I don’t know if he was around when I left. I don’t remember leaving my house. I just remember being at the train station and getting on that train in Nanaimo. But I don’t remember leaving my home in Nanoose. Q. After you arrived at the Residential School can you describe what it was like for you? A. I didn’t know why I was there. I didn’t know nothing. Q. It must have been very different from your home? A. It was. I was scared. I was so scared. Q. Do you remember being scared the whole time you were there? A. Yeah. I was always scared because I didn’t know nobody. --- Speaker overcome with emotion Q. Do you remember a typical day at school, like things you may have done? --- A Short Pause Q. It’s okay. Take your time. It’s okay. A. I was always scared but I kept it inside and just tried to stay real quiet. I was scared of the Nuns and scared of the Priests. I never had seen no White people on our Reserve. It was the first time I had seen White people there and they were all dressed in black. Q. I guess they didn’t make you feel very safe if you were scared of them. A. Just being around everybody I didn’t know. And they told us we weren’t supposed to look around when they lined us up in the Rectory, they called it. The other girls weren’t allowed to look around. We weren’t allowed to talk or you would get strapped or get your ears pulled or your hair pulled. So I couldn’t look for my sisters. I felt alone all my life. Q. If you weren’t allowed to look around or talk to people was it hard to have friendships? Did you have any friends when you were there? A. No. Nothing. Because we always seemed to have to be doing something. We always had to be working. We always had to be --- In free time we had to be knitting socks, darning socks, the boys’ socks after school. When we were in school they taught us about God and devils. I don’t remember doing no math and all that. It was always about God and devils. Q. Do you remember if you received any kind of education? You say you don’t remember math. Did they teach you reading or writing? A. No. When I finally got out of there they sent me to public school and I didn’t know nothing and I felt so stupid. I was older then. Everybody in the Grade they put me in --- I don’t know what Grade they put me in, but I didn’t know hardly nothing what they were teaching in the public school because that’s all we did was write about God all the time and do tests on that. Q. Did you finish public school? A. No, I didn’t. I just passed into Grade 8 when I left and went to Duncan. Q. How old were you when you left the Residential School? A. I think I might have been ten. I don’t remember my age. I didn’t know I had a birthday until I was thirteen because we never had no birthdays. When I was really little I don’t remember my mom ever having birthday parties. Q. Do you know if your mother went to Residential School? A. Yes. My oldest sister said that she went, and so did my dad. They both went to Residential. Q. Do you know where they went? A. My dad, my late dad, went to Port Alberni. And my late mom went to Coqualeetza, wherever that is. Q. And that wasn’t something that the family talked about? A. No. My older sister hardly talked about it, but she said that it wasn’t nice. She said that she had to work with the cook and she said she had to cook a lot of rotten meat, spoiled meat, for the kids. My other brothers -- I had six brothers – and I have two left. My one brother that’s all he told me was before he died that he had a medical problem that could never be fixed because they kicked him so hard in his rectum that he couldn’t sit too long, what little bit he revealed to me when he visited me. And the doctors couldn’t fix it. He didn’t go right away. They were abused. He was abused. Q. When did you finally talk to your brothers about that? A. My late brother died about two years ago, so probably about four. He was in his seventies. He died of cancer. Q. And your sister? A. About two years ago, or something, she was telling me about the food that she had to cook for the kids, about how spoiled the meat was. It was real bad food that she had to cook for us and the other kids. She said that she was there nine years. And she said that they hit her so hard on her ears that she’s deaf now. --- Speaker overcome with emotion She’s an angry lady. She won’t talk about it. She won’t cry. Q. What about you, Velma? When did you first talk about it? A. I heard about Scott Hall, the lawyer from Victoria, gathering people and he said that he would help us. So I went over there about six years ago. I don’t know when it was. It was the first time I started talking about it because he told me to go to a psychiatrist over in Duncan there. Q. So you have never shared that after you left Residential School. You had no friends or family or anybody that you ever shared your experiences with? A. No, I haven’t. Q. Do you know what a brave woman you are to be able to do that six years ago? A. I don’t know about this bravery and courage. A lot of people tell me I have it. Since I’ve been going to treatment in Sakaluten (ph.), since it opened, they tell me that. I guess I have it. I don’t know. Q. Did you ever feel angry that your sister --- A. Yes. I did start feeling it. I got married when I was only fifteen and a half over in Duncan to my kids’ father. I started having all these kids. I had them year after year. I started feeling anger having so much work to do. But then after going through what the Priest did to me over on Kuper and my brother molested me after my mom died --- I was sent to the Nuns. And I’ve gotten to where I was being sent to Nuns’ rooms and when I would get to the door and it’s dark and then I don’t remember anything. --- Transcriber’s Note: This lady is having such a hard time telling her story through her tears. I have tried to capture all her words but it is very difficult to hear. I don’t remember. I just opened the door and it’s dark. When I told Scott Hall, those lawyers, they said they don’t believe my story. But they weren’t there when I had to go to the Nuns’ rooms. I know I opened the door and it’s just black. I remember what that Priest did to me. Q. Do you want to share that with us? A. He used to take us, us little girls, on Sundays he used to take us to some field on Sunday, I guess, when we didn’t have to be in school. It was supposed to be an outing I guess. He used to either grab me or hold me and put me on his lap. He put his hand up --- Because we always wore skirts. And then he put his hands up my dress, my skirt. And I had to stay on his lap until we got to that field. Q. Velma, I’m so sorry when you shared that before those people didn’t believe you. --- Speaker overcome with emotion Q. You were talking about the Nuns and you used to go to their room. A. I don’t know what I had to do in there. Q. You don’t remember that part? A. I remember going to two different Nuns’ rooms. It was dark. Q. Was there anybody at the school, any other children that you were able to talk about that with? A. No. I don’t know why I was chosen to do that. I don’t know if they had to do it, too. They must have if I had to. They chose me. But I never told nobody. Q. You mentioned also the Nuns used to pull your ears or pull your hair. A. I seen them do that to other girls. When I would go get in line, they would tell us to get in line, I would go way to the back so they wouldn’t pick me out or anything. I was scared. Q. Did you feel that you had any way of protecting yourself? A. No. Just to be quiet and not to be seen. I would get behind the other girls. One girl told the Nun that I had lice in my head and she cut off all my hair. Then they put this white rag on my head and I had to go to school with that white thing on my head. I felt everybody there was laughing at me. Girls were mean to you. They would tell lies on other girls just to get somebody in trouble. So I tried to be always by myself. Q. Did you ever go back to your home community? A. Yeah, I’m living there now. Q. When you were a child did you ever go back? A. I had to go back there. I think I went back there in the summer. I’m not sure if I went home at Christmas. We never had no Christmas dinners either. I don’t remember. Q. Can you tell me some ways you think that Residential School might have affected your life as a mother? A. A lot of ways. I never learnt how to be friendly or have friends. They never taught those skills. On Saturdays they only allowed us to shower once a week there. We had to shower in cold water because there was a whole bunch of us girls lined up to shower every Saturday, I guess it was. I always hate cold water. We had to shower in cold water. It was always cold there. It was cold up in our Dormitory, and especially cold in the winter. It was always dark up there. I was always deathly scared of peeing my bed because girls had to sleep on the floor if they pee’d their bed and then I would hear them crying because they were cold. We had wooden floors. They only gave us one old grey blanket. I was always cold. I was always cold. Q. Did they provide you with clothes? A. Yes, just a uniform, a skirt and blouse, long socks and black shoes. Q. Sweaters or jackets or anything? A. You know, I don’t remember any jackets. I don’t know what we used when we went out. Q. Did you ever have to sleep on the floor? A. No. I was scared. I always made sure I went to the bathroom. Well, they told us to. We had to brush our teeth and go to the bathroom before we went to bed really, really early. Because they woke us up when it was still dark to go to Mass every morning, they called it. Q. We’re just going to change tapes, but I would like to ask you a few more things. --- End of Part 1 Q. Okay. Are you ready? A. Um-hmm. Q. You mentioned waking up in the morning very early to go to Mass. A. Yes. Q. Did you go to Mass right in the school? A. Yeah, right in the school. Q. And then there were classes or not really education, but what did you do the rest of the day? A. We had to darn boys’ socks on the weekend. We were allowed to play for a little while. I remember trying to learn how to play softball, but other than that we were all assigned to do chores around the school. If I didn’t have to go to the Superior, they called her, I remember having to go to her room, too. But if I didn’t have to go there then I had to shine the banisters of the stairs they had. They gave us oil and we had to dust it. I was assigned different times to clean the Sisters’ --- They had their own Dining Room off the girls’ Dining Hall. I had to clear their dishes off their table after the meal, and the Priests’. I had to clear them off the table different weeks. I guess we had different chores each week throughout the year. And then having to work in the Laundry Room. I had to go and help. That’s when they did the whole week’s wash. But other than that I don’t remember. Q. Did people call you Velma when you were there? A. I don’t remember. Q. Do you remember if you had a number? A. Yeah. My number was forty-two. Q. Does that ever come up for you now if you hear the number forty-two? A. Yes. I was born in 1941. I was always so envious of some of the girls that got visiting on Sundays. Their mother and families --- Nobody ever visited me there. It was like I was a nobody all my life. Q. You have felt that way all of your life? A. Yeah. I do still. My children, they don’t bother with me. Q. Do you have grandchildren? A. I have eighteen grandchildren. They don’t bother with me either. Sometimes they’ll call me. Sometimes my kids will phone me. Q. Do they know your story? A. No. Q. How are your kids? Do you know how they’re doing? A. Dysfunction. Just dysfunction. Q. Had your husband also been to Residential School? A. My kids’ father I divorced in ’72. He didn’t go. He left us when my fifth daughter was a year and a half, he went to the United States and just forgot us. Then I got with a man that went to Kuper Island. I suffered in a terrible violent relationship. So my kids, especially my sons, are very angry about him. They are mad about him and mad at me for being with him, for staying with him and for the abuse that they seen me go through. I didn’t know how to get out of it. Q. Did you know that it was wrong? A. No. I didn’t have any feelings for myself. I didn’t know that I should until eight years ago when my son got killed in a car crash. --- Speaker overcome with emotion Imagine it took a death to start feeling for myself, it took the death of my son for feelings to come for me. --- Speaker overcome with emotion It breaks my heart that my son, my baby --- I went to Round Lake for treatment because I wanted to kill myself. I wanted to drink again. I was thirteen years sober when he died and I wanted to drink again. I wanted to kill myself so many times, almost every day, because of the pain in my heart. The counselor, she asked me what did I feel when I would get beat up. What did I feel for my dad when he died? I didn’t feel nothing for so many years. I was a shut down person. Q. You shut down. A. I shut down when my mom died and they put me in Residential. --- Speaker overcome with emotion A. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going to happen from day to day. Q. Have you ever come to realize it’s not your fault? A. Now I’m starting to feel that none of it is my fault. But I’m so angry my mom died and I started getting molested by my brother. Nobody was there to help me, nobody to help me in Residential either, nobody to help me anywhere. --- Speaker overcome with emotion Q. You said when your son died suddenly you were able to feel something, but you wanted to end your life. What do you think made you hang in there? A. Because one of the Shaker People (ph.) told me that if I killed myself then I won’t see my son on the other side. And I want to see him. I haven’t even dreamt of him at all. He was my only child that seemed to care about me of all my six children, besides my baby granddaughter I raised. He told me he didn’t blame me for his childhood because he was always in a lot of trouble with the law, going to jail, going to Juvenile when he was younger and jail after. He stayed home at Nanoose with me off and on, or he would stay home with me. So I felt a bond with him. Q. Do you think feeling that loss and deciding to stay here in the world that you’ve healed a little bit since that time, and has this process of sharing helped you at all? A. I try to think, I try to hope there is something, some purpose that I should go on with life considering all that I went through, but I don’t know what it is. But I don’t see none of my kids. They don’t phone or want to visit me, take time out to visit me in Nanoose. And they all mostly have cars. I guess that’s the way I brought them up and now I’ve learned that’s the way they are. I can only change myself but I can’t change them. I can only stay sober and be as healthy as I can for myself and be there if they ever need me, like I was for my son before he died. Q. As far as my questions go, I’ve asked as many as I want to ask and you’ve told me a lot more. But is there anything else that you would like to share with us? A. Only that I find out when I’ve been going to Sakaluten (ph.) that opened on Quadra Island for survivors of Residential that I know that I’m not the only one that is going through, or are still going through what I did in my life. I have learnt to have faith in something up there, or wherever, a higher power, what I called upon when my son died, and I’ve had cancer, too, to give me the strength to go on that a person can do it. Every day before I get out of bed I call out: Keep me sober today. Help me with my health because I’m scared my cancer will come back. I don’t know. I wonder if it’s --- Because I felt so much anger, so much anger in myself before that I got cancer. I don’t know. Q. A lot of people say our emotions are tied to our health. A. That’s what they told me in Treatment. I’m scared that it will come back. It’s silly thinking when I so wanted to die before, eh. Now I call upon that higher something to keep me alive today because people tell me about their family members who have cancer and it comes back and they die. I want to be with my son but I want to be here for my other children if they ever need me. I know for my baby, for Carla, she’s the only one that cares about how I’m doing. To hear her voice on the phone, I want to be here when she wants me. She has given me the strength to go on. And I will as long as I have that. Q. Velma, I want to thank you very much for sharing that with us. We really appreciate it. Do you feel okay? A. Yes. Q. Okay. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 33:15
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Part 2 – 18:40

Rev.Mary Battaja

Chooutla Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Could you say and spell your name, please. MARY BATTAJA: Mary Battaja, no middle name. M-a-r-y B-a-t-t-a-j-a. Q. And that’s Reverend? A. Um-hmm. Q. What Residential School did you go to? A. Chooutla Indian Residential School, in Carcross. Q. What years were you there? A. I believe it was 1954 to 1958. Q. How old were you when you started? A. Around 8 years old. Q. Do you remember what life was like before you went there? Can you talk a little bit about that? A. Yes. I was born and raised by my traditional parents, and my community people are very traditional, where we spoke the language and hunted, fished, trapped and lived 3 miles down the Spirit River, 3 miles from Mayo Town. We were located there in a small village where our people didn’t even speak the English language. I believe the Anglican Church brought teachers to our village for Grades 1, 2 and 3. I still remember their names: Lillian Conner (sp?), Cindy Dougall (sp?) and Mr. Brownlee (sp?). We had school in the church for the children and we really liked it. We really liked the teachers and the children just loved going to school and going to the teacher’s house. Then for some reason the government --- I remember talking to my parents, and I can remember too, the Indian Agent at that time as they were called, a man came down and said to the people in the village that they had to move out of the village today. So there was a lot of mixed feelings of sadness and you could hear people crying and children crying and people packing up their personal belongings like food and blankets. You can only take what you needed because you had to carry this 3 miles, walking up the trail to town. Once we moved to town, you could hear walking up the back route there, it’s a Cat road, you can hear people crying. It’s kind of like being sent away from your home. That was our home. My dad built the cabin and when we got to town we had no place to go. There were no homes to go to because it’s not like today where people have homes and Indian Affairs gave people houses. So my dad went to the trader who owned a store and made a deal with him to cut wood for him to get tents so he got 2 tents. He set them up all through the seasons, like the 4 seasons we lived in tents year-round. I think we lived there for about 4 or 5 years before we actually rented our first home from this old White man who rented it to us for $15 a month. At that time my dad only made $13 on Friday unloading freight trucks because there were no jobs, either. When we had to pay our rent to this old White man we thought he was really taking our money away from us. It was a lot of money. Life was really good for us before the Residential School. People were close and helped each other and they lived off the land. They knew everything about the land and they were very strong people. They are survivors, you know, even through the harsh winters. They knew what they had to do to survive and live on the land. They teach their children at a very young age. In the old days the aunts were expected to teach the girls and the uncles were responsible for teaching the boys, and so they had a system, their traditional way, that really worked for them. They practiced that until the White people came up to this country. I remember when we moved to town we didn’t even speak the English language, but we spoke our own Northern Tutchone language. It was really hard. So we used to go into the stores and restaurant, and even though you didn’t have money you sat there and listened to the White people talking and ordering their food. So we would listen really hard and when we went home we copied them, as kids, you know. So that’s how we learned. At that time I believe the Native kids weren’t allowed to go to the public school system, so that’s when they sent us off to the Residential School. Going off to the Residential School, I remember that, too, the first day we went. Q. Can you talk about that a little bit? A. I remember my mom and my dad telling us that the government said we had to go to school and take us away from home. They got us ready to leave and I remember we left home, which was Mayo, on September 6th, we would leave, and then return June 28th. How we traveled to school from Mayo to Carcross was on Gordon Yardley’s big old horse truck which had just wooden railings around and a canvas over it. There was a little stepladder that we climbed up and we took our belongings with us in a little bag as we went along. I remember my mom would curl our hair and dress us up. We would pick up kids along the way. --- Speaker overcome with emotion --- A Short Pause Then we went to Stewart, Pelley – at that time it was called Saw Creek – Carmacks, Whitehorse, and some of the kids from Haines Junction met us here. Then we went on to Carcross and we would arrive there about 7 at night. As soon as we got there they assigned us to supervisors. They assigned us our number. My number was fifty, and that’s how they identify you. The first thing they did was take the children and divide us into Juniors, Intermediates and Seniors, so you were separated right away from your siblings or your older sisters and brothers. I had 2 other sisters who went to school and we had a little brother. He’s almost the same age as me. When we got to school they separated the kids. Then they would give you your clothing, a nightgown, and a uniform and you would go off to the showers. At that time I remember rows of sinks in the bathroom and there was kerosene oil in them and you had to put your head in there to clean your head in case children had lice, I suppose. But we knew that we came from a very clean home and it was very hard for us to do this. But if you didn’t do it, you would be punished, you know, so it was not easy. Not good memories. Q. What about the food? What was it like? A. We got breakfast, lunch and supper. It was very basic food. I remember if we got eggs it would be at Easter time and they were cooked in a big pan and just sliced in squares. A lot of time we had porridge, liver --- Surprisingly, I still like to eat these foods because they keep telling me it’s good for me! The kids had chores in the kitchen, and when we had dessert we usually had prunes, figs, or stuff like that, and you had to count 3 per child. I remember if any were missing we would stand up for as long as it took for somebody to confess eating the fruit that was supposed to go to the children. Q. Did you work in the kitchen? Was that one of your chores? A. Yeah. Q. What were some of the other chores you had to do? A. We were assigned to different work, like cleaning the Dormitories, Play Rooms, Washrooms, cleaning the institution, the whole building. The best place to work we thought was working in the Staff Dining Room because they got the best food, and we managed to get some of that sometimes. I won’t tell you how we got it. But just don’t get caught! Q. Are you sure you don’t want to tell us? A. Well, they always had side tables with all this food that we don’t get, so there’s always 2 kids assigned to clean the Staff Dining Room, so we would help ourselves with a little dish and they had the side table with a long tablecloth and you would go underneath it and have a good little feast while the other kid is on the watch, and we would take turns. That way you can go back and tell your friends that you had a good meal. Today I think to myself, children deserve all good things and we know that was stealing. Our parents always would teach us it is wrong to steal. It’s always good to ask. So we learned to do things that were not good. Q. What about the education you received? Do you think you had a good education there? A. You had no choice. When you went into the classroom you can’t talk, you can’t turn, you just get into your seat. Everything is timed and you have to have your assignments done. One of the things we were always so proud of was how well we did in our class because of the strict discipline. I believe the kids got really good grades. We used to be so proud of that. But at the same time the teachers, some of the teachers were not always good to the children. I remember if I got into trouble the teacher would throw chalk at you, or strap you, and if you as much as turn around or whisper to another child you would get sent to the principal’s office and you could be sure at the end of the day you will get a strap. That happened quite often. But for myself in some ways I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to have the education, but when I learned that there was so much abuse in the system, I asked myself, “Is any education worth it if you are going to abuse children to learn?” I learned from my traditional parents that learning is a good thing for a child and they should be happy and they should be able to make mistakes, not to be abused and to be punished. I always thought that was sad, how many children had to go through that. Today there are still a lot of First Nations students who don’t like school and don’t want to get educated because I don’t think very much has changed. I always believe all children should be treated in a manner that they should come to love, and receive an education and everything that comes with it. Q. Are there any memories from the school that really stand out that you would like to share with us today? A. One of the things that I really find was sad was we weren’t allowed to talk our language. Today I speak my language very fluently. We weren’t allowed to speak with our brothers. They were separated from us. But some of us used to go in the bush and speak our language and meet up with our brothers, as long as you don’t get caught. I don’t know why we had to be punished for speaking our language and keeping our traditional ways because that’s our identity. I don’t know if it was reversed, if I went to the teachers and said that they can’t speak English, you can’t eat your traditional food, you can’t wear your traditional clothing, I don’t know if they would like that, or if they would be able to live with that. Also, when we used to write letters once a month to our parents, they would give us a sheet of paper, a stamp and an envelope, if they didn’t like one thing you said in the letter it went in the garbage can. I remember to this day my classmate, a boy, wrote home to his parents and he asked his parents to send him some dry fish and some dry meat because he missed his traditional food. And the teacher made fun of that. He said, “How can you eat that?” “It would smell up the place.” I could see tears in the boy’s eyes. We understand where this child was coming from. You don’t make fun of them, so we supported each other like that because we knew better, how our ancestors had taught us. Then when we received mail or parcels from our home, it was always first read by the principal and a supervisor, and if they didn’t like what was in that letter we never received it. I remember my mom and dad sent me a brown plaid dress. It was size sixteen. It still had a price tag on it, $13-something. And they showed it to me but I never wore it because I never saw it again. I suppose it got thrown out, you know. My little brother – he’s not my brother by birth to my mother – but my aunt, when she gave birth to my little brother John, she died, so my mother and father just took him and raised him. So he is our brother. So we raised him up and he went off to school with us, too. One day I didn’t see him in class, or the next day, so I talked to my sister and we started asking where is he. And then the supervisor finally told us that he was sick in the Infirmary. We asked to see him and then we had to ask, how many times, before the Infirmary nurse gave us permission to visit with him for a few minutes. That was the last time we saw him because they sent him I believe to Edmonton and he died there. We never saw him again. Q. Do you know what he died of? --- Speaker overcome with emotion Q. Before we move on and talk about life after Residential School, you have some notes with you. Would you like to look at those for a minute to see if there is something else you want to share? A. Yes. Q. Okay. Just take a moment and look at your notes to see if there is something else there you would like to say. Q. Just take your time. Are you okay? A. Yeah. --- A Short Pause A. I just need to get rid of this stuff, I think. It’s been a long time. Q. Is this the first time you have shared some of these things? A. Pretty much, yeah. Just about the spiritual part. When we were in the school First Nations people were always spiritual people. In the Western way I suppose they identify that as religion. It was never a form of religion to us. It’s a way of life, and the land and everything on it. In them days as a child I can remember the Minister and the people wherever they went they had prayer times, whatever they needed to do, it was part of their daily lives. But once we got into the school when we get up in the morning we would pray, the whole school. We would go off to our chores, then at breakfast we would pray again before breakfast, and then after breakfast, after all the meals. Then we go off to the chapel before class and we have another prayer session. Then we go into class and before the class started we would have another prayer. After school we go to supper and before supper we have prayers again and after supper. Then at night we go to the chapel for prayers, and then in the evenings before bed time we had prayers again. We started our day, every day was like that. I remember some kids, I guess it was too much for them, and then on Sunday we had services at least about 2 or 3 times a day. Everything you did was not by choice. I love singing. I always did. So my friend and I we joined the choir. But the choir leader didn’t feel we were singing high enough, or something, so he said we couldn’t sing for a period of time, and then we got punished. We didn’t know why. Then we had bible studies. You had to do all these things. You can’t choose to or not. It’s part of the school. The children used to sometimes play sick or hide when they didn’t want to attend church, or something. And that’s sad. It’s very different from how we were taught. Like I said, our Old People and my parents are very spiritual people and prayer time is a special time. We loved to come together to pray, sing and worship. That all changed so a lot of us were turned away from --- Sometimes you would hear students talk about “if God is so good, why are things done this way because it hurts us more than it does us good?” So you just go along with whatever happens or you’ll be punished. Many times if you’ve had enough and you don’t follow rules, at the end of the day you end up in the principal’s office and be strapped again, but that was worth it to many of us. My sisters, both of them, they ran away from school, and when they came back they received harsh punishments. I remember my oldest sister – she died 2 years ago – when her and her friend Joan, who I spoke to today, came back, or were brought back to school, they had to dig a ditch from the school to the principal’s house with a shovel. We looked out the window and watched them. Right after that they would just get their meal and straight to bed, for a long time. We thought it was funny because there was this girl from my home town. She has died now, too. She passed away. We used to call her the Runaway Committee because she was a funny girl. She had this long green coat with a little fur around, and she’s got this notepad and pencil and would say, “Who wants to run away?”, and she would take names down. Some of us, we don’t want to get in trouble, so we would hide from her. Q. Did you ever try to run away? A. No. I was too young and too afraid. And at the school, too, you were taken away from your community and people you know and put among strangers. A lot of the Staff I believed were from England. They were very foreign and very different. You had to look out for yourself. You don’t know the people so you are always on the defensive, making sure that you take care of yourself. Most of the kids would hang out with kids from their own community. Sometimes kids would get angry and there would be fights, so you had to always be on the lookout so you feel safe. Today, often because I’m an ordained Anglican Priest, people ask me, “After going through all this, why are you a priest?” I said, “Well, I’m a priest who doesn’t abuse children.” “I love children and I love my work and I love helping people.” “That’s who I am.” And my Elders have been my mentors and they said there is a need for people like myself, if you have special gifts you have to use them. So that’s where I seek to work towards being a priest. I also went back to school and became a Social Worker. I worked in the hospital, here in Whitehorse General Hospital for many years, helping people. I really enjoyed that. Q. Do you find that helps you as well? A. Oh yes, it helps me. People have said to me that when I was very young I always liked helping people and liked being around people. I was very close to my parents and when we came back from school, like I said, we used to go home June 28th. The truck would arrive at the school. The kids would take their personal belongings and you would curl your hair, put on your best clothes and down the road you would go again. I remember the first year when we arrived home at Mayo, the truck pulls up on the front street. When we got off the truck we went the long way around to our houses. We were shy with our parents and I don’t know if we even greeted them. We knew that changes had taken place, I suppose. And then some of us, like for myself, my last year at Residential School I think in 1959 was the first time the government had allowed the public schools to open to the Natives, so we went there. We tried to go to school there again but we had a hard time because there was a lot of racism against Native children and you can’t go to school. We were smart children and we really wanted to get educated and get good jobs. My dream was to be a nurse, but when you’re a child and young, it’s hard to do things if you don’t have the support --- --- End of Part 1 At the end they took one of my sisters’ mukluks and threw it away, and I was scared to go home and tell my sister because she would keep asking me to bring back her mukluks. And I never did. So we used to say “I wonder if Residential School wasn’t so bad because at least we were there together and we didn’t have to go through this, too.” Q. So how was life after Residential School? Do you think that your experiences impacted your whole life? A. When I came home from the Residential School my mom died very shortly after. So I kept going to school, but going through this with my friends we just felt it wasn’t worth it to go through another system that was not going to work for us. We would go to school, but we didn’t go to school. And then my dad found out. He was very upset. But I told him, “I can’t go to school.” Then he said, “Well, you have to look for a job.” In them days there was always jobs working in the restaurant washing dishes, or in the hospital. So my first job was to work in the restaurant washing dishes. After that I worked in the hospital washing dishes, so I thought I really had a good job so I didn’t have to go to school. So I did that for a while and then I met my husband. I got married very young. He’s a wonderful husband. We are still married today, after forty-six years. Leo is a real wonderful man. He came up from Italy looking for a gold mine, working in the mines. That’s where I met him. We had a family and I lived and worked with him in the mines. Q. Have you ever talked to him about your experiences in Residential School? A. Yes, he knows, because there were times when we were first married I wouldn’t sleep in the dark. I always had a light on and he always tried to figure out how that is. I was very private about a lot of things and I would just say “it’s because I’m young”, and then as I got to know him and I trusted him I started talking about my experiences in the Residential School. He was my main support and he really cared and he’s gentle. He was part of my healing journey, I suppose. And today he still is because today he made supper when I came home. We had roast moose meat and gravy and potatoes. He’s really a good person. When I told him I had to go out again, he said, “Where are you going?” And I said, “Oh, I have to do an interview about Residential School.” He said, “Oh, good.” Q. What about your children? Have you talked to them about Residential School? A. Like I say, after I got married I guess I was on a roller coaster. I met this wonderful man and my life is going to be good and beautiful, so I kind of shut off all that Residential School experience stuff. Once I got into the workforce working with other people I was so busy helping other people and doing things I wanted to do, I just never really had time to deal with my own residential experience. When the Residential School issues started to come out, even in the church, because I was a First Nations person I would be the one asked to speak to that, you know. And then when I started reading up on it and going to Conferences --- Like I said, we have AISEP (ph.) which is Indigenous People in the Anglican Church, which is big nationally, working side-by-side with the Anglicans. We just nominated an Aboriginal Bishop to oversee all the Native churches across Canada. It’s when I start going to these Conferences that they were doing workshops like we just did today, and that’s when I really started to deal with the Residential School Syndrome. Like I said today, when you hear the stories, people’s horror stories and the hurts and the cries, it just has an impact on you. Pretty soon you kind of get dragged into it with your own stuff and start to trigger some memories and some traumas. So I thought, “This is not easy”, so you kind of try to avoid it, but then I said to myself, “Why did it take me so long to even talk about it, except to my husband?” I was talking to an Elder and I said that maybe God is giving me this time to have peace and heal until I’m ready. He said that it could be. “But Mary, you need to talk to somebody.” So I always talk to my Elders who are my mentors and people I really love and trust. With my children, you know, you pass on what you learn. You heard the story today --- Jackie told the story about the generations of women cooking chicken who would cut the legs and arms off and put them in the pot. The grandmother did it, the mother, and the daughter, so I suppose that’s how it is with your children. When you have children, you pass on the teachings of what was taught to you because you were told it was the right and good thing to do. Q. Do you take time for yourself now? A Yeah, this is my third year off work. Q. How does that feel? A. Wonderful. I’m really glad I did. I spend a lot of time with my friends, my family, just doing things for myself. The thing I love doing the best is doing beadwork with my friends. I have wonderful friends and support people who take are of me. My friends will come by and take me for a ride. I don’t even have to drive, and they will take me for lunch. I just sit back. It’s nice that people care about you and do nice things for you. With my children I was very strict with them. There were rules and you just model things you were taught, not knowing it’s not the way. We should have taught the traditional way, not the government or religion way. So I believe my children have the impact of that, too. So I had to sit down with them and talk to them. They understand. Q. Is that something you have done? Have you talked to them? A. Yes. And I’m still talking to them. I really love my children. I’m very supportive of them. My son just had a baby girl, so that’s something to celebrate. She’s a beautiful baby girl. My husband and I are all excited about that. So something good comes out of bad things, I believe. There’s always a new start at the beginning of another day. I try not to live in the past. I really believe that for myself my past is sort of a blueprint of my hurts and my pains to a brighter and a better future. I use that to make the changes for a better life for myself and whoever I help. But it’s not easy. This is the first time I actually got to go to a Conference. In the past I’ve been asking around, “what do you do?”, “who do you talk to?”, how to even get information, and I’ve asked this at big GA meetings to my First Nations Band, but I never got an answer. So I finally got bold enough and told my sister we’re going to this Conference because I’m going to phone the Band Office and tell them to put our name on the list like about a month and a half ahead of time. That’s how I came here. Q. Are you glad you came? A. Yeah. Q. Do you think it has been worthwhile? I know you said it was hard, but you just said a few minutes ago sometimes good things come from bad. Do you think in a few days you might find that this helped? A. Oh yes. And I’m going to take it from there. A lot of information they shared with the Elders asking about finances and taxes and all that, and I think those are very important questions that can better one’s life. We can go along every day in our life spending money, but in the end maybe we don’t know what we’re doing. So that kind of information is very useful to First Nations people. Because all my life growing up I know that money has very little value to Indigenous People because people say it is because we never had anything. I say, “How can you say that?” We were very rich. We had healthy food, natural food, we had the whole land. We had spring water. Now everything is contaminated. You go to the store to buy frozen foods. It’s not good for you. We used to grow gardens and store vegetables in the cellar. We didn’t have to go to the bars to be entertained. My dad used to have a radio and he played it every Saturday and we would catch the Inuvik Station of jig music and we kids used to dance and entertain the Elders. We would get our treat and then go to bed. They would carry on visiting and telling stories. Q. Good memories. A. I still have photographs of my father when I was a child about 6 years old. My dad was an amateur photographer. One day when I went back to visit him in Mayo he was tearing them up and throwing them in the garbage. I said to him, “Oh, don’t throw them away.” He said, “They’re old people, just a bunch of ghosts and have no use.” And I said, “Well, can I have them?” So he said, “Yeah.” So I was trying to save an album full. I got pictures of the way our people lived, how they did potlatches and ceremonies and family photos and burials. So I know the history of my people very well, and I speak my language very well, Northern Tutchone. I’m very fluent. I translate for people. It’s wonderful, but I have a hard time finding anybody to talk to, because people say they forgot how to speak their language. I often hear people say, “Well, if there’s no money for language or culture, we can’t do it.” I said, “How did the Old People a long time ago speak the language and live traditionally when we had no money?” I think that’s something I always believe in is really belongs to us. It’s our heritage and our identity, and if we really want it, we can do it. We just need to do it. But if we don’t do anything we’re going to lose it. That’s why I keep speaking my language. Sometimes even when I’m home by myself I talk to myself in my language because it’s really easy to forget if you don’t communicate with someone. It’s really funny sometimes when you don’t hear the language being spoken, sometimes it is comical. Q. That’s good practice. A. Yeah, it is. Q. We are almost out of time. Are there any final words you would like to share? A. I would just like to say, as an Elder, I would like to encourage the children who went to Residential School and their families to continue to work on this because it’s not going to go away. I’ve said that to the Church, too. When we work together in unity for something that is good, in the end we will find the good. I would also like to thank all the people who have gathered at this Conference which had also encouraged me and empowered me to continue to do my own healing and hope for the good in the end, and I’m sure it will happen. Q. Thank you very, very much for coming today and having the courage. I know it was hard, especially at the beginning when you weren’t sure about it. So thank you so much for coming. A. Thank you. It seems to me this hour is the longest time of the week for me. --- End of Interview ***

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Part 1 – 33:08

Lorna Rope

St Paul's in Lebret, SK

THE INTERVIEWER: Could you please say and spell your full name for us. LORNA ROPE: My name is Lorna Rope. And you want me to spell it? Q. Yes, to make sure we get it perfectly right. A. L-o-r-n-a R-o-p-e. My last name is Rope. Q. Thank you. And where do you live? A. I live in Regina. Q. Okay. Is that where you are originally from? A. No. I’m originally from the Carry The Kettle First Nations. Q. What school did you go to? A. I went to the one in Lebret. At that time it was called St. Paul’s, I believe. Q. Do you remember when you went there? A. I believe I went there in the Fall of ’62. But there are some discrepancies around that because they are saying I went there in ’63. Q. Okay. How long did you go? A. Nine years. Q. How old were you when you went? A. I believe I was 5 when I started, and I turned 6 when I was there. I was 6 in October and I started in September. Q. Do you remember your first day of school at all? A. I remember my first entrance, my first day into the school, into the whole building itself. I don’t specifically remember the first day of school. But I remember this massive red brick building and my mother was taking me in, my mother and dad were taking me in. They took me to the Play Room, down on the main floor. They just kind of said goodbye to me and kissing me. My mom was crying and I didn’t know why. I didn’t see her after for quite a while. Q. You didn’t know that you were going to be left there? A. No. That was the hardest part because I didn’t know why I was there and why my mom and dad would leave me in such a place. I didn’t know anybody. The Nuns weren’t very helpful. They would just tell me to shut up and be quiet. I couldn’t do anything about it. I just sat there and cried. Q. What was a typical day like for you at school? A. It was getting up really early. I believe we got up around 6:30, or something, and we used to go to church just about every morning at the beginning. Then at 7 o’clock or 7:30 we had to go for breakfast. And then after breakfast there were our chores to be done. After the chores were done we would have a few minutes to relax, or whatever, play around and take our minds off what was going on. Then we would all line up for school and we would all march down the hallways. We weren’t allowed to look at the boys, even as little girls. We had the Nuns beside us marching us down the hallways, I remember, and if we looked at the boys crossing they would hit us on the head with their knuckles and tell us we were pagans. They would tell me I was a pagan, I would go to hell because I looked at this boy, and different things like that. Q. Do you remember what kind of chores you had to do? A. We had to sweep the Play Room and we had to dust. We wiped down the lockers, we wiped down everything and washed floors. Q. What was life like before you went to Residential School? A. Before I went to Residential School I was a happy kid, I believe. My parents looked after me. There wasn’t too much alcohol involvement yet. My dad was a hunter. I always remember we always ate wild food. I didn’t know what beef or chicken was, or really anything, because my dad was always hunting rabbits and deer and ducks, you know, the wild game in our area. Q. Had your parents gone to Residential School? A. Yes, they did. My father went to Lebret and my mom went to Brandon. Q. Did they ever talk about that to you? A. My mom talked about it a little bit. My dad never really mentioned it. He would just say that he went. He didn’t tell me much about his experiences there. But from the way he treated us at different times, he was abusive at times, when he would get angry he would kind of lose control and he would hit us on the head with his knuckles, and that was the same way the Nuns did to us, to me, when I was there. I remember them doing that. As I got older I correlated the two and realized that my dad had picked this training up from the school and realized it wasn’t part of himself. But yeah, he was abusive from the Residential School. My mother was more caring, more kind. She was more loving. I don’t know where she picked that up from, but she did. She was like that with us, I remember. Me being the oldest one, I remember a lot about my mother because she would hug me and tell me she loved me. It was a rare occasion my dad would ever do that. Q. You love them? A. Oh yeah. I love my parents. My parents are both deceased, but there is no doubt that I still respect and honour them. They went through a lot in regard to Residential School and what it had done to them emotionally and mentally. So toward the end as more children came along there was more alcohol involvement and each of them followed in sequence to the Residential School. Being the oldest I was there the longest. My one brother still admits that he was there longer than me because he kept failing his grades! But that was him. Q. How did the Residential School experience affect you? A. It really affected me in a lot of negative ways. But it also helped me with a lot of other leadership skills that I have learned to carry with me to a point in my life. Being at school when I was younger I was always told what to do. I didn’t have a mind of my own. I was belittled. I was called a savage. I was told I would never amount to anything. I was just a dirty ol’ Indian. I was just a dirty Indian and I wasn’t going anywhere in life. When you’re told that long enough you come to believe that you’re nobody and I felt like a nobody. Being in the school I had a cousin who was really fair and she had freckles and she could fit more into the White society than us. But we always had this kind of game or contest we would play with one another. We all wanted to be White. We wanted to be like my cousin. So sometimes we would wash and wash ourselves so we would think we were White and we would go to her and compare our skin. At the time we just thought this was something we did. But now that I’m older I realize that I was trying to --- I was losing my identity. --- Speaker overcome with emotion It was a lonely place. Lots of kids, but lonely. I remember sitting in the Dormitory. I knew the direction of home. I knew which direction I came to the school. I always wished that every car that came down that hill would be my mom and dad to take me away from this place. --- Speaker overcome with emotion But unfortunately I didn’t see my parents that often. After more and more of my siblings came, they came less often. But I learned how to appease, I guess, the Nuns so that I wasn’t abused so much. I learned how to defend myself. Q. How did you do it? A. I remember when I think I was in about Grade 1 or 2, this one other girl in the Play Room was a little bit larger than myself and she was more aggressive. Why she picked on me, I couldn’t tell you why or what the purpose was for that or the meaning behind it. Only she knows. But she would always fight me all the time. It was like the Nun wouldn’t do anything. So this one day I finally had enough of her abuse and her bullying. I was sweeping the floor with one of those long brooms. They are quite heavy. I managed with my anger and rage to pick that broom up and I hit her on the head in self-defence. I was tired of being abused. After that she left me alone, lo and behold. So in regards to that it kind of showed me that if I was aggressive, the girls would leave me alone or try to bother me. So I kind of maintained that idea when I was a child to be more aggressive and not let people push me around. Q. Did that carry on into your adult life? A. Yeah. Unfortunately it did until I was twenty-five. Up until twenty-five I had a very tumultuous lifestyle. In regards to a lot of my teachings in Residential School, I wouldn’t listen. I came to a place where I became rebellious at the Residential School, because as I got older I started realizing I could think for myself. I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do, what time I can go to school, what time I can go to bed. I can do this any time I want. I was starting to be a pretty tall girl and I was pretty active, so I wasn’t a couch potato or anything like that. I was kind of like a leader also in the games. I played basketball, baseball and volleyball. Somehow I managed to make my way to be captain of these teams. One of the reasons I wanted to be on the teams was because we would get to leave the school. We would get to go different places. Because my parents never came for me I never had the opportunity to go anywhere. So this kind of gave me some freedom from the school. But it also gave me some self-esteem, that I can do it. Being captain really was something in the day. So I kind of kept that in the back of my head. Part of what helped me in the school was I liked to play music. I learned how to play music, I think, when I was in Grade 5. I played music. I played the clarinet. Then I played the saxophone, musical instruments that were a little bit more difficult to manage, but I was able to do that and I enjoyed that. Those were a couple of the years that I really liked. The music teacher, we all liked him. He was such a nice man. For me he seemed to be a nice man because it seemed like he cared about us, about me. Nothing sexual or anything like that --- He was more a fatherly type. The music that he gave to us was really good for me at the time. But as I got older and I went back to school, into Grade 9, at that time I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be at home. I wanted to be with my parents. Yeah, I gave them a difficult time and I realized I wasn’t going to be told to do anything any more. I wanted to do it myself, do it my way, let me try it myself, my way, you know. So eventually they got tired of my rebellion and they told me I can go home. (Laughter) They just couldn’t do anything with me. If I decided I was going to go downstairs in the middle of a classroom session and watch TV, I just did. And if the supervisor came down and shut it off, I just got up and walked outside and walked around the play yard and walked around by the lake, any place that would make me feel good. But I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do. So in fact they just kind of wanted to get rid of me, so they did. They let me go. Q. You had said that you had a tumultuous time after you left Residential School. What was that like for you, up until your mid twenties? A. I left school when I was in Grade 10. I couldn’t function in the public school, or what you would call a normal school. What was normal? I went to school with my cousins and they were okay. The bell would ring for this and that and they would go on their own. I couldn’t do that because it was like nobody was telling me what to do. Though I didn’t want anybody to tell me what to do, I couldn’t figure the system out and yet learn at the same time. I was having to deal with some addiction problems with my parents at home and having a young brother to kind of maintain and look after who was going to day school, so I was having these problems at home, let alone not having enough food for lunch to go to school, but still trying to make it there and still trying to function in this new setting, I lost it. I just had to quit because I didn’t know how to be able to manage all of these things going around me. And going from one classroom to the next at the beginning was horrible because I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know what classroom. Nobody told me anything. After being told things for so long I was dependent on that. I had become dependent on it but I didn’t realize that. Then I went back to the Reserve and I took an upgrading course, the GED in Grade 10, and I was seventeen. I was seventeen and I did this thing. It was like, well after that, that was kind of a success and I was happy. But at the time I still had my parents. Then I kind of got involved with alcohol. I became an alcoholic, well not quite an alcoholic back then. I was just drinking to be with people and friends and stuff like that. When I was nineteen my mom got killed. This guy we knew shot her and my siblings were there and I wasn’t. Fortunately for me I wasn’t there. But the trauma of that stayed with me for a number of years. I became an alcoholic after my mother got killed. I didn’t have any children. It was just me to worry about. But there were some things that kind of stayed in my head about my mother, about a year before she got killed, I was eighteen. She told me, “Leave this Reserve. There’s nothing here for you. There’s nothing to offer you here. You can go and find a job outside of here. Find work. Do something, but don’t stay here”, she said. How can I stay on the Reserve? I was there for a few years but I was raised in a Residential School. Because I couldn’t remember much of my younger years, very limited recall I have of that, because I believe I lost a lot of what I could remember or did remember was because I was in the Residential School for so many years. When you’re in there and feel like you’re nothing, when you’re older as an adult of eighteen, you’re supposed to be an adult and have all your faculties about you and have your goals ahead of you, I had no idea what I wanted to be, let alone go out there and work. My mom said, “Go and work.” What do I do? What am I good at? After she gets killed, shortly after she sends me off now I have no reason to want to work. My mom is gone, a major person in my life was gone. Sure, I had my dad, but my dad was kind of distant so it wasn’t like he was there emotionally. Physically he was there but emotionally he wasn’t. I had all these younger siblings. Throughout my life at different times I had to look after them the majority of the time, so now I’m eighteen, nineteen, do I want to continue to look after them? No. Even though I loved them I couldn’t even look after myself let alone look after them now. So I forgot I had a life. Because I missed my mother so much I went into being an alcoholic for 6 years. During those 6 years it wasn’t a journey that people make alcoholism out to be. There’s a lot of emotional stuff going on, a lot of mental stuff going on. Because during that time I had no self-esteem. I didn’t know where I was going. I had no goals, let alone an identity. Who was I? I lost me somewhere along the way. I didn’t even know myself as a First Nations person. It was difficult because I always wanted to be a success in something. At that time I only could dream. And one of my dreams was to go to university. But I thought that was impossible because I was an Indian. How do I function as an Indian in a White society? I only knew how through alcohol and to numb the pain. When I seen a White person all I wanted to do was “What are you going to tell me to do now?” Because I couldn’t think for myself. I was always thinking they had to think for me. There are days even now that I kind of get to that place. But because I have self-awareness now and I recognize those times, I can bring myself back immediately from an episode if I kind of go there. Residential School issues don’t really leave you. You work through them. You cry through them. You forgive and you let go. But sometimes automatically situations will come up. I have 2 little girls now. When they were small I had it in my head that these kids knew. I just caught myself one day saying, “I told you once and once is good enough. I don’t need to tell you any more.” Then I looked at my girls. They were like little babies. One is 2 and the other one is 6. They are just kids learning. I had to remind myself. I told myself I can’t go there any more. I told my girls and I grabbed them and I cried because I remember being in Residential School. We were always told once and we were never to be told again because there were repercussions and we didn’t want those repercussions. They would discipline us through straps, through hitting us with rulers, leather straps, put us in the corner, isolate us from the rest of the kids and make us sit there and watch them play --- It’s hard on a kid when you want to play. It’s torture. --- Speaker overcome with emotion I couldn’t bring my kids up like that. Q. How did you find it within yourself that you were able to bring your kids up the way you wanted to bring them up? A. I’m an older lady who had her children later in life. I had my first daughter when I was thirty-seven. My daughter is thirteen now. I had my baby when I was forty-one. But in between twenty-five and thirty-seven I was able to work through a lot of issues in regard to Residential School, my life and my self-esteem. I wanted children and I didn’t have any until later in life. Being able to look back on my raising and how other people raised their children outside of a First Nations community, I was able to realize that the way we were raised was not normal. You see my first husband --- I was married twice. That’s another issue. I find that a lot of Residential School survivors and children have multiple relationships because we don’t know how to function as a normal individual. What is normal? My first husband was a White man. I met him here and we moved to BC. I loved him greatly, but I didn’t know how to love him. He loved me. The way he loved me was different than I had ever seen in my whole life. He cared for me. He brought me flowers. He had gifts for me. When I would get home from work he would have a card and flowers on the table, or a little gift. Sometimes he would have dinner for me. Sometimes he would take me out to dinner. I thought there was absolutely something wrong with this man. He’s not normal. I was always trying to make him fit into my normal. And my normal was more abusive. Unfortunately that relationship came to an end because I was so confused. I didn’t know who I was, and I guess his patience ran out. He became my friend after, but he still is kind of like a milestone in my life because that’s where I had a lot of encouragement. Finally after the relationship ended I had to figure out who I was and where I was going. We didn’t have any children and then I met my second husband and I have 2 children from him. That relationship was what I was looking for in my first husband, and that was horrible! There’s no pleasing me in any relationship. Right? Finally I took a program in Vancouver in regards to family community counseling. I wanted to be a family community counselor, so I took this program and the instructor had her Master’s in Social Work, and many other degrees. She was an older lady. She said, “some of you here are going to drop out, for some of you your relationships are going to end.” And I looked at her and I said, “What are you talking about?” I was determined to find out what that was. And I did. My relationship ended with my second husband, because a lot of that was experiential training where I had to take a look at myself. That’s where I worked through a lot of Residential School abuse as well, especially with the Nun in the Play Room. I didn’t realize I held so much anger and bitterness toward her, and unforgiveness. It just kind of evolved one day. There was an older lady in my classroom. She had this way about her, these mannerisms were so particular and so peculiar. I can remember. Why does she stick out to me? Why is it I don’t like her? This lady comes from the coast and I had no clue who she was and I didn’t like her. I had no reason not to like her. I just didn’t know who she was. But the way she was carrying herself and the way she would talk, it would be so curt and to the point and so directive, I guess. There was no emotion behind it. And her facial expressions kind of matched her attitude and the way she was. I kept questioning myself. Why don’t I like her? What’s going on here? Finally one day it just dawned on me. She reminded me of a Nun. Later on the program I found out she was raised in a Residential School for a number of years. Q. Wow. A. But that day I sat down and the Instructor said, “Don’t go home, Lorna, stay here. I think it’s time you started dealing with some of this stuff. I’ll give you some art therapy right here in the classroom. While the rest of the students work you can sit along here and do your art therapy.” So I did. I challenged myself to do it because I didn’t want to be the way I was and I wanted to figure out why I didn’t like this woman. You know, it was so strange because I started drawing and I drew a scene of Lebret, this big school, along with the way of the cross going up to this little church, you know, and different things. All of a sudden I went back to when I was a little girl there and I remembered that Nun. I started drawing that Nun and then all of a sudden I just grabbed the black crayon and I started scribbling all over her. I started doing that and as I started doing that, I could just feel the release of the anger that was pent up in me. I kind of lost it for a bit. I had a blackout. When I came to I was just going like this (indicating) really hard on the paper. And then I just sat there and I cried. I was able to forgive that Nun and let it go. Then the lady became my friend. Q. Wow. A. But those kinds of things that have happened in the school, different places will trigger different things. If I was willing to let go of them then I have to work through them right away. I can’t stuff it any more. I walked away from that program a lighter person. Mind you, my relationship ended, but that was good for me and my children. And my dream has come true. I am in my last semester of my BSW at the U of R. Q. Wow. A. So with a lot of counseling for myself, but not only counseling but also for my beliefs, I’m not a traditional person, I’m a Christian believer, and personalizing that and having a relationship with the Lord, with Jesus, the way I see it --- --- End of Part 1 …brought me back to the school. Because they always deemed me the leader, I was the one who got the most severe punishment. I got ten straps on each hand until I cried. I mean, like I wouldn’t cry. For the life of me I didn’t want to cry. But because the priest wouldn’t let go, wouldn’t quit until I cried, I cried. And the strap was about that thick (indicating) and it was a huge long leather strap. I always kind of think of it as what they used to use on harnesses for horses, quite sturdy straps. Yeah, that’s what he used. Because he deemed me as the leader I got the worst punishment out of it all. But I said, “One day I’ll get you!” (Laughter) And that one day came when I became rebellious and I wouldn’t listen. Q. Do you ever think of that day today when you’re sitting here and you’re in your last semester of school and you are having your dreams come true and you’re really somebody and in your heart you know how great you are? I hope you do. A. Well, it took me a while to get to feel --- Well, I don’t even know if I feel like a somebody. But I’m a person who had to deal with all of those issues. Because not having your identity for a number of years, I only found my identity about 5 or 6 years ago. And being able to function in a society where you don’t have an identity is horrible because you are always trying to fit in. In Vancouver I could be riding around on the bus, I could be riding around anywhere and because some people think I look Asian, or Korean or Chinese, you know, go down to Chinatown and walk into a store and they start talking oriental to me, or Mandarin, whatever. I would just be smiling at them and I would say, “I don’t understand you, I’m not…” But then if I’m in the Italian area, depending on how I was dressed, I would fit in. But I would never admit to be a First Nations person for a long time. Q. Wow. A. Even though I went to First Nation functions and schools and stuff to get my education, when I left there I just kind of became somebody else. After I have done all that, I am proud to be who I am. I’m proud to be a First Nations from Carry The Kettle. I did research. I did history on that to find out my roots. Yeah, it was really awesome. It’s been a journey. Q. Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I feel lucky to meet you. A. Thank you. Q. Thank you. Okay, we’re done, unless you want to say anything else. A. No. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 33:14
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Part 2 – 25:16

Lucille Mattess

Lejac Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay, we’ll start by asking you to say and spell your name for us, please. LUCILLE MATTESS: Lucille Mattess; L-u-c-i-l-l-e M-a-t-t-e-s-s. I’m from the Tl,azten Nation. It’s in the area northwest of Prince George. I’m from a small community called Binchekeyoh. Q. Is that in Saskatchewan? A. No. British Columbia. Q. Oh. I was thinking of Prince Albert. Prince George. You came a ways. Lucille, which Residential School did you go to? A. I went to Lejac Indian Residential School in Fraser Lake. It was between Fort Fraser and Fraser Lake. Q. You just attended the one school, or was there another one? A. Yes, just the one school. I was there for 8 years approximately. Q. How old were you when you started? A. I would say maybe about 5 or 6 years old. I’m really unsure of the date. My last attendance was in 1969. Q. So how did it come about that you had to go to Residential School? A. I’m really not too sure how it came about. I just knew that one day I was awakened in a really big room and it seemed like I was asleep for a long time and then I came to. I was surrounded by toys and other younger kids sitting at desks and it was called the Baby Class. I remember waking up, like waking up from darkness or something. I remember that. I don’t remember seeing being removed by the Priests or the Nuns. I don’t remember that. Q. Did you have other siblings there with you? A. Yeah. I had my older sister Yvonne, she was there. And my older brother Ronnie. He was there. And after me I had my younger sister Marian, my brother Max, my brother Teddy and the last one to attend was my sister Madeleine. Q. What are your early memories of the Residential School? A. My early memories? One thing I know was the hard work that we had to do, the hard work and the lining up. The structured lifestyle was what I remember a lot, making sure you were up early in the morning. They would clap their hands to wake you up. You had to finish right on time before the next thing that was happening, like going to breakfast. And after breakfast you go at a certain time after breakfast you go right to your chores, doing your chores. A chore may be cleaning the bathroom toilets and the floors, sweeping the floors. It was a daily structure. Then you had to go and get dressed again for your classroom. Classrooms. And after a certain number of hours then you had a recess break. It was all about line up, dress up, go to the bathroom at a certain time. It was just all structured. I never ever remember making any decisions of my own. It was kind of like we were programmed. Q. What was your relationship like with your siblings while you were there? A. My relationship with my siblings was we were separate. My older sister was always ahead of me. So I would be in the high dorm, the small dorm. The high dorm would be called small dorm. She would be in Intermediate, and when I went into Intermediate, she was in Senior. My brothers, I never saw them and they were separated, too. Like there, too, the oldest one was always ahead of the youngest one. So we were always separated. I never had any contact with them. Just across the hallway I would try and spot them or they would try and spot us. But you never knew what was going on with them or what they were doing. We would never be with our younger siblings because they would be in their own activities. My older sister would be doing her own activities so there was no bonding. There was no emotional bonding or any kind of relationship that would maintain that bonding. Q. Did you go home during the summer holidays? Were you allowed to go home? A. We went home at Christmas time and we went home in the summer time. I think we stayed home. We started by the beginning of September and from the end of June we went home. So we had 2 months break there. And at Christmas time it was something like ten days. At those times it was very --- Christmas time wasn’t a very good experience because there was so much dysfunction, so much alcohol happening in the community. In the summer time it was a really good experience when we went home. We would be traveling by water back to our hunting grounds. We would be traveling in another direction to our hunting grounds. Me, before I was raised up in the Residential School environment, I was raised up in the wilderness, in the mountains and I was raised up sometimes with my parents. It was a different place every time, a different family. I was with my parents sometimes and with my auntie up in the mountains, like Manson Creek, Wolverine, in that area, or in the Residential School. But the times when I was at home with my parents it was good. It was good because my dad is a really good provider. He provides very well. My mom was a really good mother. She made sure all our needs were met and that we were clean and that the house was really spic and span. My mom is a product of Residential School, and my dad. But there was never that connection, that bond. We never really had these emotional ties. It seemed just by body language. We’re really good at picking up body languages. If you see my dad doing a certain thing or the expression of his body or his facial expression, you know you’re in the wrong so you have to try --- It’s like a dance. It was like that with my mom, too. If her needs weren’t met she would start doing this dance and we would follow and start doing this dance. You pick up, in that area, your senses, your observations. You’re really keen at that. I lived with my aunt up in the mountains. And I loved the wilderness. I really loved the wilderness because I lived in the mountains. I was the only child living on this mountain with my aunt and her partner. It was comfortable because I was by myself. I didn’t have to relate to my aunt or to my uncle. I was kind of like a silent person. I just had to watch their body language and perform the way I’m supposed to perform. I knew I could do whatever and wander around in the bush without fear. I remember that. I didn’t fear anything when I was growing up in the bush. I didn’t fear anything. It was after I went to Residential School I started having a lot of fears. I started fearing --- I had a lot of fears in my spiritual area. In our culture we never had Halloween or the Catholic beliefs, the values that were put upon us. We didn’t have that. Halloween was --- When we went to Residential School we were really small and they would dress up as devils or witches and they put a lot of fear into me, all the talk about the devil and heaven and hell. That put a lot of fear where I feared God and I feared going to hell. When that fear is there, it’s a block to my growth. It was after those fears that I came to fear a lot of things at home. I came to fear what was going on around me. They made you feel you were not good enough, not acceptable to God, especially when as a child you saw the Nuns strapping the little ones that came in after me, they were being strapped because they were talking in their language, the Carrier language, they were talking their language and they were strapping them because they were telling these kids that this was a devilish babbling. I think that’s where, from the time they took me to the awakening in that Baby Class, I think that’s where I went into some kind of sleep. I went into the back of my mind so I don’t remember. I think it had a lot to do with that first engagement with the Nuns. The spirituality part of it, today I’ve really come to believe in a different god of my understanding. I believe in the Creator and that has only happened in the last 5 years. Because after all that teaching, it’s like you’re dammed if you do and you’re dammed it you don’t, eh, the teaching of heaven and hell and God and the devil. I really suffered a lot of psychological problems. Q. When did things change for you? You were saying in the last 5 years --- Was there something? A. In 1984 that’s when I became aware that my symptoms were from Residential School. I suffered from anxiety attacks. I suffered from fears. I suffered --- I abused prescription drugs and alcohol. Prescription drugs was my number one. Sleeping pills and Valiums in the day time and sleeping pills at night. I used that for 2 years prior to 1984 because prior to that I was using alcohol right from age twelve, which was my first experience with alcohol. But after that I had a period of 4 years of sobriety because of other circumstances. Then I just went right into alcohol at age seventeen because that was normal. You see people doing it around you. You were raised up in that environment and it was in the community. It was pretty dysfunctional anyways. In 1984 a group of people from the Nechako Treatment Centre came into our community and brought in the mobile treatment. I was awakened at the time. I woke up to as a woman I had rights. As a woman I had a right to say “No”. I had emotions that could be expressed. Because I didn’t have any kind of emotions except anger. Anger was my number one only emotion I ever felt, and loneliness, a deep-rooted loneliness. But I never expressed it. I never let people know about it, which led me to depression. So I suffered from depression, loneliness and rage. I suffered from those, too. I came to --- My first 2 children I wasn’t able to look after them because I didn’t really know how due to alcoholism. I had my first daughter when I was nineteen years old. It was a disastrous relationship because I was drinking and her father died at a house party. So she was only 2 months old when I went into alcoholism. I used alcohol after that and my mom took my daughter, which I was really grateful for because I still had my mom and dad. Afterwards I went into another relationship where I was to be married. He wasn’t an Aboriginal and my grandmother put a stop to that because she wanted me to marry a Status person. So I had to leave that relationship and then I married a First Nations person from around my community. I had 3 children out of that relationship. So I had 5 children. My first son out of that third relationship was 4 years old. We went to a church. I’ll always remember this. I used Christianity to make myself feel better about myself, that I belonged somewhere. I prayed to God that I had a saving God that would save me. We were at this New Year’s function. It was a family environment and I and my husband were already sober for ten years because I didn’t want to raise my children in an alcoholic environment so I quit drinking. I think he was maybe about 6. We had to write a little note stating what is it that we want to change for the New Year. My son --- We were talking about it and everybody was asking him: “What did you put?” He said, “Mom, I put down that this anger would leave our home.” That was the hardest thing that I heard from him because I knew my anger and I knew my husband’s anger because he was a product of Residential School, too. It woke me up, wanting to have a better life for them, for my children. I started working with myself and with a group of women that help us, and with Nechako People that worked with us. We had a group going every month after our mobile treatment. We would share and we came to trust these people to share our stories with them about what happened and what it was like to be raised up in an environment of sexual and physical abuse and distorted spirituality, and changing our own belief system. A big part of it was that I suffered from passed on grief from my grandmother, because as I child I remember my grandmother --- I must have been about 3 years old. We lived in a small family community on the outskirts of Fort St. James. She was behind the house. Behind the house they were scraping moose hides and I just happened to be in the house. I ran out because I heard my grandmother wailing. The wailing was coming from her stomach, just coming out of her mouth and she had the drum. She was drumming and she was saying in our language, she was crying, she said she was calling her mom and her dad, she was calling her ancestors and she was telling them, like tears were coming out of her eyes and she said, “I’ve become really poor now, I have nowhere to go, I don’t have my freedom any more to wander to the hunting grounds to where I need to go, I don’t have any food and our children and our grandchildren are gone.” I remember being the only child there. She was singing. I used to always cry when I heard people drumming because all of a sudden this deep heavy burden was just pressing onto me when I would hear them drumming. It brought me to my grandmother and I could just feel her loss. I could never understand why I always felt that loss, that lost feeling, that lonely feeling. One day the team talked to us about the history of Residential School. There I was awakened again that Residential School had a deep impact on my well-being, that I was suffering from the debris of the government policies and my grandmother and my mother and my dad were suffering from the losses of the culture. This played a big role in my spirituality and my physical self and my emotional self and my mental and social life. I could never, after Residential School, function because I needed to be controlled. I needed structure. I tried going to high school and I only lasted 2 weeks because I felt that I didn’t belong and I couldn’t handle the racism because the racism was from the Non-Aboriginal people and from the Aboriginal students who were raised in the White community and I didn’t feel I belonged there. I didn’t feel I belonged at home because I was now talking English and my grandmother got mad at me for talking English and I didn’t like some of the traditional food that she would provide. She would get mad at us and get after us for that. I remember one time my auntie who lived next door was cooking yeast bread and bannock and I came to the door. She was telling me, “Lucy, do you want bannock or yeast bread?” I told her, “No, I want White man bread.” She grabbed the broom and she chased me back down the street. (Laughter) I always remembered that. Those are the things I had to come back to. I was ashamed to be an Indian. I was very ashamed to be an Indian. I didn’t want to acknowledge being an Indian. The ten years I was sober with my children I remember telling them, “You see those drunken Indians on the streets over there, that’s how you’re going to become if you don’t listen and if you start drinking.” That was a harsh judgment on them, on the street people, because after my ten years of sobriety and my kids were all teenagers, twelve and thirteen years old wanting to do their own thing, I started getting sick. I was diagnosed with Lupus. That was another devastating incident I couldn’t cope with so I went back to alcohol for 5 years. That was 8 years ago. I’ve been clean now for 8 years. I’ve been clean. Since 1984 until today I’ve worked. I’ve really done a lot of personal growth around myself, becoming aware of myself, becoming aware of my own beliefs and my values and retrieving my grandmothers’ and my ancestors’ beliefs and their values, accepting myself for who I am and what I am. I’m making new directions to where I want to go. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? And just building a new relationship with my children and maintaining a relationship with my grandchildren, because my children suffered a lot from the symptoms of Residential School that I had. Q. Did you ever share your story with your children? A. I’ve told them that I went to Residential School. I’ve told them how hard it has been but I have never really given them the details of what it was like, the emotional aspect of what it was like for me, the teachings of it all. I didn’t get here on my own. I got here with other people who helped me through this process, through this healing process. I’ve come to a place where I have accepted what has happened. It’s history and I can go back into history and take the things that I need to help me to walk the rest of my path. I can use it to be victimized or use it to stay stuck, or --- I’ve come to a place of sharing my story with other people and sharing my stories with the doctors and nurses and social workers that I work with, I share my story with them. I share it to make sure the cultural aspect is in my work environment where we serve our First Nations people. I maintain that relationship where it needs to be. They need to know what happened, why we’re like this today, why they see so much destruction of First Nations people, understanding it, letting them know, “yes, this is what happened”. Our health environment is always --- First Nations people their lives have always been --- --- End of Part 1 …can stand up for myself and I can stand up for my People. I didn’t get here just overnight. It took a long time, since 1984, to today. It’s a long journey, a long healing journey. Now I work as an Aboriginal Support Worker in a medical environment at a clinic where I maintain a relationship with the service providers and with the patients. I do a lot of advocating for our patients. I do a lot of community work for my community. I’m letting go of my children. Instead of trying to direct their lives and telling them what to do, I’m letting them go to make their own choices. The only thing I can ever be to them is an example, that there’s a better way, a better life, and they need to find their own path. That’s the hardest part because prior to that I was really enmeshed with my kids. I wanted to protect my children from every possible pain that society can do to them. That’s how I lived, protecting them from their own responsibilities and their own actions. It’s hard. I’m a grandmother. I have 5 children and I’m a grandmother of 9. Q. When you talk about the grief that you felt you were carrying, passed on grief, what do you do with that? Do you still have that? A. I did a lot of crying. Crying is a part of healing. I shared a lot. I went to a treatment program. I went to at least 2 or 3 treatment programs, follow-up programs with the Nechako Treatment Centres. We talk a lot about grief. In 2005 I also completed my Social Work Diploma, and part of that was grief and loss. I had to go back and write about the losses in my own life. I had to share that with my instructor. It took a whole year, going right back to your childhood, and acknowledging your first loss and feeling those feelings and accepting it, and how can you help yourself to accept that it happened. And just going step-by-step, kind of a time line, going through your life and going through all the experiences of loss, the loss of your own self and not acknowledging yourself and the loss of your childhood, the loss of your sexuality. Even the deaths in your lifetime have a big impact, and also the loss of the Residential School environment. That’s where all my ties were. One day as an adult you drive by and you see the Residential School building. The next ten years you drive by you forget all about this and you drive by and there’s no building there because this is where you grew up. This is where you maintained some connection with other children, with other peers. That was a big loss, too. Because what I really wanted to do was I wanted to go back to that building and I wanted to acknowledge the experiences that I went through there, the experiences of the many times when you were trying to look for warmth, the many times when you wanted to look for love --- I remember going against the cement wall and the sun would be just beaming down on that wall and you felt the heat on that wall. You just stuck to that wall and kept embracing that wall with your stomach and trying to feel the warmth and just trying to feel comfort. --- Speaker overcome with emotion We were basically never nurtured. We were emotionally deprived by invalidating our emotions. And if you did cry nobody acknowledged it. Nobody came over to ask, “What is wrong, Lucy?” You just had to lay in your bed at night and just cry. The loneliness and the pain and the anger would just go away. You just would have to feel that. We fought among each other. We had to create it seemed like in ourselves we had to create chaos to feel acknowledged, to know our presence. I remember we would fight amongst each other. We would create little gangs, like 3 here and 3 there and we would fight. After we had this really big fight, it was like we had this honeymoon stage, we all got back together. It was a cycle. Every season we did this. I remember it so well. I remember many times I ran away from Lejac Residential School. I ran away at least 4 times. The very first time I tried to run away I was eleven or twelve years old. I told somebody that there’s a whole bunch of us going to run away. Then we started taking off at a certain time, at supper time, and they caught us up. They cut our hair in the back, like they cut it underneath all over to make it look really ugly. We already felt ugly anyways. Then the second time I tried to run away I went in the opposite direction. I made it as far as --- Me and Betty Alexander, I think we made it as far as Hazelton. And then the third time I was the guide. I was the bush guide! There were 5 of us. We decided to run away. I think I was twelve or thirteen, somewhere around there. We started out in the evening time. I made them follow the tracks and I knew there was a track because there was a bridge over those tracks and I told them, “Once you hear noises or you hear a vehicle, I want you to stay in the bushes.” So I made them stay in the bush for 2 hours and lay there being really quiet until they left because those were the Senior boys looking for us. I walked them through the bushes from those tracks right to Vanderhoof. We came out in Vanderhoof through the bushes and it was just pitch black, and then we made it right to our community, my family community, T’achet (ph.). We made it right to there. We got 2 vehicle rides, so that was good. But after about 2 weeks enjoying the freedom my mom and dad finally found out that I was missing from Lejac and so they looked for me and picked me up. September started and so I was sent back to Lejac. I told them that I’m never ever going to run away from Lejac again. I’m going to demand that I be released from this prison, I and my friend, and she’s my colleague today, Nancy Thom (sp?), we disrupted the whole school for 2 months, we disrupted the whole school demanding to go home. First there were about 3 or 4 of us who were going to enforce this demand but it ended up just being me and Nancy demanding it. We stole alcohol. We got drunk. People couldn’t do anything. We had to go to bed early. We had to be watched where we went. We were not allowed to have dances. We were not allowed to go to the movies. It wasn’t just us, but the whole school, even the boys’ side. Finally people were going to the Priests and telling them they wanted to go home. So they finally told us they would give us a ride home. Q. How did you feel when you knew you didn’t have to go back there? A. I felt relieved. But there was a sadness there, too, a sadness of leaving. Then I found out that I didn’t belong in the outside world. I didn’t belong there. It was like a big piece of a puzzle trying to find your own self, a big piece of the puzzle about yourself, picking up pieces and taking pieces out and putting it together. Q. Why do you think it is important for you to share your story? A. For me why it’s important is it’s acknowledgement, an acknowledgement of my pain. I’m expressing myself and I have the freedom to share my story, what happened to me, what it’s like to be raised up in a confined area, an environment, what it’s like to pass that threshold to the other side where society is, that it’s okay to pass that threshold and it’s okay that you’re part of --- You’re human. I guess that’s what I’m saying. You’re human and you’re part of society and that you belong. You have the right to be here as much as any other race. And to let the government know what it’s like to suffer, what it’s like to be separated from your parents, what it’s like to be separated from your siblings, from your community, what it’s like to be disconnected from yourself, what it’s like to be disconnected from the earth, from the Elders and from the community. Because that’s the foundation of our ancestors. That’s my foundation, the Aboriginal people. We need to be connected to ourselves, to the earth, to our Elders, to the animals and to the environment. Because without it we are coming into a place where now we’re accepting the individualized culture, that it’s okay to live alone and leave your family back there. But it doesn’t work like that. You need that connection. Today I think service providers and professional people and Non-Aboriginal people need to know the history of the Aboriginal people and what happened to them. Governments need to know those things because as a service provider myself I am working with the debris of the government policies, the psycho-social problems of our people. That’s the suffering we see today. They need to know. My one argument today is children are still being removed from our communities. Children, newborn babies, are being removed from their mother right in the hospital. There are still government policies that still oppress the family unity. It still goes on today. The thing that needs to happen is they need to understand they need to give us back our responsibility to maintain our family, to maintain our beliefs and values. What is it like to live in a family? What is it like to function as a family? We suffer from disconnection and the children that are taken away today --- It’s about 4 generations of one family I’ve seen that were removed. From the beginning of Residential School their parents were taken away as children, and those parents, their children were taken away by the Welfare system, and those children, their grandchildren are being taken away. I’ve seen 4 generations of children being removed. It is still happening today and that’s my argument that I want that changed. That’s why I want to tell my story, in order for my children to live to be part of the mainstream, to not be dependent on government. To be independent. To find work. The normal way of living. To set your goals and to have goals and to reach for those goals, but not stay stuck and have the government look after you because that’s what it is today. The majority of our People live on income assistance because there is no economics in our community. There’s nothing. We live in poverty. The poverty that they say I was raised up in, having no White man food, but when I was raised up I didn’t see it as poverty. The holes in my pants, I didn’t see it as poverty. I was a rich kid I would say because I had my grandparents. They are the ones that raised me up. I had the food off the land and I was taught those skills how to gather food and to prepare food. But today it’s different. We depend on government hand-outs and we don’t see those skills to go out and be independent and things like that. That’s why I want to share my story. There is a way out. There is a way out of this structured lifestyle to a freedom, your own freedom inside of you. You don’t need to be a victim of these policies. You can go beyond. For me I needed to let go of the past. I needed to let go and leave it there and look to the future, what is in the future for me, what is in the future for my children, what do they need from me. For example, I was diagnosed with Lupus. I have Lupus. I was diagnosed in 1991 with Lupus. I was a hard working person. I’ve always been a hard working person. That’s what my parents taught me and that’s one of the good things about Residential School. I was taught to read and write and to work hard to achieve something. I fostered children. I fund raised for my community so our children could have the necessary things they need for our community. When I wasn’t able to do all that anymore when I got sick, that was another loss. I had to go through that. I went into a depression for 2 years. Then I went back to alcohol for 5 years. But I remembered the one thing that came back to me was my grandfather’s words. Those words were, “Lucy, don’t ever lay down for sickness, because if you lay down for sickness it’s going to take over your body and you’re no good after that.” I took that and I played that to myself so I had to get out of this oppression. I had to get out of this destructive way of lifestyle and remembering those words. By grasping that and being transformed by the renewing of the mind, start thinking positive about yourself, about the environment, about another person because before I wasn’t positive. I wasn’t positive about myself. I always thought I was worthless. I always thought I was inadequate and I judged other people harshly and things like that. Those are the tools that I have to use. Think differently about things because there are different ways of thinking; my grandfather’s values. Q. I’m glad you came to share your story. A. I’m glad, too. I hope it was okay. Q. Thank you very much. Very good. --- End of Interview

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Part 2 – 22:26

Basil Ambers

St. Michael's Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: I’ll get you to spell your first and your last name for me. BASIL AMBERS: My first name is Basil; B-a-s-i-l, and my last name is Ambers; A-m-b-e-r-s. That’s an interesting part of my life. When they went round to the villages to give Indians Christian names, my grandfather’s name was Umbus (ph.). That was his Indian name. They anglicized it to Ambers, not realizing that he was going to have a lot of grandchildren and things like that. So we all became Ambers and yet he was the only one that was supposed to be Ambers. Q. You never thought about changing it back? A. Oh, once in a while. I had an uncle. He asked the Interpreter, “What do you call a raven?” He wanted to be called Jim, you know. So the Interpreter said, “I don’t really know, but I think that’s the one they call crow.” So he became Jim Crow. He didn’t know that it wasn’t raven. (Laughter) Q. That’s cute. What school did you go to? A. St. Michael’s in Alert Bay. Q. Do you remember what it was like there? What was your first day like? A. My first day? Marina’s father was my first cousin. Him and I were standing together in the long hallway in St. Mike’s and the supervisor said, “When you hear your name called you say ‘here, sir’.” So they got to Michael’s name and he didn’t answer. Three times the supervisor called his name and he still didn’t answer. So he came down the line and hit him over the head with the clipboard and told him, he says, “I told you when you hear your name called you say ‘here, sir’.” Well, I piped up and said that his name is not Michael, his name is Narookin (ph.). It was the only name I knew him by was his Indian name. I didn’t know his English name. Q. Did you get into trouble for that? A. Oh, of course we did. My mother once asked me, “Are you really bad?” I said, “Why do you say that, Mom?” “Well”, she says, “every time we come here you always have to stay in. We can’t take you out.” I tried to explain to her that you didn’t have to do very much in order to lose your privileges. You lost your privileges just for looking at a supervisor the wrong way. I went to Court with Canada and the Anglican Church. I got licked really badly by a farmer there at St. Mike’s. We were going up the field to pick rocks up off the field. I was flipping these tiny little pebbles up in the air and one of them hit him above the boot. He turned around and grabbed me by the hair and he says, “Throw rocks at me, will you!” He knocked me right out. I never really recovered from that beating. So I took them to Court for what happened and I won my case. It was really funny because the Adjudicator for Canada was sitting across from me --- Oh no. She was sitting next to me. It was the Adjudicator for the Province of British Columbia was sitting across from me, and the lawyer for the Province and the lawyer for Canada, and the Bishop of Victoria. It was almost as if it was me that did something wrong and I felt really funny about the whole thing. I told them that. The Bishop tried to apologize to me and he made such a poor job of it that I just shut him off. But I won my case anyway. Q. Good. What else do you remember about school? What kind of food did you eat? A. We were hungry constantly. I became a table captain so I had to dish out the food to the kids at my table. Quite often I never got enough to eat myself because I ended up giving too much to one or two of the kids. We used to go --- The Nimpkish River was right across, only a few miles away, and we used to go drag seining there for Sockeye in the spring. But they never fed us one Sockeye. It was used for trade for other things. We never ate our own food in the school. All we ate was the junk that they gave us. Q. Do you remember what it was? A. Oh yeah. It was all junk. For breakfast we had porridge, but there were maggots in the porridge. We used to kid each other about having iron to supplement the porridge. (Laughter) Everybody wanted to work on a farm because they grew stuff, eh. We used to hide things like turnips and potatoes and stuff like that just to try to fill that empty spot in your stomach. It got to the point that to this day I will not eat turnips. I ate too much of it in St. Michael’s. I don’t mind potatoes. See, we worked half a day. We only went to school for half a day. I worked for five years in the boiler room at St. Mike’s, feeding the boilers big slabs of wood and stuff like that. We only went to school half a day right ‘til you got to Grade 8. And normally that’s when they threw you out of school and sent you home, was Grade 8. That was the cut-off point of your education. There were four of us who ended off --- We were the first four people who were legally allowed to go past Grade 8. There was one girl from Bella Bella and a young fellow from Prince Rupert and one girl from Alert Bay and myself. We all went --- They didn’t teach us in St. Mike’s. We all went down to the village in Alert Bay. There used to be a high school where the police station is now, and that’s where we went to school. Two of my friends, because they didn’t do well in school, got kicked out. One of them only got to Grade 3. They kicked him out. I almost cried when they left because that was my only hold to sanity was those two. It was tough. Q. Why do you think they were your only form of sanity? What was it about those two guys? A. Well, they were cruel. It was a cruel place. There was no such thing as love. There was only one teacher there that I really liked, who was really human about everything and the way she went about life and all that. She was my Grade 8 teacher. But the rest of them would just as soon hit you over the head as look at you. Q. Do you remember her name? A. Evelyn Moore was her name. I’ve often wondered what happened to her. I used to try to find out where she went to, and stuff like that. I never ever did find out. She went and taught up in Nisga country there, near the end of her career. Q. And she was really nice? A. She was really nice. Q. She really tried hard to teach? A. Not only to teach, but she was totally human as far as I was concerned. I really liked her. Q. Oh, that’s nice. It’s always good when you hear a story where someone tried really hard to teach and to be nice. A. And it was very evident with all the kids. They followed her around and hung onto her skirts and stuff like that, because she was a real human. But I don’t know. I used to always say if I had a nickel or a dollar for every time I got licked I’d be a rich man today. Q. It was that often? A. Oh yeah. Q. Wow. A. We got caught stealing apples one time. They had an orchard. We got strapped for that. We not only got strapped for it but we lost all our privileges for a month. Q. How far was home from the school? A. Oh, about thirty miles, by water. So it wasn’t easy. And it was shortly after the Depression and during the Second World War, so my dad couldn’t come in all the time. Even when he did come in I wasn’t allowed to see him. That’s when my mother made that comment about me being real bad. Q. Wow. Did your parents go to Residential School? A. No. Q. No? A. See, that was the thing. The other thing that happened was I started to lose my ability to speak Kwiakah (ph.) and my parents were only comfortable in Kwiakah. They weren’t comfortable in English because they didn’t go to school. So I had to relearn Kwiakah all over again, just in order to talk to my parents. Q. Wow. What about brothers and sisters? Did they go? A. That was the funniest part. I was adopted. I was adopted right from birth by my aunt. So the one I call “mother” in reality was my aunt. But my real sister was there. So was one of my aunties. One of my older brothers was there when I was there, but we weren’t allowed to mingle. So I never ever talked to my sister once in St. Mike’s, never talked to my aunt and I never talked to my brother because we weren’t allowed to get together. Q. Was that hard? A. Pardon? Q. Was that hard to do? A. Oh, of course it was. Of course it was. I loved my sister and I was really close to my auntie. I actually grew very close to my brother, too. After we got out of there we worked together for years. Our uncle had a logging camp and we worked for him. That was the only thing St. Mike’s taught me was how to be a workaholic. I worked and worked and worked for years and years. My first marriage failed because of that because I was never home. But I came out of St. Mike’s and actually I was a very angry man when I came out. It took a long time to reconcile to the fact that it had happened and it was past and it was time to start looking forward. I got involved in all kinds of things when I got out of St. Mike’s. I went to work for the government and I worked with emotionally unstable boys for a number of years up in the Kootenays. Then I came back home to the Coast and I ran for Chief of my Band and I got in. I went to my first meeting as the Chief Council and I was absolutely appalled at how the Department of Indian Affairs was handling our leadership. I didn’t know what to do. I was going to quit. We had a very well-respected Elder who was the Chief of the Campbell River Tribe. I went and knocked on his door; old man Bill Cullen (ph.). I told him that we’ve got to do something. This is absolutely ridiculous. So the old man said, “Sit down, son, I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.” So we sat up all night, the old man and I, and talked about all the problems of our people. He said, “Okay, you know what to do now. Go talk to the Tribes and we’ll see if we can revive our Tribal Council again.” And we did. We revived our Tribal Council. I got elected to Chairman. I was the Chairman for ten years. Then I went to work for the Nimpkish. I started their Salmon Enhancement Program and ran it for ten years. I also started the Coat Workers of British Columbia with Professor Jackson from UBC. Him and I started it. I worked as its head for a while. So I’ve done many things in my life all because of my experience in the Residential School. So when we started getting together and started talking about healing and stuff like that, we met in Victoria, a bunch of us, and we created the Inter-Tribal Health Group. I worked for quite a few winters going to Tsow Tun Le Lun and worked with them. Anyway, my health started to go because I got too involved. We initiated a Royal Commission on Health in Alert Bay; six of us. We went to Ottawa to fight for the Recommendations, the Recommendations that came out of that Royal Commission. All the points we went to Ottawa for we won and out of it came the hospital in Albert Bay, the clinic in Alert Bay and the recovery home in Alert Bay. Q. Good. How old were you when you first went into school? A. I don’t think I was seven. I was around six and a half. Q. That’s pretty young. How old were you when you left? A. I don’t know. I was there nine years apparently. I didn’t know. We didn’t know how long we were there. Nobody cared. We didn’t care about education. That wasn’t the point. Survival was the thing that we cared about and survival was the only thing that motivated us, all my friends. Do you know Bobby Joe (ph.)? Well, I told Bobby not too long ago, you know, pal, if you think about the amount of people that went to St. Michael’s together with? And he said, “Yeah.” There’s only a little handful of us left. That’s all. Dozens committed suicide, drowned or drank themselves to death. Some went under with drugs. So it’s really a sad tale. Who the hell cares about education? I didn’t. I didn’t care about education. I guess if it wasn’t for Evelyn Moore, I probably wouldn’t have gone any further in school. I probably would have just walked out. That’s what happened to my cousin. When his mother found out that he got licked the first day in school, she took him out right away and absolutely refused to listen to anybody that was threatening her to send him back. See, the thing that’s happening is that it was very gradual. You could see the change happening where the women started getting a better and better education and now there’s men getting a better education. But it has taken that long for education to become a focal point and for education to mean something. It didn’t mean nothing to my generation; absolutely nothing. It was a way of just trying to exist. We had a terrible fear of the law and things like that because it was always a threat. Some of my friends got beat up by policemen and stuff like that. Q. Did you ever try to run away? A. Pardon? Q. Did you ever try to run away? A. We used to run away all the time. That’s why my friends got kicked out. (Laughter) This was during the War. We got kicked out of the Cadet Corps. We were in Cadets. I had just been promoted to Corporal and that very day they ripped my stripes off me and took my uniform away. (Laughter) I was a rebel right from Day One. It took me a long time to accept a lot of things. It took me a long time to reform my life, to put it into the direction of trying to do something. And I did. For years I’ve been --- I know every Indian politician there is around because I used to work with them. We fought so many battles all over the place. Me and the head of the Haida Nation there, we put the moratorium in place to stop the oil drilling from Haidi-gwi (ph.) to Port Hardy. That moratorium is still in place. And we were the two that did it! Q. That’s fascinating. A. And then they had a guy who was going to put a ferrochromium plant in Port Hardy, and I was the spokesman for our Band when we fought that. We stopped it. There was also a logger who had fee simple title to an island just outside our Band. It was our graveyard island. He wanted to start falling trees over the graves, eh. So we took the whole village out there, Elders and all and we stopped it. They gave us a retired judge to mediate between us and the logger and ourselves. We won that. It ended off that the government bought that island for us and it now belongs to us. Again! (Laughter) Q. Good for you. That’s really good. When you left school and started logging with your family, your siblings, did you discuss with them what happened in Residential School? A. No. No. It was too sore a point to discuss. We didn’t want to talk about things like that. As a matter of fact, my uncle owned a logging camp and he went to Residential School, and so did his brother who was the second-in-command in camp. We were all related, every one of us in camp. My brother was the woods foreman and my second oldest brother was the yard engineer and I was the loading engineer. My kid brother was the head loader. So we worked together for years. It must have been well over twenty years that we worked together. Q. But it was too hard to talk about it? A. Yeah. Too hard to talk about it. We didn’t talk about it. Maybe the odd time somebody would mention something, but we shut up about it right away. Why talk about pain? You’ve got to start growing. You’ve got to start experiencing life. I used to kid my friend, Thomas, that he was always trying to smell the roses from the wrong end because he would end up on the ground, sniffing at the bottom end of the rose! Q. That’s a good point. When you were in Residential School, what were the sleeping arrangements like? Did all the boys stay in one area? A. Yeah. There were three dormitories; two downstairs and one up top. The higher school boys slept up top. The beds were about this far apart (indicating). There were over two hundred of us in there so space was at a premium. Q. What was your average day like? A. Well, depending on what the month was because as I said earlier, we had to work half a day. The school had over twenty cows and they had about thirty or forty pigs and 1,500 chickens. Q. Did you eat of that food? A. Pardon? Q. Did you eat any of that food? A. No. No, we never did. We used to have to get up at five o’clock in the morning to go and milk the cows. That was done every day, seven days a week. And if it was your time to work in the morning then you went to your job. Like me, I used to have to go to the boiler room and go to work. The only ones that didn’t work were the real small kids. I think I was about six years old when I started working in the boiler room. As I say, we learned how to work early. Q. Was it the male superintendents who kind of manned the dormitory for the boys? A. The which? Q. Was it the male supervisors who kind of manned the male dormitory? A. That’s right. In Dormitory 3 there was a room in the corner and that was his room. There was sexual abuse and stuff like that. I never was involved in any of that, but I used to watch kids going into that guy’s room in the middle of the night. Q. Did you kind of know what was going on? A. Not really because the kids didn’t talk about it. Why talk about something that you are disgusted with? You don’t bring it out. It’s sort of a no-no. Q. Yeah. A. There were very few Staff so force was the order of the day. Q. Wow. A. We had a retired English sergeant major that taught the Cadets, so he was very strict. If you were out of step he came up behind you and slapped you out of the line. That happened all the time. Who are you going to complain to? There’s nobody to complain to. You weren’t allowed to see your parents so by the time you seen your parents you had forgotten about the incident waiting for the next thing to come up. It was a tough life. Q. Would you say that you lived in fear every day? A. Oh, all the time. All the time. I remember one day I was working in the woods, cutting wood for the boiler room. My friend was coming down from working on the farm. So I hollered at him. I said, “Where are you going?” “I don’t know”, he said, “they just sent for me.” So he went in. About an hour later he comes out and he’s crying. So he says, “We got strapped.” Never to this day do we know why he got strapped. They didn’t need much of an excuse. It was a tough life. I have a lot of idiosyncrasies that are still with me today because of St. Mike’s. For instance, if I put food on my plate I’ve got to eat it all. That’s left over from Residential School that you ate everything on your plate. I could never understand people who eat only part of their meal and then send it back. I couldn’t do that, even to this day. I’m getting closer to eighty than I am to seventy. (Laughter) Q. What else do you do? What are your other idiosyncrasies? What else are you doing that you know comes from that place? A. Oh, it’s all kinds of things. I can’t begin to list them. After a while it just becomes a part of your life. You don’t even think about it any more. And all the ones that died, you know, some of the best friends I’ve had in this world all passed away at a young age. It’s kind of hard to take. Q. Yeah. Do you have any of your friends still living? A. Pardon? Q. Are any of your friends from Residential School still living? A. Oh yeah. Frank Nelson. I count him as a good friend, and all his family. There’s a whole bunch of us, Bobby Joe and them, and we get together. We all became very involved in our culture, every one of us. Last week I went to Alert Bay to a potlatch and I’m always asked to speak at potlatches and funerals and weddings. I’m either speaking in Indian or in English, one of the two, depending on what the occasion is. Q. When did you realize that you needed to heal? A. Pardon? Q. That you needed to heal from that? A. Oh, a long time ago. When I first started thinking about it there was nothing. There was no organization that you could go to and ask for help. There was absolutely nothing. That’s why I decided to stop doing thigns on my own and why I started talking to all the guys like Bobby Joe and Frank and all them. We had to start the process ourselves, that it was necessary. I have always felt that the Canadian public doesn’t understand and never will unless we --- In Fort Rupert we decided that we needed to do something. So what we did was we invited people to come to our village, all the people who had things to do with us. We invited doctors, lawyers, school teachers and nurses and they lived right in our Big House for a week. I was the commentator for the whole thing. But we had to quit doing that because we didn’t have the money to continue. But to this day I still get letters from different RCMP Officers and stuff like that and they always come to see me to talk about problems. I’ve been aware of that for years. I’ve known that we needed to start the process. People challenge me constantly. That Ambers, he’s an Indian agitator! (Laughter) Q. What would you like to say to survivors who haven’t found their healing journey? What would you like to say to them to encourage them maybe? A. Well, you’ve got to heal. That’s number one. You’ve got to heal. And you’ve got to look at yourself. You’ve got to come to the conclusion that you’re not a bad guy or you’re not a bad woman, or whatever. We need to get back to the roots of a lot of things. One of the things I tried to promote in one of our meetings, a big meeting that we had, was to get back the feeling of respect for our women that we were losing. We no longer respected our women. Quite often we mistreated them badly. We never got to that because of the hurt that people had. During that meeting there was one old fellow who got up and he had been raped by a priest. He almost went crazy. One of his friends suggested why don’t you go to Confession and maybe you’ll feel better. So he went to Confession and when the person on the other side started talking he realized it was the priest who had raped him. And he had also tied him down in a chair while he raped his five-year old sister. How are you going to get back --- --- End of Part 1 …watching you go through a miserable lifetime and not me. I’ve always felt that if you’re going to do anything and if it’s going to be successful, it has to be really done properly. And not only properly, it has to take more than just one or two get-togethers. That’s one of the reasons why I got involved in the healing thing. Because I felt it was necessary that we do that and necessary that we explore all possibilities of creating that healing and not allow people to change that direction. That’s what happens at times. We change the direction because as people get more educated they see things in their way. With us it’s from the heart. When we feel for the problem, we feel for the problem and we’re not happy if somebody tries to monkey with it, to change the direction. Q. It makes sense. I’m really glad that you spoke up, too. Because we shouldn’t be so submissive. A. That’s right. Q. Do you know what I mean? A. Yeah. Q. I feel like when people start to ask questions that they’re on their journey or they’re learning about their own healing. It’s all right. There have been many many times in some places they won’t. They are so submissive to whatever process is in front of them. A. And it bothers me when people come up to me and say, “You’ve got to learn how to live, man, you’ve got to learn to accept these things. It’s happened. It’s gone.” It hasn’t gone. The Residential Schools thing is the biggest factor that has shaken the Indian people down to their roots and it’s the thing that has changed our total look on history. Even our way of eating and stuff like that --- We had a meeting with a doctor here a week ago. He was talking about diabetes. He tried to tell me that you inherit diabetes from your parents. I told him that I think that’s a pile of crap. He says, “What do you mean?” I says, “I lived in an area where there were five little villages, all close together, and there wasn’t one person in those five little villages that showed any signs of diabetes. How can you inherit something that’s not there?” I told him that diabetes, as far as I’m concerned, is because of the crappy foods that you’re now feeding us, and all the crappy foods that we’re getting out of the stores. I says that if you want to fight diabetes then you’ve got to fight it at its source. I told him, I says, “Look at what has happened to the fishing industry: it’s dying.” And I says that fifty years ago I told people you’re going to have to start learning how to eat Hemlock bark and Fir needles because that’s going to be the only thing left that you’ve got to eat because we’re destroying all the rest. I get angry sometimes when I think about it. Q. That’s all right. I know how you feel. I feel the same way. We should have been honouring the ancestral food pyramid that existed. I just lost four people I loved because of diabetes; my parents, my sister, and I just lost my niece in December. A. Yeah. Q. She was younger than I am. That’s not right. A. Yeah, that’s right. I don’t know. Q. What do you think you learned from Residential School? Was there anything that you learned that was valuable or good? A. Nothing. Nothing I could not have learned on my own outside. Q. Do you think it taught our people how to hate? A. Oh, absolutely. I took a long time to re-evaluate my relationship with my parents. I loved them. I loved them dearly but I didn’t have the ability to so love because it was driven right out of me. That’s what happened in my first marriage. I didn’t realize that my wife was having problems. I wasn’t home enough to realize that. In a lot of ways it wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was because it had been driven out of me. So it was really a tough way to look at life. Q. Did it affect your parenting? A. Oh, of course. I’m really close to my kids. I’ve got seven kids. I’m really close to my kids now because I made a point of --- I’ve had two major operations. I had a multiple open-heart surgery and I had a cancer operation. While I was laying in the hospital in Victoria I started thinking about my grandchildren and great grandchildren, you know. I had accumulated a lot of stuff because I always had a good job. So I thought to myself it’s time I started looking at them kids, you know, and start making an effort to pass on these things that I’ve accumulated. So I lined all my grandchildren up in my mind and I started figuring out what I was going to give away. I gave everything away. I had forty baskets. I had $80,000 worth of potlatch regalia. I had four big solid gold bracelets with watches on them. I had guns and stuff like that. I gave the whole works to my grandsons. I told them after I says, “All I own now is a cheap Timex watch; that’s it.” And when I won my case with the Residential School and the Church I took most of my grandchildren to the West Edmonton Mall and we spent two weeks there. We spent all the money that I got from the government! Q. That’s nice. So were you eligible for compensation, like this last round of the compensation cheques? A. I got it. Q. You got that as well. Yeah. That’s good. A. Yeah. That’s when I found out I was in there for nine years. (Laughter) I didn’t realize I was there that long. Q. When did St. Michael’s close down? A. It was in the sixties. I helped close it down. Q. Tell me about that. A. Oh, we just started petitioning everybody and telling them --- Well, it was obsolete. It was no longer answering even the things they wanted, eh. They tried to make good little farmers out of Indians and stuff like that. So it wasn’t working anyway. So there was a bunch of us that forced them to close it. But to this day I will not go into that building. It has too many painful memories for me. I went with a whole bunch of Elders to Alert Bay to go to the Museum because I still sit on the Museum Board because I feel that the Museum Board can help us with the idea of teaching language and stuff like that. None of the Elders who came with me to Alert Bay would walk into that building. They told us we could go and look at it if we wanted to. They all sat on the steps and cried. So when you say that the healing journey has started, it hasn’t really, you know. The Elders haven’t changed their minds about a lot of it. When they outlawed the potlatch they finally admitted that they did the wrong thing, but it’s still on the books. It has never been repealed. It’s still on the books. It is still being outlawed. A lot of the Elders when the masks came back, or some of the masks came back I should say, some of the Elders couldn’t talk. They had a big celebration in Alert Bay. This old fellow that I really love, he couldn’t speak when they asked him to speak. He was one of our big Chiefs. He just sat there and cried. So what do you --- My dad lost over six hundred pieces of regalia in the Potlatch confiscations. Only twenty-two pieces came back and they were only minor pieces. There were some wolf masks and stuff like that. The rest were rattles and things. So when you talk about Residential School and things like that it all inter-meshes with all the other things that happened like when they outlawed the potlatches. Q. The Indian Act and all its restrictions? A. Oh, the whole works. It all interacts together. Q. They all go hand-in-hand. A. Yeah. Yeah, they all go hand-in-hand. It’s really hard to divorce yourself from any of it. So when you talk about Residential School you’re only talking about a part of it. Q. Yeah, one piece of it. From the conception and design of the Indian Act and the huge plan, there was a plan --- A. That’s right. Q. – there was a huge plan. In order to understand the Residential School part of it you have to know the Indian Act and the restrictions that came along with it. A. They amalgamated Bands all over the place and none of it has ever worked. It has been nothing but problems. Q. All, including the electoral systems. A. Yeah. I belong to a little Band. My father was Tlowitsis (ph.) and my grandfather was Montaglia (ph.). The Montaglia People were very progressive little Band. They had their own logging camp and they also had a seine boat. So in fishing time the whole Band went out fishing. When it was logging time they all went logging. So we had a lot of money in Ottawa because you couldn’t just do anything with that money. Ottawa said that you’ve got to give it to us. We’ll put it in the bank for you. Anyway, Turner Island was never a lot of very much land. They were only given forty-seven acres and of that forty-seven acres you could only build on thirteen acres. So they looked around and they seen our little Band, the Montaglia, and we had over a thousand acres. So they amalgamated us with Turner and they said that they were going to make a showcase out of Turner. Everybody was going to get a house and they were going to use the Montaglia money to do that. So we build two dams in Turner for water. One held thirty-six thousand gallons and the other one sixteen thousand. We plumbed all the buildings and then we hired an electrician and he wired all the houses and we bought the first generator and then we were broke. So our Chief --- By this time I’m out of St. Mike’s. -- he says, “We’ve got to go to Alert Bay, son, we’ve got to go and talk to the Indian Agent. We’ve got to get our money back.” So I said, “Okay.” He says, “Do you want to come because you understand the English language. You’re going to be our spokesperson.” So we went to Alert Bay only to be told that there was no money, that we were broke and Ottawa wasn’t going to pay us back a cent. So we went back home and our hereditary chief said that we’ve got to split again, son. We’ve got to try to get out of this. This is bad. But we couldn’t to this day. We lost our land. We even lost our name. There’s no more Montaglia name left anywhere outside of us knowing. Q. Yeah. A. So it still goes on. As I say to me it’s all part and parcel of what they have been doing to us, not just the Residential Schools. Q. I totally agree with you. I’ve studied the Indian Act and I know the plan. I saw how it was executed. A. I find it really hard to try to explain to people the whole circle of things that has happened. I’m one of the major spokespersons for the Kwiakah Band. Any time we do anything I’m always asked to be a part of the planning and also part of trying to right what is wrong. I don’t know. Q. I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime but I want to do the best I can to educate our story tellers so that story can get out. A. Also I hope it has an impact. Q. And I believe it will because we are --- I didn’t know the importance of that plan and what had happened. I didn’t know all of that. A. Yeah. Q. Because I wanted to know where did the aggressive assimilation policy come from and who invented it. And then I wanted to find out where did Canada learn it from? Well, they learned it from the United States. And then I found out that Adolph Hitler actually commended Canada and the US Government for how they treated their Indian People. I researched all of this Basil, and it’s mind boggling to me. There was a resistance. There were people like yourself and your father who were out there --- A. All the people that preceded me, all the leaders that we had, say, sixty years ago, they didn’t have any education so they didn’t know how to fight. They didn’t know who to go to or anything like that. It has only been in the last two or three generations --- Q. If that. If that. A. – that we’re now starting to get people who are taking up the law and things like that. I’ve got a lot of friends who are lawyers. Q. It will be the story tellers and the lawyers and all of us that will work together in a synergy to tell the truth. Because right now Canada is protected under the United Nations. A. Oh yeah. Well, I don’t know. I sure hope it works. Q. What do you want people to know about you? A. Me? Q. Yeah, and your journey. A. I don’t care. I’m just about ready to go upstairs and go home. I’m seventy-six. I don’t care. Hell, all the people said, “You should write a book.” What the heck do I want to write a book for? Gee whiz! I have a hard enough time living without having --- This guy who is driving me has just bought a book. He says, “You’re in this book.” I says, “Oh?” “Yeah”, he says, “and I’m going to give it to you to read.” I haven’t read it yet! (Laughter) I’m in about four books. Q. So what do you want Canada to know about us in terms of --- A. I want Canada to know that they have done us wrong and to start righting some of those wrongs that they have committed. Okay, one of the things that has happened which I looked at quite a number of years ago, is that they caught us all living in our winter homes. So when they came around to give out land we were given our winter homes, but the process was that there was no economic development in those winter home areas. Especially us, because we call ourselves the Potlatch People, winter time was a time for ceremonials. It wasn’t a time for work. You paid attention to your culture. That really impacted heavily on most Bands. We had no way of making money, which we need to do now, not that I feel like money is the answer. It’s just that I feel it’s necessary to put bread and butter on the table. I’m not much of a guy to expound on the need to become a millionaire or something like that. Q. Do you want your grandchildren to see this interview? A. Yeah. I want them to know who I am, who I was. Q. What would you say to them? Would you give them some advice? A. I tell them all the time that there are two things that are really important in this world: one is your family and the other is the friends that you make. I say if you pay attention to that you’ll be fine. You’re not going to lose too much in the process. You’ve got to know your family. Our family is very close and I’ve got some very good friends. I’ve got friends that I’ve had for close to fifty years. We get together every so often. We always know what’s happening with the other guy, you know. Every time I get sick I go to Victoria. I have two close friends there. His wife is a Registered Nurse and she takes care of me when I’m sick. (Laughter) I used to work with the other one in Alert Bay. Him and I did all kinds of things together. We built my little log house together and stuff like that. Q. Great. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. A. Okay. Let’s hope it’s --- Q. Thank you so much. Thank you for helping us out today. --- End of Interview

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Part 3 – 10:29

Mabel Harry Fontaine

Fort Alexander Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Mabel, could you say and spell your first and last name. MABEL HARRY-FONTAINE: My name is Mabel, M-a-b-e-l; Harry, H-a-r-r-y slash Fontaine, F-o-n-t-a-i-n-e. Q. And where are you from? A. Fort Alexander, Manitoba, the Reservation which is now known as Saugeen First Nations. Q. And which school did you attend A. Fort Alexander Residential School. Q. Do you know what years you were there? A. I say 1953 to ’60. Q. So seven years? A. Seven years. Q. How old were you when you first went to the school? A. Seven. Q. Do you remember the first day of school? A. Yes, I do. Q. Can you tell us about that? A. My mom and dad took me to this big huge building. We went in by the front part. I was clinging to my mom, her dress, as usual. That’s how I always used to follow here around, just hanging onto her dress. When we went in the office was on the right side and there was another one on the left. It was super clean, a huge, cold, dark building. And there was a Priest in there and a Nun and my mom and dad were talking with them but I didn’t understand them. I just knew my language, Ojibway. I tried to ask my mom what was going on because I was puzzled. I didn’t know why they brought me there. All they said was (speaking Native language) “to go and be taught”. That’s how you would translate that. I’m trying to ask my mom and tugging at her dress, trying to get her attention to ask her in my own language what we’re doing there. And then I seen --- That was my first encounter with a Nun. She looked really strict. She went like this (indicating) to me, like that. Right off the bat there I couldn’t speak my language. So I kept quiet and I guess that was registration. The rest is a blur. I didn’t understand those Nuns or the Priest. They looked scary to me. They just looked scary. Maybe I thought it was Halloween, or something. They just had a costume on. But they never took those costumes off. They always dressed the same with a big white stiff collar here (indicating) and a big stiff --- We never got to see their hair. And long veils, long black dresses. Some of them were fat and some of them were short and some of them were tall and skinny. Some of them had glasses on. All of them were White. And the Priests, the same with the Priests, the same outfit except they had big crosses on. Some of the Nuns had crosses on, or beads, the rosary, a big long rosary. And none of them smiled. I didn’t know how to communicate except with my language. And then I heard two different --- They spoke English and French, I guess that was. Right off the bat they screwed up my name. My name is Mabel Angela. They called me Mabel Angel. For a long long time that bothered me, right into my adulthood. They didn’t say my name right. But I couldn’t tell them because they didn’t understand me. Q. So did they mispronounce your name the whole time at the school? A. Yeah. And the kids started calling me that because they knew I didn’t like it. You know how kids are. They can be so cruel. Well, they were cruel to me. They didn’t bother saying “Mabel”, they used to say “Angel”, and that made me mad. I survived somehow. I spoke my language. I must have been a stubborn kid. I knew I was a little bit spoiled but not spoiled rotten at home. I wish --- English words. I wish there was an interpreter here. It would be better if I talked about it in my own language. Q. Do you want to talk about some things in Ojibway and you can also tell us what it means in English? A. Yeah. It will take longer. Q. It’s up to you, whatever you’re comfortable with. A. Um-hmm. Q. The only problem is I don’t understand Ojibway so I wouldn’t be able to ask you questions that are involved with what you say. But if we have it on tape there will be somebody who can translate it. A. I used to speak my language anyway, with the other girls. I even know the places outside, when we were playing outside, where the Nun was far away. I still spoke my language. I remember under the stairs, the stairway, you know the stairs where there’s a space. I remember speaking my language there every chance I got. And in the washroom. But it was like a jail. That’s what we called it; a jail. They were not too far away, the Nuns, but I’m thankful. That’s what I keep thinking. I must have been a stubborn kid. They took away a lot from me but they could not take that away. (Speaking Ojibway) Still yet today I speak my language and somehow I get a satisfaction out of that, that they couldn’t take it away from me because they tried. Gawd, did they ever try. Every day. And I had to fight that. Q. So maintaining your language and still knowing it after you left the school, did that feel like a victory for you? A. Yeah, that’s the word I’m looking for. When I tell my grandchildren I say it in a way they don’t understand. I tell them I jarred them because that’s how they talk, children nowadays. I’m bringing up my grandchildren, three of them. Q. Do they speak Ojibway? A. No. They understand, my children understand, Geraldine understands me, Terrance understands me and my deceased boy used to understand me. He used to try to speak it lots. Q. So how did you learn English? A. I damn well had to in there. I had to communicate in the class. Everywhere it was English or French. So I damn well had to. Q. You were saying in your first few days they mispronounced your name, you didn’t know how to speak English and you weren’t allowed to speak your language, so how do you start to learn English? Do you just pick up words here and there, or --- A. I was young enough, I guess, yeah. Q. Did the other kids help you out? A. A lot of White people do that when they come into our communities. You don’t even have to teach them, some of them, they pick it up. I had to learn it in school, for school, for prayers. We used to always pray. We used to always go to the chapel. We used to always go to church. In each place there was always a ruler, a big long ruler because we had to look straight ahead all the time and not turn around. If we did we got smacked on the head with a ruler. They were guards. They weren’t Nuns, they were guards. I always wondered what kind of upbringing they were given. There certainly couldn’t have been love there. When you work for God you have to be a loving person. You know, I can’t remember a kind Nun in there. They were all mean in one way or another. I was just thinking they were so mean. I’ve always been that way. I feel sorry for others more than myself. I used to feel sorry for the ones that had bladder problems and they would wet the bed every night. I thought they were educated when I think about it now. Didn’t they know that there was something wrong with them, why they wet their bed every night and they never took them to the hospital to get them checked out? Where were their brains? That’s the ones I felt sorry for because in the morning they were made to clean their beds and walk around with the wet sheets over their heads and parade around. There must have been about five or six of them every morning, parade around in front of everybody to shame them, to make them stop peeing their bed. That’s the ones I felt sorry for. Q. And there were kids that happened to every day? A. Every morning, yeah, because they had weak bladders, I don’t know. If you got up during the night you had to go and ask permission to use the washroom. They didn’t wake up. They just slept through it and pee’d their beds. There was definitely something wrong with their bladders. Anyways, that’s the ones I felt really sorry for. Holy mackerel. The next day they are teased, you know, by other kids. I don’t remember ever doing that. I had good teachings at home. I knew that was a mean thing to do so I don’t remember ever making fun of them. You know what was the highlight? When kids ran away, when girls ran away and they got caught they were brought back and of course they got a strap. Some of them would fight back, would fight the Nuns. That’s what the highlight was. We were all pulling for them to take the veil off because I remember always being curious how they looked without that veil. Are they bald? Do they have hair? Because I don’t remember ever seeing hair at all. That band was just right around here (indicating) like that. By highlight I mean it was exciting. We wanted those girls that fought back to pull the veil off. That’s probably why it was tight so nobody could pull it off. We wanted to see what they looked like. Q. Did anybody ever get the veil off? A. I think so, yeah, but I wasn’t there to see it. I never got to see one without a veil or a bonnet, whatever they called it. Q. I think if you see these same people all the time, always in the same outfit and never see their hair, all you see is their face and their hands, you start to wonder if they’re even human or, you know, like your mind must really wonder about that. A. I thought it was Halloween and they were dressed up. I remember there was this joke about a Nun. That was probably after we got out of the boarding school. It’s silly but it just came to my mind. The joke was what’s goes black and white, black and white, black and white? Q. What. A. A Nun tumbling down the stairs, because that was the colour of their clothing. (Laughter) Black and white. We made some fun of them, too. I thought I was going to breeze through this. It’s the first time I ever had an upset stomach and a headache. Q. I think you’re doing fine. A. I remember the sewing class. We had to take Home Ec., and cooking and all that stuff. I remember Sister Cecile was her name. She was fat. She had big man hands. We had to knit. For a long time the first thing I learned was knit pearl, knit pearl, knit pearl, you know. She was scary. I was scared of her hands. Your brains rattled if she ever hit you on the back of the head. That was one scary one. One was tall and skinny. She was in the gym. She was in the Play Room they called it, not the gym. That must have been the most relaxed one I’ve ever seen there. Because if you want to skate, if you want to go sliding, those were fun things and that’s probably why I remember her. She must have been the only Nun that ever looked I wouldn’t say happy, but more relaxed, more like human. There were so many Nuns there for each different activity or subject. I don’t remember all their names. I think this sports one was Sister Victor. Q. So do you think that the only adult women you see all the time being so cold and emotionless had an effect on you and how you were with people after leaving the school? A. Of course! After coming from my home, like I was just snatched from a happy place to a deadly place. There was so much floors, there was so much floors and we were kept away, kept away from our brothers, from the boys. But I think the meanest one of them all was --- His name was Brother Lacoste (ph.). He was bald and he had a wart somewhere here (indicating) and there (indicating). He was a pig. He was a kokooish (ph.). But he also had lots of candy. That’s how he got me. Candy was very very scarce there, maybe two or three times a year we had it. He had candy all the time in his big long gown pockets. He would come in the Play Room with his hands in his pockets. That’s how he got me to go close to him and sit on his lap while he played with me where his hands are not supposed to be, on my arse, on my vagina. He was gross. He was a fat fat dysfunctional human being. And he did that to lots of little girls. He took my virginity with his finger, of all things. Later on in life when I started going with boys I was wondering because after you get to learn a lot, eh. My friends, boys, would say, “Did you get your cherry bust yet?” What the fuck is that? I didn’t know what that was. What’s he talking about? What does that mean? Meanwhile --- And then I heard the word virgin. I thought I was a virgin. When I finally started going out and I didn’t have blood when I had sex, that means no issue of blood when I had sex for the very first time. And then I got angry, I guess, and hurt and what the hell, you know. What the hell is going on? I didn’t understand. Back then we were so innocent. I forget how many sessions I’ve been in with Mel and Shirley. Every time I go something comes out of my mouth, something pops in my brain, and all this reverts back to the boarding school, never ever at home. Never. I was protected there. I was taken from there. I got used, abused, called down. That calling down is a big thing. You should never call little ones down because they’ll believe it. I believed it. I know what I’m capable of but there’s that fear. I don’t do it. I don’t go for it. I’m scared of rejection and failure because I’m no good, even though I’ve got an education. I work at CFS. You ask my bosses over there. I don’t do what I’m capable of. I’ve got all these certificates. I can’t back them up. That’s probably why I don’t put them up on the wall. Hey, I just thought about that. That’s why I don’t show them off because they’re there. I succeeded at the time I was taking those courses, focusing therapy, post-traumatic, you name it, all that. When you get right down to the job I can’t do it because I was told a long time ago I was stupid and I couldn’t do it. At work I started off as Support and then I went to Intake and then I went to Frontline and back to Support again. Q. How long have you been doing that kind of work? A. Since she (indicating another person in the room) was a little girl. She’s thirty-four now, thirty-three. Thirty-four. Since Geraldine was thirty --- I used to leave them to get training, training, training. And then one day I finally got a job. I couldn’t even --- (Speaking native language) I knew what to do from all this training but I didn’t do it. I was afraid. Q. What do you think you were afraid of? A. Of failure! Because --- I wish I knew how to say that in English. I had all this training. I had high marks. I passed every time. When it came right down to showing what I learned I couldn’t do it because I was told I was stupid and I would never amount to anything. So it affects me, in answer to your question about how it affects me now. And my kids. It shows on my kids. And it shows --- They are drug addicts and alcoholics. My baby was an alcoholic. He started drinking when he was twelve years old. And in a year I was, too, screwing up my own life, screwing up my children’s lives. People tell me, “Don’t blame yourself for your baby hanging himself and taking his own life.” Don’t tell me not to blame myself. --- Speaker overcome with emotion --- End of Part 1 …he would still be alive today. So don’t dare anybody tell me not to blame myself because I do. It’s part my fault. I don’t take it all. I don’t take all the blame. Q. Would you like to stop for a little bit? A. No. That’s okay. My baby has been gone five years. When I first heard about it, my baby, on the phone I thought my brain was trying to do the “what ifs”, the “I should haves”. I wouldn’t let it go there. I knew I was able to do it because a lot of people were praying for me. I was praying also to our Creator and to his mother because she went through that. Only her son didn’t kill himself. And they helped me. They heard me. That’s why I’m still sitting here in my right mind telling this story. Actually, my baby’s death made me strong. The way I see it, if I’m still alive today his death made me strong. I don’t even know if I should try to explain the pain it is to lose a child, especially in that manner. But now, five years later, I understand why he took his own life. I tell God I understand why he didn’t intervene and I also understand he’s a very forgiving God, not like I was taught in the boarding school: You’ll go to hell if you do this, if you say that, if you look that way. They were a bunch of bull shitters. I didn’t believe them any more. They taught me exactly different things to the way I live now, at least I try. I have my downfalls. I’m still a very dysfunctional person. I’ve been through many addictions. I’ve licked two of them but I’m not even trying to lick this one I have now. I have many addictions. I like smoking. I like playing VLTs. But pretty soon I’ve got to do something about playing VLTs because it makes me broke and that’s not right and it doesn’t make me feel good. Why do I keep doing things that make me feel awful? Q. I wanted to ask you about --- You say they called you down a lot and as a child you were told that you weren’t very good or you were a bad person. You talked about having addiction issues and things like this. And now you’re sitting here and I see a really strong woman who overcame a lot. How do you get past that? How do you get to be here today after all that? A. The first thing that came to my mind is my parents. My dad didn’t talk much. My mom did all the talking. They showed me by example. What they wanted me to do they showed me. They didn’t tell me. Just every once in a while I had to be reminded but mostly they showed me by example. They lived the way they wanted me to live. That’s how I learned. You must have heard the Anashinabe learn when they see it rather than hear it? Q. Um-hmm. A. Well, that’s exactly what they did. That’s how they brought me up. Heck, I want to swear! They come and take me from there. I was okay where I was. But they built schools. I think they tried to copy Hitler, you know. It’s a good thing somebody had a little bit of humanity in them, not to be like Hitler. He hated the Jews so he killed lots of them; millions. There would not be an Anashinabe left if he did that to us. I would like to know who that White man or Frenchman or Englishman that had a little bit of humanity to stop something like that. I betcha it looked like that’s what they were trying to do to us, get rid of us. But they were too slow. I’m glad Anashinabe likes muzshuway (ph.). They couldn’t catch up. Do you know what muzshuway (ph.) is? Making children, to put it mildly. We multiplied too fast. Q. I just saw in a documentary a woman saying that Indian people having babies is a political act. I think that’s exactly what you just said. So it’s the strength that you learned from your parents that has carried you through to today? A. Yeah. That’s what it is. Yes. Q. That’s good. A. And most recently, five years ago, that made me stronger. I seem to be getting stronger instead of weaker in some areas. I thought if I lived through my baby’s death, I’ll live through anything. I lived through torture, (speaking native language), condemnation --- Q. Can you talk to us a bit about your healing journey? A. When I took that focusing therapy eventually I learned how to do it on yourself because your body remembers, even if you forget up here (indicating), or it didn’t register at the time so it can’t be a memory when it doesn’t register. Q. It wouldn’t register because it’s such a horrible thing? A. Yeah. Exactly. When it happens at that moment when it happened to me, you have this protection. You block it off. You wipe it off so it doesn’t enter your memory and it doesn’t hurt as much. You live through it. You don’t go crazy. Ask me that question again. Q. Can you talk to us about your healing journey and what you’ve done or what you think has been helpful? A. Oh yeah. I was going to give you an example. When I was married to --- I only had three children. My baby is gone. I have Geraldine and I have Terrance, another son. He’s younger than her. When I still lived with their dad on a different Reserve at Little Black River he was an asshole. Anyways, I used to be washing dishes and he would come up behind me and touch my bum. Each time he did that, like he did that several times to me --- I lived with him for five or six years; I was married to him. He’s lucky I wasn’t wiping or washing a sharp knife because my body would instantly react. The first time he did that to me, come behind me, sneak behind me and touch my bum I turned around and my hands were still wet. I gave him a big slap. Of course he slapped me back, without question. Where does that come from? How come I did that? Even in a crowded place with chairs like that, with the arms, I would get up and happen to bump myself on my bum, oh, the message that was coming was awful from my body. That’s why your body has a lot to tell you if you investigate. So I did. When I started taking that focusing course I found out where that came from, from that Brother Lacoste (ph.). He used to touch my bum every chance he had, and not just me. The first few times because I wanted the candy, I was a kid and I liked candy, and then I don’t know --- I’d say yeah and sit on his lap and he would check to see where the Nun was or if her back was turned. He wouldn’t give up the candy until he did what he wanted to do. After, when you’re just a kid, you don’t know and you know this is not right, this doesn’t feel right. I grabbed the candy and just ran. Every time he showed up you would see the little girls just scattering and running, running away. We were so vulnerable and innocent. I never once blamed my mom and dad. They had to. They had to take us there or else rations, it was called then. Q. Welfare? A. Yeah. It was called rations, that’s Welfare today, Social Assistance. They would stop that and whatever else the government threw at us to survive. Q. Can I ask you a little bit about Father Lacombe (ph.) that you were talking about here. A. Brother Lacoste? Q. So he had candy with him all the time? A. In his pockets, yeah. They had big huge pockets in those big long robes, it looked like. Yeah, it was a robe. Q. The Priest and the Nuns weren’t affectionate or nice to the students and when he walked in a room girls would run away, and so --- A. I don’t know his excuse to come in there. Q. So it seems like other Nuns and other Priests must have known what was going on, they must have had an idea why this guy carried candy with him and girls ran away from him all the time? A. Yeah. They just closed their eyes to it. I remember one time sitting on his lap and he’s doing that and I’m looking, “oh please, turn around”, you know, for that Nun to turn around. But she was always busy somewhere else. He was smart. Perverts are smart. They must have, unless they were blind. Well, some Priests were doing it too. When we had ideas later on --- There was a little girls’ room for the little girls and then big girls, it depends what age you were. When I was a little girl and we were in this Dormitory they were called, it had windows galore. My Reserve is North Shore and South Shore. I lived on the North Shore. The boarding school was almost directly across from where I lived. I tried to sneak to the window so I can see my house. It looked so near but it was far. I could see my house from those bedroom windows, the Dormitory windows. You know, I don’t even remember if I talked about it with other kids there. I think I was too scared and everybody else was too scared. Q. Is there more we can talk about for your healing journey and anything else you might have done? A. Well, it doesn’t affect me any more. Well, it does that much like about my bum, if I happen to bump it somewhere, or --- Because I know where it comes from. Q. Now that you understand that does it make it easier to handle? A. Yeah, much easier. I don’t know. If you knew Anashinabe, if you lived with them there, they’ve got a sense of humour. There’s lots and lots of laughing. I was thinking about --- You know when kids fool around or even adults, some adults, they poke each other’s arses and then they laugh. That used to bother me. Don’t you dare touch me! There’s lots of other --- If we did something wrong there was an attic, there was a basement, there was the Play Room, where the Play Room was and the next floor was where we ate, the kitchen. And we had to eat everything, even if they burnt our toast, we had to eat that. They said we would have a good voice, and I believed them. I always wanted a good voice to sing in the choir. So we had to eat burnt toast, porridge and peanut butter. On Sunday mornings before we go to church we would smell breakfast bacon. Oh, that used to smell so good. But it wasn’t even for us. It was for the enemy. It was for the guards! It was for the Nuns. It was for the Brothers. It was for the Priests. (speaking native language) Do you know what “anemaykway” means? Do you really want me to translate? Praying woman. That’s what that means. That’s what the Nuns were called. (speaking native language) That’s the Priest dressed in black. There was one Priest I liked. He was an old man. He was tall. What the heck was his name? Father Way (ph.). That’s one kind Priest I seen there, the only one. I don’t remember a Nun, seeing a Nun with a kind face. He was handsome, too. I’m not afraid to tell anybody they’re handsome or good looking. I seem to be saying that a lot today, eh. (Laughter) That’s one of the reasons I found him kind looking. But he was. He smiled at us. I found a little bit of love. I found a little bit of caring coming from that figure, because to me they were figures and he was tall. Even in the Dormitories when I got to the big girls’ side, as they called it, there was a lot of touching going on there, too. I’m thinking that’s probably from Brother Lacoste’s teaching. There were lots of girls that touched each other in there, too. They would move their beds closer at night. On the small girls’ side we were made to sleep like this (indicating) all the time, like that. Our hands could never go under the blankets because they were afraid we might touch ourselves, I guess. Q. So if you were sleeping and your hands went below the blankets somebody would --- A. Yeah, tell you to sleep like that and then we all got used to it anyways, I guess. Q. Wow. Do you still sleep like that? A. Heck, no. I put my hands wherever I want. (Laughter) if I want to put them there, I will. Do you want to hear any more? (Laughter) It’s like retaliation, eh, sometimes. But that’s how I became --- Don’t come near me. I had a lot of anger, a lot of hidden anger. It took my “geet” (ph.) to tell you about Brother Lacoste. “Geet” means bum. I thank my body for that because how would you like to go around being angry about --- For instance, like me and wonder who the heck, you know, and I’m glad I went, I was meant to go through all that training. I started training and going to school when she (indicating) was just a little girl, three years old. So I’ve been there lots. But I didn’t become famous. I don’t have a big title behind me but I’ve got life experience. I’m sixty years old. I don’t need those papers to tell me what I can do. It’s caring. Sometimes a lot of times I fall off. I want to follow in our Creator’s steps, footsteps, the way he lived when he was here because he says we’re the salt and the light. He didn’t you could be the salt and the light, like me. No. He says you are the salt and the light and that you are. That’s what I’m starting to believe. That’s why I keep saying --- That’s why I’m trying to bring up three grandchildren. They’re fourteen pretty soon, sixteen and seventeen. That’s a big generation gap but I always tell them I’m old-fashioned and I don’t like their music. I always tell my grandson --- Well, I’m not going to tell you what I tell him. I’ll put it a different way. I always tell him I don’t like your black music. But I don’t say black. I use the old-fashioned word. But I don’t want to say it here. Some people might take offence. Q. So is there something you want to share that we haven’t talked about yet? A. When I was crying what I wanted to say was I could have been not I should have been, I could have been a better parent. I guess my mom and dad’s teachings were weaker than what they did to me in school. They took away the person I could have been. I just realized that in one of my sessions with Mel and Shirley. Holy mackerel, imagine the kind of person I would have been if I didn’t go to boarding school? I could still be with the years I have left and who knows, maybe I’ve been already. It feels like it sometimes. Sometimes it feels like I have rewards when I see my grandchildren. You know what, sometimes it skips my mind. Can I get up for a second? I want to get something in my pocket. --- End of Part 2 …the people in there. It’s just the way I feel. I’m talking about the Residential School. That’s why I wrote it this way. When the thought came to my mind I wrote it down right away because I forget. It took away the person I would have been today. It took away the person I would have been today. And then that realization again. Imagine what kind of person I could have been? Imagine the kind of person I could have been right now; no addictions, no dysfunction. I would have been the Anashinabe Creator meant for me to be. But then I’ve got to come out of there and say I could still be. I’m only sixty years old. I’m not out to make an impression. I’m just old-fashioned. That’s what I always tell my grandchildren. Why don’t you get this? Why don’t you get that? You know, all the modern technology. At work I have a computer. I don’t bother with it. I don’t like it. I hate it. I could never learn. I know how to find the cards, to play cards; that’s it. Q. Do you mean to play solitaire? A. Yeah. I learned that from my grandchildren. They have a computer that’s old. They want Internet and all that stuff. But I keep away from that. It’s scary. You see, I’m really old-fashioned. Where did I learn that?—My parents. But they’re not even my biological parents. My mom put me there when I was a baby, my biological mom, because she couldn’t keep me. She’s from Oser River. My dad was --- Three times already I thanked her before --- What do you call that? She’s eighty years old. Alzheimer’s. She’s starting to get that. Before she started getting that I thanked her at least three times for placing me where she did. I was just a small baby. That’s the only mom and dad I knew. Q. Do you have anything else you would like to say? A. The money I got, the $10,300, I figure I was in there more years than what they gave me but that’s okay. I’m too tired to prove to them I was there longer. I don’t want to bother with that. It took off a little stress for a while. That’s what money does. It makes you happy for a while. It took away a little stress from me. I had these bills for years and years and years. People were starting, you know, bill collectors are phoning me and threatening me. They don’t bother me any more because I paid those bills. That’s why I was thankful for that money. I shared it with my children and grandchildren. That’s it. It doesn’t last long. But I still have to go to court for a Hearing. I just hope they don’t ask me questions like what was their names. You know, they shouldn’t come up with surprises. They’re going to have to accept and believe me when I tell my story. My friend went already for a hearing. She’s the same age as me. She says that they didn’t even ask me the questions I thought they would. It seems like they don’t believe you. She said that she started naming --- Because she’s got a better memory than I do. -- naming most of the Nuns that were there, the Priests and the Brothers. She knew them. And they stopped her. They stopped her and they asked her something else. “They talked about something else unexpected but it’s just like they were trying to trap me”, she said. Jesus, I wonder if I’ll ever make it to the Hearing. Some people go there and freak out. I guess that’s the ones they believe. I don’t know. I was really nervous coming here. And then I’m thinking, holy mackerel, when I go to my Hearing how am I going to be because honestly when I worried before I came here I started feeling anxious. I’m starting a headache. My stomach was getting upset. When I walked in here and seen all these people I was nervous. Imagine, my mind will just go blank in that Hearing. I don’t want that to happen. I wonder if I could take the tape you’re going to give me, the copy? Q. It takes a while to transfer it. A. I know. But my Hearing is taking so long. God knows when it’s going to be. It’s supposed to be this month. This month is almost gone. I mean, can I take that to my Hearing and play it? Q. I don’t know. I don’t know what they allow there. I’m not sure. A. Anyways, there’s a lot more. I keep pushing away. Q. Is it my breath? A. No. (Laughter) But it’s a longer story. I would be here all day if I told you everything. Have you got any more questions? Q. No. I think you have answered all my questions. A. Yeah? Okay. What do I do after I get out of here? Go get drunk? Q. No. A. I don’t drink. (Laughter) Q. I can’t say don’t. A. I’ll go play slots. That calms me down; my addiction. Q. Well, there’s counselors here. There are people you can talk to. Our interview is done but that doesn’t mean you need to leave the building right away. You can do what you want to do. A. Have some sleep? Q. Yeah. I think you just did something that’s pretty hard so I think you know how to make yourself feel better after something like this, so you do what you’ve gotta do. Thanks a lot. That was amazing. It took a lot of strength. A. I can’t say it was my pleasure because it wasn’t. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 28:40
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Part 1 – 12:49

Grant Severight

St. Philips Indian Residential School, Marieval Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Grant, I’ll get you to spell your first and your last name for me. GRANT SEVERIGHT: Grant Severight; G-r-a-n-t S-e-v-e-r-i-g-h-t. Q. Okay. And what school did you go to? A. St. Philip’s Indian Residential School. Q. Where is that? A. By Kamsack, Saskatchewan. Actually, it should be on the Keeseekoose First Nation. Q. How old were you when you first went? A. I was 5 years old. Q. Do you remember what it was like your first day? A. Oh yes, I remember. Q. Can you describe that? A. It was a day like today. It was Fall. I was excited. I was looking forward to going. They rolled in a big old green International truck, a cattle truck. I remember it was green. I remember my grandfather helping me get on the truck, on the box, to help me climb on. I remember standing holding on and driving along as we picked up other students. It was really exciting. I remember getting to the school. I think what really sticks out in my mind was the smell of the disinfectant they used in the school. It was really harsh. Every time I smell that particular smell I always get that flashback of having been in that school. It was a special disinfectant. I still smell it every once in a while wherever I go. I remember getting into a fight with another little boy who ended up being my boyhood friend for the rest of the time I was there. His name was Mike. That’s pretty well it. And going to bed. I remember going to bed. It was still daylight. I found that a little unusual. Q. What was it like in the Dorms when you went to bed? A. I remember the bunk beds and how all the beds were neatly made. I remember being assigned a top bunk. And I remember the guy below me. His name was Dennis. I’ll always remember that because he actually wanted the lower bunk and I wanted the top bunk. That’s how we agreed to that. There again, smells were probably the most distinct thing about Residential School. I remember they gave us powdered toothpaste. I remember the smell of that and the kind of hand soap they gave us. Basically that’s it. I don’t remember having lunch or anything the first day. We probably did. I just don’t remember it. Q. What was the food like there? A. St. Philip’s was notorious for giving very poor quality food. Why I’m able to say that was I was transferred to another school after to make a comparison. That’s how come --- If I had not been transferred I probably would not have known any better. But St. Philip’s was known for porridge, the hole-y bread, crusty dry bread, the barley soup we got almost daily, the beans --- What we all liked at St. Philip’s we all got wieners and beans or some kind of a bean concoction every Sunday. That was probably the most delicious thing we had there. Fridays we always had some kind of fish. I don’t know what kind, I don’t remember, but it was always fish every Friday. Oh yes, at supper time the reason I remember that is we used to get canned fruit for dessert and we used to make bets. Sometimes we would lose our dessert or sometimes we would win. That’s what I remember about that. But the food wasn’t the greatest for the students. I knew it was good for the staff because I was one of the boys later on in life that, later on, we hauled in the truck supplies for the school. When the supply truck would come in every so often, the boys would haul in the goodies. I remember the cases of bananas and the cookies and all that nice stuff. But I don’t ever recall eating a banana in that place, or cookies. Q. It wasn’t for you guys? A. Probably not. I found that kind of strange. Later on when I became an altar boy my reward was to get an orange. After I served Mass I would get an orange. Those who went to Confession that Sunday morning would be rewarded with an orange. Or if you went to Holy Communion you were given an orange. They had a pretty good incentive system to pray a lot. Q. Did you learn a lot in Residential School in terms of academics? A. From what I’ve heard, I really excelled in school. I was one of the --- I remember going to a special conference with the school staff. I was supposed to make a presentation to the other school teachers but I was too nervous. I forgot what I was supposed to do and I failed dismally for them so they were kind of mad at me for that. That wasn’t a good experience. But I remember getting good marks. I guess I couldn’t tell the difference, but the study periods I didn’t like. They were so long. For an hour every day we went to study. And then we had a little recreation program there which was not too bad. I never experienced anything bad until later on, when I was older. But I remember a lot of the violence was from the older students, the boys that were there. Q. What about teachers? A. The teachers? When I went there the Nuns were on their way out. I’ve heard other people who have talked about them, and the first year I was there they were already doing away with the farm. But they still had animals. I remember me and my uncle Milton. Milton was retarded and I remember we used to go ride the pigs. We got caught one Saturday morning riding pigs, so we had to give up our Sunday afternoon movie and had to write five hundred times on the blackboard “I will not ride pigs.” I remember that quite explicitly. It probably wasn’t a good experience for the pigs, either. But they didn’t take kindly to us abusing animals, I guess. The movies were the big highlight there. They had these old reel-to-reel things and you could hear them clicking. It was a big thing for us to go watch especially the Indian and Cowboy movies. We all ended up cheering for the cowboys anyway! Them terrible Indians were driven off the land. It’s crazy. Q. What would you want people to know about your experience at Residential School? A. The experience in itself dislocated the children from the nucleus of the family warmth and the family caring. Q. Is that what happened to you? A. Yeah. The nurturing. Even though I was raised by my grandparents, I loved my grandparents. I would have stayed in the bush with them rather than being put in a Residential School. I remember missing them and the dislocation I felt, the disconnection I felt to my family. Eventually that whole dislocation and disconnection kind of built walls in me that took me years to deconstruct again. The feeling of inferiority I felt --- All over the Reserve we were happy there but when we would go outside the perimeter we would see these White farmers who were flourishing and just wealthy. Somehow even as a young man I used to wonder why is that? Why is it we don’t have anything and why did I feel different when I went to town with my grandparents? We weren’t treated with any kind of dignity. We were more or less just tolerated by the merchants in town. That had a lasting impression on me, that feeling of not being equal. I probably carried that into all of my other relationships later on. Somehow it fired within my spirit anger. I really felt unfair treatment. But at that time I really had nothing to compare that with. I just thought that was the way it was for us people. I remember eventually by the time I was about twelve years old I was already thinking about leaving the Reserve because I seen there was nothing there. Somehow I was born with a desire to want more. I wanted more. I wanted to experience life to a greater degree. All I seen at that time were things I seen in the movies. But I knew there was another world out there and I couldn’t wait. I even tried running away when I was twelve years old. I didn’t get very far. I got hungry so I come home! That was the extent of my escape from the drudgery of living on an Indian Reservation during the summer holidays. Eventually I did get transferred to another Residential School. Q. How old were you when you were transferred? A. I was twelve years old. I burnt down a White farm, me and my retarded uncle went. He was the local bootlegger. I remember my grandfather giving his food voucher for wine. I remember I says, “you know because of him we go hungry all the time.” I never forgot that. One day me and my uncle came upon this farm and I recognized the vehicle and nobody was home so we burnt it down. I got transferred. The police, the RCMP came and got me. My uncle, they didn’t do anything to him because they felt he wasn’t really the ringleader. He was older but they sent me to another Residential School. Q. Where? A. In Marieval. That’s about a hundred miles, about eighty miles south. But that’s where I was able to make the comparison. Q. What was that school like? A. That school was like walking into paradise. It was unbelievable. I remember the Priest picking me up in that little town there where they had put me on a bus, and I was under the care of the bus driver. The Principal picked me up and took me to school. It was about 9 o’clock at night and I remember him taking me to a place where the staff had lunch. I remember getting cookies and a glass of milk. I mean, it was the real milk that tasted good. The other stuff we had was always powdered stuff. I remember, man, was this ever different. And the meals were different. I remember having corn flakes, boiled eggs, toast, and I remember at dinner time we would get hot dogs and bags of chips and hamburgers, and a full course meal at supper time, just completely different. Q. Every day? A. Every day. And I remember the boys were given access to guitars. We could play little guitars. They had bikes there, too, that we had to share. Man, I really hit the big time here. It was a completely different world. Q. What was the name of that school? Marieval Indian Residential School? A. Yeah. Marieval was located on the Cowessess First Nation. It was an Oblate school, too. But it was different. Over the years when I did my studies and when I looked at why things were like that, the St. Philip’s one was really trying to prove that he could run a school on a very small budget, so consequently we weren’t fed that well. But he eventually got transferred and got promoted. Father Sharon (ph.) became the Principal at the Lebret Indian School, which was the elite of a lot of the Indian Residential Schools in the west. By saving money, I’m just speculating about what he did at St. Philip’s, he earned his promotion to Lebret. Marieval was situated by a lake. It was kind of a resort area. I remember going out to the lake on weekends fishing, going camping, wiener roasts, a completely different thing than St. Philip’s. Q. Was there any type of abuse that you heard of there, like physical abuse? A. In Marieval there was sexual abuse. I experienced some sexual abuse but it was from older boys, not from the staff. Q. Where do you think they learned it? A. Well, we don’t know. There were 2 supervisors there who were sexually --- The guy that was --- He didn’t injure me or anything but he used to fondle me and that kind of stuff. But he learned it from a supervisor. He used to tell me. He learnt that off Brother so-and-so. George did pass away after he left school, but he was the guy who used to do that kind of stuff. We were different. The reason Marieval was different was Sundays they used to dress us up. We wore these little ties. It was a big deal to go to church and they dressed us up. We would go bowling. They had a little bowling alley there, of all things. And then we had bazaars and we could win prizes. St. Philip’s was just --- When I talk to the students who went to St. Philip’s the whole time they were there it’s almost unbelievable what I tell them. Weren’t all schools the same? I said, “No, they weren’t.” We found out right through history, through different studies that St. Philip’s was deemed to be one of the worst Indian Residential Schools. Q. St. Philip’s? A. Yes. For the treatment, yeah. It was common for the Priest to have sexual intercourse with the older girls. The priest had an affair with the oldest staff sister, or one of the women, Miss Lalonde they called her. Q. How did they know that? A. The parents used to tell us. They used to catch them on a Reserve road, or something. You know how Indians are, they talk, you know. But as good little Catholics we never paid attention to that kind of stuff. But throughout time I come to believe it because Father Sharon (ph.) spent a lot of time with that lady. That’s where my sexual abuse happened was in St. Philip’s. Q. From the older boys? A. No. From the music teacher. Q. A man? A. It was a man. Yeah. I was the one that broke the case in St. Philip’s, right after Gordon’s, about 2 weeks after Gordon’s broke their case, I got wind of it and I did the same thing with St. Philip’s. I became an advocate for all Residential School stuff because in 1982 I was already writing papers on what happened to me in Residential School. Q. Can you describe that? A. I had gone to bible school in my search for significance. I was trying to find my spiritual way because I had been taught that my way was of the devil and you had better not go there. So I became a Christian for a while. But then the professors used to tell us to write about significant things in your life, so I started writing about what happened in Indian Residential School. I remember the one professor saying, “Grant, your writing is strong. We can feel the pain in your writing. We can feel the hurt. It’s so powerful.” But I didn’t know what they meant by that. So I just kept writing, not realizing already that I was starting to disclose in the safest way I knew without getting judged. Q. What happened to you, then? A. I was sexually molested by a school teacher, I mean not a school teacher, but the music teacher. He used to take me into piano practice during study sessions. He would come and get me from the classroom and take me to the room and do funny things. He used to pay me. He used to give me money for it. I didn’t really like it. For awhile I thought I was the only one that he was doing that to, so I kept it kind of to myself. I never told anybody because of the shame and maybe the boys would make fun of me. But then I started noticing he was taking other boys and one day I kind of followed, just kind of sneaking behind. I was peaking through the curtains to see if that boy was actually having piano practice but he wasn’t. That man was sexually fondling him and kissing him. So I thought, okay, there’s somebody else. That made me feel a little bit better. But I did confront that guy because I wanted to find out how he felt about it. He denied it. Q. To your face? A. “We don’t do that”, he said. Q. Did you confront him as a grown man? A. No. I confronted him as a boy, the other guy that was being molested. I said, “Does Mr. Gray do these things to you?” He said, “Oh no.” But you could tell how he put his head down. And then shortly after that I started noticing other boys. He took favour to other boys. Actually, during the Christmas holidays he would travel to Florida, and during the Christmas holidays he would take these boys with him. He would take one boy at a time to Florida or to Montreal. I said, “Wow.” Later on in life I asked this man, I said, “You need to be honest with me, what happened on those trips?” But they wouldn’t talk but I knew by their not talking they were saying things used to happen. There was a guy just before that, another Priest, his name was Father Lambert, and I remember the boys talking about him, but he didn’t do anything to me. But it was interesting in my travels, though, I found out he was Phil Fontaine’s abuser, Father Lambert, because he did go to Fort Alec after that Priest. Q. I wonder if he is still alive? A. Father Lambert? No. I talked to Phil about him about 5 years ago. He passed away. But he just laughs, you know. I said, “Phil, you know what he used to do.” As men we found ways to kind of laugh about it. But me and Phil became close because of our shared commonalities with what happened to us as boys. Q. Did you ever get a chance to confront Father Lambert? A. Some guys did. One of the boys that he did molest confronted him in the Residential School in Fort Alec. They went up to pick up a fire engine and he was there. He tried to grab that boy on his bum and he was already a young man, eh, so that young man confronted him. He did a lot of damage to a lot of young boys. He just walked away. But he sodomized kids, that guy, lots of them, lots of young boys. He was probably the worst abuser that I’ve heard of so far. But he passed away about 7 years ago. It’s funny the different people I have run into in my work, how we were connected and how some of us could talk about having the same abuser, you know, it’s just amazing. There was an era of shame I think a lot of men went through, men my age in their fifties now, their sixties. If they were to be really honest you would see there is a lot of guilt and a lot of shame there, and a lot of anger, unresolved anger. A lot of men died never coming to grips with what happened to them. I’m just fortunate that this whole thing came out in my lifetime. At least now I can talk about it and I can go back to the Creator with a clean spirit and a good spirit. Because in my work I have come to find that abusers don’t really personalize anything. They just find victims. It wasn’t because of me it happened. I was a very convenient victim for the abuser and I was able to forgive that. Q. We’re just going to change tapes. A. Okay. --- End of Part 1 Q. It makes you wonder how Father Lambert was raised and why he thinks that’s good or normal? A. I really don’t have an answer for that, but that’s just the way he was. He came to St. Philip’s and went to Fort Alec, and I don’t know where he ended up after that. But he certainly had his victims. Some of the guys I talked to said that he really really did damage to a lot of young men, that particular perpetrator. Q. Do you know his first name? A. No, I don’t. All I know him as is Father Lambert. He was an Oblate. The principal of both the schools in St. Philip’s were not like that. They were more into the heterosexual stuff, they were. I imagine the girls could tell stories about what they experienced in there. But the homosexuals in St. Philip’s, a guy by the name of Ralph Gray, that probably sexually abused fifty boys. Q. What was his role in the school? A. He was the music teacher. And then they had a guy by the name of Rocky (something). He was a supervisor. He was convicted not of sexual assault but he was convicted of physical assault on the boys. Q. What kind of things did he do? A. He burnt them with cigarettes. He whipped them. He used to set up sweat lodges and just burn the boys while they were in there. Q. Was he First Nation? A. I think he was part First Nation. He was from Alberta someplace. But he was more --- He was socialized White. He had White values, but I think he was hiding his nationality at that time. He came out of the Air Force. He was a boxing champion in the Air Force and very physical. He played rough. I did talk to him when I was a man and he told me that he never intended harm. “That’s just how I played”, he said. Somehow I can understand that. But a lot of the young boys I don’t think really appreciated the harm, all the physical harm. When the Star case first came out I couldn’t visualize how one guy could single handedly abuse ninety kids. I said, “That’s not possible.” Q. What was his name? A. Mr. Star. I forget his first name. But that’s the Gordon’s case. Here I was thinking, well, what happened to us with Mr. Gray, well Mr. Star could assault ninety boys and Mr. Gray has assaulted fifty young men, but now I can understand how they could do that over the course of time. I think there were over fifty complaints of sexual assault or sexual abuse from Mr. Gray. So it is possible. Q. So Star was at Gordon’s? A. Um-hmm. Q. Was he a teacher? A. He was a supervisor, a teacher. Well, he was actually the Principal. And then I’ve heard Plinkett (ph.) from BC, how he assaulted eighty kids. So that’s not unreasonable now. Because I know White society thinks how can one guy do that to ninety kids. But now when I look at it and when I studied it over a course of 5 years, it’s quite possible. Q. It’s possible. A. Yeah. Q. So Plinkett was in BC? A. Um-hmm. Q. Do you know which school he was in? A. Kamloops. He was convicted and given ten years I think, there. Q. I wonder if he is still alive? A. People say he is, yes. Q. What about Star? A. Star is still alive. Q. Where does he live? A. I think he is on the east coast someplace. Q. Do you know of any other abusers who are still alive? A. Not offhand. I haven’t looked at it for quite a while. Q. You do work with gangs, right? A. Yeah. Q. Do you think gang mentality stems from Residential School? A. Gang mentality I believe is directly attributable to what happened by the deconstruction --- We don’t have the closeness of family any more. A lot of the grandparents and a lot of the parents who went to Residential School lost that familial sense of belonging. In the course of having grown up like that you always try to emulate the people that raised you. If you were raised in coldness and detachment, you’re going to carry those same ways of raising your own children in that atmosphere. I know men who really believe that they should break the spirit of their children, to discipline them and to control them. I remember them saying, “break their spirit, break their spirit, don’t give in to them.” That’s exactly what happened to them. The whole consequence of that is men don’t know how to feel, or they don’t know how to show their feelings. There is no nurturing any more. The children are feeling that so as a consequence they are taking it into their own hands by establishing a family system where they feel protected. They feel accepted and they feel it’s a place where they can do something with their lives. A lot of gangs are selling drugs and it’s a way of life for them and they make good money doing it. There’s lots of sex. There’s a lot of acceptance. It’s a family. When you look back at it, it all stems from not only the Aboriginal people but all these other marginalized people who have to organize and come together for safety and for mutual feelings of acceptance. That’s where I kind of learned it. In 1969 when I was in jail, the White population used to run us. They used to boss us. One day I figured out if we organized and fought back that would stop. And we did it. I think in some instances we changed Corrections in Saskatchewan in 1969 because we fought back. Q. When you were in jail? A. Yeah. Q. What did you go to jail for? A. I was in there for stealing cars and just being drunk. When we had a jail riot I got 5 years for trying to hang a prison guard. That’s how come I ended up in the Pen. I was just angry, outright-ly angry, and trying to get a feeling of significance. Our idols, our role models, were guys who came out of jail. They were tough. They survived the system so we looked up to them as real men. We needed to be like them; tough. They defied the system. And when you look at that kind of mentality you can trace it all back to the Residential School. How are you going to make somebody be proud of somebody you were made to believe was inferior? Why even bother? We’re in a mess. I keep telling people. I keep trying to tell people that we need to do something with the youth gangs. Phil appointed me to a Corrections Think Tank and I go to Ottawa once in a while. Me and Phil became really good friends, having been on the board of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation together. He lost his election for a while there to Matthew (something), for 3 years. He came on the board with us. I got to know him and I got to tell him of some of the dreams I had of what we need to do, how we need to help our people, our young men. Q. How do you think we need to help them? A. We need to put value, we need to get our kids feeling good about who they are. We need to teach them that it’s okay to be First Nations, it’s good to be First Nations people. We have a viable culture. We have strong principles. We know what sacredness is, you know, and that our way of seeing the world is probably just as good as anybody else. We need to instill that into our children. It’s working. It’s coming, but it’s slow. I think we’ve only started our work. The urban centres are the ones that are feeling the whole crunch of it. The reason I went to Winnipeg was to learn how to work with youth gangs. That’s why I moved there. I sold my house in Saskatoon. I moved up there. I made that whole circle of coming here. I worked in Lethbridge with the Blood Tribe for a while. I worked with their youth. Q. Is there anything else you would like to add before we wrap up? A. No. I’m fine. I’m okay. Thank you for letting me share my little story. Q. Do you feel good? A. I feel better. When I first told my story at the ADR process they were kind of experimenting. I was probably one of the first ones. They had a cross-examiner sitting there trying to make me out like I was telling a lie and I was trying to tell the truth. I got drunk the first time I ever told my story and I had been sober then for 5 years. I didn’t realize that’s when the whole idea of having support systems kind of started. I remember the shame of it, sitting in a bar. What happened to me? I was back to where I was. I’m drunk again. But I didn’t know what to do with the pain. But I’ve told it so many times I’ve gotten stronger. I’m getting a little bit stronger. I can deal with the conflict now. I can deal with something upsetting in a more positive way and roll with it. Rather than reacting I can just roll with it. That’s a strength that I’ve learned through all of this and that’s what I want to teach kids, too. You don’t have to react all the time. I guess the Elders used to tell me that as you get older you’ll learn to let go. That’s all I have to say. Q. Thank you so much. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 21:57

Walter West

Takla First Nation

THE INTERVIEWER:  Well, we’re ready to start.  So if you can just say your name and spell it for us, please. WALTER WEST:  My name is Walter West; W-a-l-t-e-r W-e-s-t. Q.  Thank you.  And where are you from? A.  Takla First Nation. Q.  Okay.  Where is that? A.  That’s just north of Fort St. James, about a 3 hour drive. Q.  Is it a big community? A.  About 800 or 900 people. Q.  What school did you attend? A.  The first year I went to Lejac was in 1960. Q.  1960.  Do you remember how many years you were there? A.  I was there just for the one year. Q.  Just one year? A.  That was enough for me. Q.  How old were you when you went? A.  The first day I started school I was about 9 years old.  They didn’t have no school --- Q.  You had not gone to school before? A.  No.  There was no school up there. Q.  Did anyone ever come to get the children and take them away to Residential School? A.  No. Q.  Oh, you were lucky. A.  That was the first time, in ’60. Q.  That was the first time any of the children from that community went away? A.  Well, there were a few going in and out before me. Q.  Do you remember what life was like before Residential School? A.  Mom and dad had a farm, so I had lots of work with them. They took me away to the school. Q.  Did you do farming with them?  What kind of a farm did they have A.  They had a bunch of cows and about sixty head of horses.  We had some chickens.  We did our own vegetables.  It was real good. Q.  Did you have brothers and sisters? A.  Yeah.  I’ve got 4 brothers and 5 sisters. Q.  Oh, a big family. A.  One of my sisters went to Lejac the same year I went. Q.  Were you the only 2 from your family that went there? A.  Yeah. Q.  So do you remember your first day of school? A.  Well, the first day they picked us up at the northwest arm.  They land with that funny plane that landed on its belly like a goose.  They loaded us up in that and they brought us to Lejac. The first day in school I didn’t know where I was supposed to go.  They shipped me all over the place from different Grade to different Grade.  People were just making fun of me. Q.  Did you speak English before you went to school? A.  Yeah. Q.  And did you speak a traditional language as well? A.  I speak my own language today. Q.  What is your language? A.  Carrier First Nation. Q.  So the first day they didn’t really know where to put you.  They moved you around. A.  They pushed me all over the place, going back to different classes.  I was supposed to go to Grade 1.  That was my first day of school there. Q.  So how would you describe a typical day?  What time would you wake up in the morning?  Maybe you could talk a little bit about the chores, the food and those kinds of things. A.  The food wasn’t very good in that school at all.  Some days I don’t even eat my food.  But some days they would just force you to eat the food.  If you don’t eat your food you stay in or they make you stand in the corner. Q.  What kind of food was it? A.  Mostly fish and potatoes.  The next day it was wieners and some other food. Q.  What about going to church and stuff like that.  Can you talk a little bit about that? A.  They go to church --- They usually wake you up early in the morning, 5 o’clock, to go to church.  I was going to do their farm for them.  I would be working there. Q.  They had a farm? A.  At the Residential School; yes. Q.  So did you have to do chores on the farm? A.  They usually just make you clean up.  We shoveled all the snow outside.  They didn’t have no machine there.  It was all hand work. Q.  So you went with your sister.  Did you ever get to see your sister when you were there? A.  We were not allowed to speak to any girls or ladies. Q.  Did you miss her? A.  Yeah.  I stayed from September to June.  I didn’t go home for Christmas.  Some days they sent me a letter, but it’s always opened.  They said they send me money but I never received the money, until this day. Q.  So that would be letters from your parents.  They would always open them first? A.  Yeah.  They always open it and read it before they give it to you. Q.  Did your parents ever come to visit? A.  No.  It was too far to travel.  In those days it was hard to travel around.  Now it’s so easy. Q.  So how would you describe your experience at Residential School?  Are there any certain things that happened that you would like to share today? A.  Well, there was a group of kids that would be picking on me and fighting me every day.  It just goes on and on every day. --- Speaker overcome with emotion Sorry. Q.  Don’t apologize.  Just take a moment.  That’s okay. Is that one of the reasons you didn’t go back the next year because of these kids that were bothering you? A.  Yeah.  Some days it was so bad I thought they were going to kill me. Q.  Was that because you were new that they were bothering you? A.  I don’t know.  Even the supervisors and one of our night watchmen, I forget his name, even though I had his name in my mind --- I used to get strapped so bad.  Once they hit me way back here (indicating) and I was all black and blue. Just before Christmas he pulled my pants down and he had me in the back and he was whipping me.  He hit me right across the leg and I didn’t pee for 2 days.  I was just so black and blue.  I was scared to tell them. Q.  Scared to tell the supervisor, or was it the supervisor that hit you? A.  They were all working against me.  I don’t know why.  I was the only one they were picking on every day.  Sometimes we would go for a walk.  I don’t know if you know Mouse Mountain.  We were going up one mountain and about half ways up that hill, they rolled one big rock down just to get my attention, maybe.  There was another guy with me, a friend of mine.  It was a big huge rock and as it was rolling down it all bust.  All those rocks came with it and by the time it reached us I told the guy to get behind a tree.  But he just started running.  He got hit with rock on the hip.  But I hid under a big tree.  All the rocks were just going by me. After everything was over I run down to my buddy.  He was knocked right out.  I had to help him back to the road.  We were just walking, eh.  His hip was broken.  And I never seen that person since.  Maybe he just went home. There were a lot of things. One time we were going for a walk somewhere on the railroad tracks.  We were all walking.  Every Sunday we usually go for a walk.  We would go for miles and miles.  There was a bunch of guys waiting for me.  They had old sticks and some of them had rocks.  A couple of them had knives.  I don’t know where they get the knives from.  They had a knife.  There were about eighteen of them against myself.  I broke a stick about this size (indicating).  I was getting tired of getting beaten up every day, so I started fighting back all the guys. In the evening time when we get home all the guys that were there, they said that I caused the trouble.  The guy’s name as Brother Currans (ph.), he was the main leader there.  He strapped me again.  My back was all black and blue. Some days I just feel like running away. Q.  Did you ever try to run away? A.  No.  A few of them from Fort St. James ran away and Inginika (ph.) and the Fort.  About ten of them ran away.  It was about 2 o’clock in the morning.  They woke me up, all the older boys.  And we went out looking for these guys.  We found them just outside of Fraser Lake sitting under the bridge.  That’s where we found them. The next day --- There are a lot of things I forget.  I went through so much in just one year. Q.  The boys that were fighting with you, did you ever try to tell on them? A.  You mean when I was in Lejac? Q.  Yeah.  Did you ever try to say “these people are bothering me”, and did anyone try to help you, any of the Staff? A.  No.  Nobody wanted to help.  One of my buddies from back home, he was there, but he was scared. What else? Q.  So when you went home that summer did you talk to your parents and say, “I don’t want to go back again?”  How did they keep you from going back again? A.  I just went right against school and the Catholic Church.  I just went right out.  I didn’t want to go back to school.  I never went back to school in my life. Q.  You never went to school again after that? A.  Just for that first year, in ’60.  I’m a professional log builder.  I do lots of carpentry and I’m a professional at it.  But one thing, I can’t get my ticket.  They say I need my ticket to qualify.  But back home I do all the building.  I should bring all my profiles with me. Q.  So before we talk about life after Residential School, are there any final things you would like to share, any other experiences that happened to you there? A.  Another thing I didn’t talk about was they put us in boxing.  A couple of older guys boxed with the supervisor.  They said they were going to cover our face with cloth and put boxing gloves on us.  It was okayed.  They covered my face and the guy was just hitting me all over, so I took the scarf off my eyes.  The other guy didn’t have any cloth on his face.  So I just took my gloves off and I walked out of the place where we were at. There again, if you speak your own language in that school you get strapped.  Most of the people I know, they speak my language and I talk to them in my language.  One of the supervisors caught us talking and they brought me back in the classroom.  There again I get strapped for it. Q.  So with the boxing, was that something they just did to you?  They covered your face and the other boy --- Did they just watch this? A.  Well, they said they would cover both of our faces.  I took mine off.  He was hitting me all over the place, so I took it off.  Here he didn’t have anything on his face. Q.  So after that year you didn’t go back to school again.  Can you talk a little bit about how life has been since? A.  Some parts is pretty rough, especially if you want to work, you’ve got to fill out a form.  I can’t even do that.  Some day it will change. Q.  Can you talk a little bit about the work you do now a little bit more. A.  Right now I’ve got my own business.  I’m working for Canfor up Mackenzie way.  I do all the work during the summer.  I get about fifty to sixty guys working for me every summer, and a bunch of students. I’ve got my own camp.  Me and my wife we set up our own camp.  I was there just a couple of days ago cleaning off the roof getting ready for the summer. During the winter I do most of the fall burning.  I’ve got a bunch of guys working.  My wife works at the office. Q.  Do you have children? A.  Yeah. Q.  How many? A.  Five.  I’ve got 2 boys and 3 girls. Q.  How are they doing? A.  They’re doing pretty good.  Most of them are cooking out in the city.  One of them is working at Moxie’s and the other one is at Shooter’s. Q.  Have you ever been able to talk to them about your experience at Residential School? A.  No, I haven’t.  I haven’t even talked to my wife about it. Q.  Did she go to Residential School as well? A.  Yeah.  She’s probably next door. Q.  I saw her name.  I thought you might be husband and wife. A.  We both had an appointment for 9 o’clock. Q.  Did she go to Lejac as well? A.  Yeah.  But she went right through.  She graduated and went to university. Q.  Is she able to talk to you about her experiences? A.  No. Q.  It’s hard for both of you. A.  It’s pretty hard. Q.  Is it hard right now? A.  Yeah. Q.  Have you ever told anybody about your experience? A.  No. Q.  Is this the first time you have talked about it? A.  Yeah. Q.  Thank you for being so courageous. What about  healing?  Have you done anything for healing?  Have you joined any healing circles or sought help from others in any way? A.  Me and my wife started the Native Church down on 4th Avenue.  It’s still going right now.  We’re still in it.  I’ve been a Christian since 1987.  maybe that’s why I get help every day just getting this far. I haven’t drink since.  That’s my nineteenth year now.  And I told you I quit smoking then.  It’s been nineteen years for me. Q.  That’s good.  Did you start drinking when you were younger, after Residential School? A.  No.  I didn’t hardly drink.  The first time I drank was when I was about twenty-one years old.  We had a wedding, me and my wife.  I had one beer in my life before that, and that was about it. Q.  Are there any final words you would like to share with us today before we finish up? A.  It took a big chunk out of my system.  I hope it helps me now to go on with my life.  I hear a lot of people talking in the Gathering yesterday.  I see a bunch of people crying. Q.  So what made you want to come today and share your story with us? A.  I thought it would just help me.  I never talked about this whole thing since I left Lejac. Q.  I think it’s hardest the first time. A.  Those people I see on the street, I feel like just grabbing them and beating them up, but what’s the use? Q.  Do you think after today being able to talk about it for the first time, do you think you’ll be able to talk to your wife about it? A.  Yeah. Q.  That would be good. Well, thank you for coming today and sharing. A.  Yeah. Q.  You’re off the hook now.  You did a really really good job.  Thank you very much. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 30:33

Elsie Paul

Sechelt Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Could you please say and spell your whole name for us. ELSIE PAUL: It’s Elsie Paul; E-l-s-i-e P-a-u-l. Q. Thank you. And where do you come from? A. I’m from the Sliammon First Nations. It’s the Coast Salish. This is in Powell River. We are neighbours to the City of Powell River. Q. Great. What school did you go to? A. I went to a day school on the Reserve first of all when I was a little girl. It was kind of hit and miss because my grandparents travelled a lot up and down the coast. So when we were on the Reserve in the winter months I went to school there, a one-room day school. Then when I guess I was around ten I went to Sechelt Residential School. Q. Okay. A. I was in Sechelt for probably a year. But it turns out it was two years. They identified two years. So that was quite an experience because I had never been away from my grandparents up until then. I speak mostly our language of the Sliammon people, so adjusting to a totally different culture was very difficult for me and just being away from my grandparents who had always been there for me. My grandparents took me when I was a new baby from my mom because I was the third baby. I was my mom’s third child. In our culture this quite often happened that grandparents helped with the grandchildren. And because my mom and my dad were moving away from the community, they were moving off to Port Alberni where my dad was going to go and work, my grandmother said to my mom that, you know, “you’ve got a handful, you’ve got a little toddler and the oldest being just over two”. We were all a year apart. Q. Wow. A. I being a new baby, my grandmother took me and named me after a child she lost who had gone to Residential School in Sechelt. Q. Did she die in the school? A. She did not die there, but she died shortly after they went and picked her up and brought her home. She was ten years old, nine or ten. So that was a terrible experience for my grandparents. She was younger than my mom. My mom was in Residential School until she was sixteen. When she came out a couple of years later my aunt Elsie went to Residential School. She had never been away, of course, from home. My grandmother said she died of a broken heart. By the time they let my grandparents know that she was very very sick, they finally got a hold of my grandparents and they went by boat, open boat, from our community, which is probably about fifty miles south along the coast to Sechelt, and they got to the beach there and my grandfather went up and picked her up. Nothing was ever said about what she was sick from or what kind of illness she had, but she had lost so much weight and she was really really ill. She couldn’t even walk. My grandfather had to carry her to the boat. So they took her home. They of course rowed home, or whatever means they had. They got home and within a few days she passed away. So for my grandparents that was a real difficult experience for them. It was a tragedy. And from then on when I came along, they named me after that youngest daughter they had. They refused to send me to Residential School. How they did that was by being absent from the community when the children were gathered and taken away to the Residential School. I guess once the school was filled to capacity they didn’t bother with the ones that they weren’t able to capture at the time. So my grandparents always made it a point to be away from the community when the round-up happened. So that went on until I was probably about ten years of age. And then I was sent there. I was pretty much forced to go. It was difficult. It was difficult to be in that environment that had so many restrictions and being with people I didn’t know, other children I did not know at all. But I do remember some kids that came from another community north of us. I was a big sister to one little girl. She was very little. She must have been about five or six years old at the time. I remember her crying and being really sad. So I was made the big sister. I was in the Intermediate Dormitory and she was in the Little Girls’ Dormitory. It was my job to look after her in the morning and get her dressed and to help her with her bath and stuff, and grooming. She didn’t have much hair after the initial entry into the school because, you know, they cut your hair off, so it was just a matter of taking care of her and looking after her. But I remember her crying all the time, being lonely. When you’re ten years old, how do you comfort another child? That’s what sticks in my mind about that time. And kids never having enough to eat. I think back on those days and I wonder was it during the Depression. Was that why there was so little food? Was it because food was rationed at that time? I guess in my own mind I’m trying to justify or make excuses why we didn’t have enough food. There was plenty of food on the table of the people who looked after us. There was butter on that table. We had fat on our bread. That’s what they put on our bread, one slice of bread per meal. The spread that was on there was beef fat or pork fat. When you do your duty and go to clean up the table of the caregivers and you see a beautiful setting there and they have a good choice of food --- So when I think of all that I resent that. But I try to let it go. That was back a long time ago and I’ve learned to let it go. There’s nothing you can do about any of that any more. I remember kids getting punished for wetting their bed and kids crying in the night, being sick, and no one to comfort them. I remember a lot of praying, constant praying. Q. Was it Catholic or Anglican? A. Catholic. Q. Were there Nuns? A. Nuns and a couple of Priests and a Brother I remember being there. I remember being woken up by the Nuns clapping their hands to wake us up. That was our alarm. Without hesitation, without thinking, you dropped on your knees beside your bed and pray. You get up and you go to the washroom and get cleaned up, get your “care” child, the child you’re looking after, and you get her ready as well. You go back and make your bed. You go and help her make her bed. And the beds had to be done just so. This is very early in the morning. Once the beds were all made up we were all lined up in the Dorm and you pray again before you leave that room. Then we go down to the Chapel and go to early Mass. We leave there and go have our breakfast, and then we pray again before breakfast. After breakfast we pray again. Then we go into our classrooms. When you enter the classroom you pray again. When you leave the classroom to go out for recess, you pray again. So every time we entered a room or left a room, we have to pray. That was the whole day. It was just ongoing, constant. You didn’t mingle, you didn’t talk, until you were spoken to. You always had to line up. I remember the food being so very different from what I was used to. The food was so foreign and I thought so terrible. Q. What kind of food did you have at home? A. Mostly we lived on game, deer meat, and a lot of seafood prepared traditionally. That was all I knew, my grandmother’s cooking. We had fried bread or oven bread, jam or dried fruits, dried meat, dried fish and clams. Those were all the foods I was familiar with. And to get there and to have a dish of some sort of stew put in front of me that I was not familiar with at all --- I always remember the food that was put in front of me. It must have been pork stew. I remember the rind being in the stew with the hair on it, with fur on it, and the child next to me was saying that you have to eat that food or else you’re going to be punished if you don’t. I think I blanked it out. I don’t know if I ate it. And then there was custard. I had never had custard before, custard pudding. She kept telling me I had to eat it. In the meantime the Nun is walking back and forth watching over us. You can’t pass it on to anyone else. You have to eat it. So it’s pretty much forced down your throat. If you didn’t want it, that was too bad. You’re going to eat it. Another thing I remember is being given cod liver oil every day. At mealtimes you go and line up. I always remember just dreading that moment of having to go and line up and the Nun would hold the plate in one hand and the can in the other hand. As you get up there you pick up that spoon that’s on the plate – we shared that one spoon – so you pick up that tablespoon while she pours cod liver oil in there. You have no choice. You take it. I remember one time the spoon was so big and it’s so full that I just kind of turned it, you know, dumped out a little bit. Well, just for that I had to take two tablespoons. So you just didn’t go against the rules. That was the worst thing I remember, having to take that. Q. What was the hardest part about Residential School for you? A. Just being homesick. Just being homesick and missing my grandparents. It’s just so foreign and so different. It was such a different environment. We were cooped up and fenced in. I wasn’t used to that, not being able to go home. We were a distance away by boat and there wasn’t the road we have now whereby maybe they would be able to come and visit me by road if we had a road then. But it was by boat that they travelled. So that is what I missed most of all, my grandparents, and the totally different lifestyle altogether. Q. I would like to ask you Elsie, do you remember what years you were at school? A. It was about 1941 and 1942. Q. Thank you. You only had to stay for two years, until you were about twelve. A. Um-hmm. Q. Do you know why you were allowed to not go any more? A. Well, again, my grandparents left the community. My grandfather was a hand logger. He was a fisherman. And he pretty much lived off the land. He had a houseboat that he towed from one place to another up and down the coast, and we lived a lot on the houseboat. So when it was time to go to another logging show that he went to log, things were so different then that he could do that hand logging without having to work for a company, a logging company. He would send the logs down on skids and boom it up and send it away. Or he’s just fishing. Dog fishing we called it. He would set out his line and I would go with him and bait the line and set it out. That’s how he made his living. They used to save the dogfish liver. That’s all you took and that was being processed, sent away, and he made $4 out of a four-gallon can. When he had about ten cans he would take it to market. That was one way for him to make a living. He had a trap line so he had all these different kinds of activities, the kind of work he did, that’s what kept him away from the Reserve, so we only went back to the Reserve around Christmastime. In the fall time we would go back there. But they made it a point to be away from there come August, the end of August, to September. Q. Did you go to school again after that? A. No, I did not. I had a very limited education. I grew up and I learned from life experience. Q. That’s a good education. A. Yeah. I don’t --- Well, I shouldn’t say I don’t regret it. I do regret that I don’t have a formal education. But I did take upgrading. I did take upgrading. When I left school I was told I was at a Grade 4 level. So I took upgrading from then. It was difficult but I got my Grade 10 level. So that’s what I had. And then I got a job as a Social Worker for my community, only because I could speak our language fluently I was given the job by our own people. I could speak fluently. It was very new to transfer the Social Work Program to the communities. So I acquired that job. Before that I worked in other jobs like housekeeping and oyster shucking and jobs like that. I worked at the hospital in Powell River in housekeeping. When I started Social Work then I got my Social Work degree, by attending classes at the University in Vancouver. I would go down there on weekends and do a Friday evening course, Saturday and half a day Sunday. Then I would go back home and continue my work. So that took quite a while. Back then you could get your Certificate with 200 merits, or whatever it was called then. Now I understand you can’t, so I was lucky to get that. So I did get my Social Work degree. Q. How long have you been in Social Work? A. I started to work for my community in ’72. That’s when I was hired. Q. Wow. A. I retired after twenty-four and a half years that I was a Social Worker for the Sliammon Indian Band, and also for the Hamalko (ph.) Band and the Klahoose (ph.) Band because we came under one administration. So I used to go up to the other two communities once a month to each community. So after twenty-four years I couldn’t do it another day. I resigned. That was it. Q. Do you think your experience in Residential School was helpful to you in your Social Work? A. I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think what helped me is the teachings from my grandmother and the other Elders in my community, and having been around them all the time when I was a little girl growing up and being around the Elders a lot, doing things, that was my classroom. That was my teaching. That, to me, is so very important still today, the teaching in our language. It’s called T’ao (ph.). It’s our T’ao. How to respect things, your boundaries, all these things were taught in a very good way from the Elders, to be respectful, to care for people and to look after yourself, because if you don’t look after yourself, no one is going to look after you. You have to get up early in the morning and be busy doing things and not to be lazy and to be industrious. So with all those things my days were busy. I was always busy. And not only that, in the evenings we were told legends and stories and things like that. I was never read to as a child like we do with our grandchildren now with the books, and stuff. But it was all oral teaching. Some of the legends we were told were funny, but there was always a moral to the story. That’s where you learned how to respect the animals, how to respect other people, how to respect Mother Earth, and to be appreciative of all of the things the Creator has given you. So those were my teachings. I value those things. I value those teachings today. So that’s basically it in a nutshell. Q. Thank you. You have answered all of our questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to share? A. Well, I do appreciate what is taking place now. It’s a little late for a lot of our people, like my mom, for example. I’m sure life was hard on her. She went to Residential School through no fault of her own and I’m sure it was very difficult for her because she was there for years, and a lot of other people that I know in our community that have gone there. Some have had it worse than others. So on behalf of my mother I wish she had this opportunity to be able to go through the healing that’s happening. So, that’s it. Q. Thank you so much. --- Speaker overcome with emotion A. Sorry. Q. There’s no need to be sorry. Take your time. --- A Short Pause A. I guess for those reasons is why I’m really motivated to be a part of the healing, not just for myself but for other people, other people who have suffered so much more. My late husband had a difficult life. He went to Residential School for several years. He used to talk about the punishment that he endured, the strappings, and he was not a happy man. He had a lot of problems. He had addictions, alcohol addiction. He didn’t know how to love and embrace the children. He loved them, but he didn’t know how to show it, or for me. That was something he learned in that institution. I regret that. He used to say, “I don’t want to be that way. I love my children.” Because I would get after him, you know, you need to show your children you love them. He would say, “I love my children.” But he could not show it. He could not say it freely, but I know he did. There’s so many like him. He would tell stories about the kids he was in school with, the boys, and how they got strapped just for stealing an apple because they were hungry. Some of them tried to run away and they would get strapped for two weeks every day as a lesson to the other kids. So he lived with all that. So on his behalf, too, I’m glad this is happening. Q. Thank you, Elsie. I want to give you something from us. This is from Manitoba. It’s a rock and we want to give it to you to thank you, and some tobacco as well. A. Thank you so much. And thank you for the work you’re doing. Q. Thank you so much. A. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 30:22
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Part 2 – 4:08

Joseph Desjarlais

Lapointe Hall, Breyant Hall

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay, Joseph, I’ll get you to spell your last name for us. JOSEPH DESJARLAIS: D-e-s-j-a-r-l-a-i-s. Q. Okay. Great. What school did you go to? A. I went to a couple of them, actually. The first one I went to was in Fort Simpson. It was called Lapointe Hall. Q. How old were you when you went there? A. Nine. Q. And the second one? A. Fort Smith. And that was called Breyant Hall. Those were both in the Northwest Territories. Q. How old were you when you went to Fort Smith? A. Eleven. Q. Can you recall your first day at Fort Simpson? A. Yeah. It was pretty strange because we had to fly in by small DC-3 from Yellowknife. Actually, I went to the wrong school. I wanted to go to Fort Smith but somehow I wound up going to Fort Simpson, because all the people that were coming back from Fort Smith had these really nice jackets. It read “Breyant Hall” on the back and it was kind of like those jock jackets. So I wanted one. Everybody else had one. Anyway, I thought I was going to Fort Smith but I wound up going to Fort Simpson. It’s on an island so there was no way to escape. Once you land there, there’s no way off the island, unless you swam. When we landed you could see the Residential School. Up there we call them hostels. We could see the hostel. I could see this humungous building. It looked like an “H”. One side of the “H” would be all the women and girls, and the other side would be Junior boys, Intermediates and Seniors. And the same with the girls. The Administration people lived in the centre part of the “H”, the part that bridges the two. The cafeteria was there, as well as the chapel. The first thing I noticed right off the bat when I got off the aircraft was all the kids were dressed exactly the same. They all had blue jean overalls. They all had tennis shoes. They all had their hair cropped and they really didn’t look too happy, a lot of them. I knew I didn’t really want to be there because none of my friends were there. They went to the other school. I wound up going to this school so I was all by myself, really. The minute I got my foot on the ground I seen the tree line and I grew up in the bush so I felt more safe in the bush than I did --- I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. So I just made a beeline and ran like heck to the tree line and disappeared into the bush. Those guys tried to catch me but they couldn’t, so I stayed in there until the sun went down. There were still lots of mosquitoes so I finally gave up and turned myself in. Because this happens all the time when first time people come in there, they send out the older kids who have been there for years into the bush to talk us out of our hiding spots and say we won’t get punished if we give up now. Plus, it gets dark and you don’t know the area. There was nowhere you could go anyway, like I was saying, you’re surrounded by water. There’s only one bridge and usually what they did was they would park a vehicle at the bridge going out so you were trapped, really. So I gave in and turned myself in. They threw me in the shower. Half the time a lot of the people from the north, well, you know, they hadn’t even seen showers because we all grew up in the bush, on the trap line, more or less. So our first experience with showers and all that kind of stuff was at that hostel. That was kind of strange. Q. What did you think? A. Well, they threw all the guys in there. We had shower shorts. That’s what they called them, anyway. They just threw us all in there. And then it’s kind of like getting processed, in a way. You get your overalls and you get your Sunday blazer and tie and whatnot. Plus everybody spoke French, too. For me it was kind of hard because I didn’t learn how to speak English until I was in Grade 1. Up until that time I spoke Chipewyan. So by the time I went to this school I was in Grade 3 so I had only been speaking English for 3 years, and I was just getting the hang of the English language. All of a sudden we were thrown into this French speaking environment because the hostel was administered by the Jesuits and the Grey Nuns from Montreal. They said all these things to us in French. We had no idea what it meant. But by the tone of their voice you could tell it wasn’t really good, some of the stuff. Right? Q. You weren’t getting a pat on the back? A. Definitely not. You know you’re getting reprimanded for something or other, but you didn’t know what because you had no idea what the rules were either if you were just a newcomer like I was. Usually you would hook up with somebody who had been there at least a year before you and they kind of took you under their wing and showed you the ropes, so to speak. That’s how I managed to get by. I used to get phone calls at least once a week on Sundays and a little bit of money from home, money orders, for canteen. But we weren’t allowed to spend it in town at the Hudson’s Bay Company. Because we all wanted to buy snare wire and go out and catch our own rabbits and whatnot. But we weren’t allowed to. We were sick of eating the food they gave us because we weren’t used to the food they served us. Beets and all this kind of stuff was just gross for us. Asparagus tips, stuff that we don’t eat because we’re meat eaters; caribou, moose, and fish all our lives. So they tried to give us all this other strange stuff that just made us barf, really, because we weren’t used to it. Then we had to eat everything that was given to us. They made sure that we didn’t waste anything. So even if you didn’t like it, you learned to like it eventually. Q. What happened if you didn’t eat all of your food? A. Well, they would give you laundry duty after laundry duty. The place was actually --- They said the Residential School, the hostel, was built on a graveyard. It was right next to --- You could see a graveyard right next to the hostel. Sometimes if you were caught talking at night, like lights were out at 9 o’clock if you were in Junior boys, but they would make you stand at the end of the hall and you had to keep your eyes open. You weren’t allowed to close them. You had to look at all these gravestones for hours on end, know what I mean, because we had an outdoor hockey rink that was always illuminated. But the shadows and everything would just illuminate these headstones. It was really strange stuff. Then you would eventually get to go to bed about a couple of hours later and when you closed your eyes, all you see is these tombstones. Weird stuff. Another thing, like I was saying, the Residence was built on a graveyard. So all the laundry was in the basement. They knew that we knew there was some sort of rumour that the place was built on a graveyard so they would send us downstairs to fold sheets late at night, just freak you out, because you would think if they didn’t dig up those people, this is probably where they would be right about now, where we were folding laundry. It was a pretty heavy head game they used to play on us. That’s the stuff I kind of remember the most. Q. So you said that some of the kids used to run away. But it was an island so you had to be a good swimmer if you succeeded. What happened to them when they got caught? A. When they got caught some of them used to get roughed up. They knew who to pick on and who not to pick on. Like myself, they never really bothered me because I got a phone call every Sunday. I was always in touch with my family. I always had money in my account for canteen. But there were other children there that their parents were trappers and they would go on the trap line in the fall and they wouldn’t come out until the spring. So basically they were the ones that got picked on the most because they knew there was no one there to defend them. But all those kids were really good in the bush. They could take off and survive out there if they had to. But after it got dark, especially when it’s forty or fifty below weather, and even in the fall time it’s inclement weather when it’s raining and gusting. Because you’re right on the Mackenzie River. Fort Simpson is actually what they called Fort of the Forks in the old days. It’s where they built a trading post. The Liard River and the Mackenzie, that’s where they fork and the island is dead centre. It used to be a very important trading post in Alexander Mackenzie’s day and Thomas Simpson. The missionaries have always been there since Day One, really. Q. So you hear the stories of the abuses that happened. Did you see anything like that? A. Well, it certainly happened there. For myself, I was fortunate. There was sexual abuse, but in my case it was just physical. I would get punched out by some of the staff. When the government took over from the Roman Catholics, they only lasted a year and then they abolished all the Residential School system in the Northwest Territories. The only time I received any physical abuse was when the government took over and they brought in these red neck type people from the south, Cowboys and whatnot. They brought that whole attitude, the same way they would treat the Plains Natives, except now they’re in the north. I know for a fact the Priest, he was the administrator --- There was this one woman, one young lady she was pregnant, and then everybody in the community, as the kid started getting older and older, everyone is going, “Gee whiz, that kid looks just like Father Passé.” The more they looked at him, “Yeah, it’s true.” “Hey, you were in school when he was the administrator of Lapointe.” Finally everything came out. I guess he was in another area, the Priest, because he couldn’t handle the truth, so he wound up committing suicide. He took a bunch of pills because everything was going to hit the fan and he couldn’t handle it. Lapointe Hall was where I was. It wasn’t that bad really. A lot of good came out of it. There was still a lot of sexual abuse that went through there. We didn’t really know it was happening at the time. But especially after the government took over after the RC’s, all the guys from Yellowknife, which is where I’m from, and a couple of the other guys like the top track stars, they put us all in one room, like the privileged type. If you were academically out there or a good athlete you got put in this one little special dorm where you got extra privileges. The supervisors used to come in late at night with tea and cookies and hot milk and all this kind of stuff. That was kind of cool. We weren’t thinking much about it. But then he would grab this one guy every time and take him out. He would be gone for a few hours. He would come back. We didn’t think nothing of it, really, at the time. Until this guy comes back one day and he’s got a big bandage on him. What the heck happened there? We’re still too young to put two and two together. But this guy wound up dying, the student, the friend of ours. For the longest time I tried to figure out what to do about that. Do you say anything about these things? Because you really don’t want to rat out on people or anything like that, but some of these people that did do these things deserve to be put up for whatever actions they had done. All those people that I went to school with, a lot of them wound up having a lot of substance abuse problems and criminal problems. Some did manage to do quite all right. But there were a lot there who were really good students when I was there. And then to see them ten years later when I go back to visit every now and again. What the heck happened over the years? Even myself, I try to say to myself that I came out of it relatively unscathed I like to think, but when I think about all the things that I’ve done in the past, whether it’s alcohol related or substance abuse related or whatever, you wonder why you do all these things. Is this normal? It can’t be. So you start looking way back right to the time when I first went to Residential School and figure out the chronology of all the various traumas and see how it affected me. Nowadays I’m trying to rebuild myself and see where I’ve got to work on certain things because I still think the same way I did way back when in certain areas. I haven’t grown, really. But I’m taking steps to try to figure out myself. Q. Look at your life. You know your language. Right? A. Oh yeah, for sure. Q. So if someone said, “Well, I guess it wasn’t that bad Joseph”, what would you say? A. I would have to say “yeah” because we did have a lot of very caring teachers. The school system and the residence were 2 different things. When we went to school we went to a public school that the local community also attended. It wasn’t just strictly --- I believe in the old days the Residential School and the school were one and the same. The residence, Lapointe Hall and Breyant Hall up north in the Territories, you have all your meals and you would reside there, basically. They had the dormitory system and all of that. And the school was just across the street so you would walk across the street and go to school like a normal kid. Q. What about Fort Smith? You were eleven when you went to Fort Smith? A. Fort Smith was actually a lot better because there were a lot more children there who spoke the same language that I did. I’m Dene and there were a lot of different Bands within the Dene Nation, different dialects, so when I went to Fort Simpson I was in Slavey Territory. Slavey and Chipewyan are very similar. You could get by, but we’re not the same, sort of. There were all kinds of Dene and Chipewyan people at Fort Smith so it was easier for me to go to town. I could hear somebody speaking Chipewyan and I would understand them. Q. So they let you speak your language? A. Oh yeah, for sure. They had to. That was at the very tail end of all the boarding schools in the Northwest Territories when I attended. But there were other people there that actually started out in Grade 1 and never left until they were in Grade 12. Some of those people came back to become supervisors, which I’m really grateful for. Jim Antoine, for instance, became premier of the Northwest Territories. He was the first guy --- He went through the whole school system. When I was 9 the first half of the year it was just the Brothers and the Priests and the Nuns that were the supervisors. But after Christmas Jim Antoine came into the picture and it changed the whole story like night and day, being able to live in that type of environment. He used to take us out on wilderness outings on the weekends. We would go out in the bush in forty or fifty below weather. It didn’t matter. In the spring time he would teach us which plants were good to eat and how to survive. Really, it was kind of good for us because sometimes when we did run away we actually didn’t have to starve when we were out there. Q. Well, there were some things that you lost, though, right? A. I sure missed my family, especially my grandparents. That’s the only reason I can speak Chipewyan the way I do is because they didn’t speak English. When that plane first came I was all gung-ho to go. I had my little suitcase all packed and I was ready to go. But then when the plane came all of a sudden I just changed my mind really quickly because I realized none of my friends were with me. I was going all by myself. I signed up because the year before all my friends took off to Fort Simpson and I stayed behind. When they got back that summer, they made it sound like it was really good, so I signed up to go but they didn’t go! Yeah, I guess I missed them. If I had stayed home I would have been a lot better hunter than I am now, and fisherman. I work as a surveyor and I spend a lot of time out in the field, flying around in helicopters and seaplanes and what not, getting dropped off by chopper and having a compass, a map. a GPS Unit and a good axe and I could be gone for days. I feel very comfortable. But I’m not hunting. I’m working. There would be herds of caribou walking by me and I’m not afraid of them or anything. Some people don’t know what certain animals are and they freak out. But when I went home one year I wanted to go to this Chipewyan gathering up in Fond du lac but the plane was full so I just decided to hang out in the community. Then I noticed that they were looking for guides. Big game hunting is a big deal in the Northwest Territories in the fall time, for caribou hunts. They were saying they didn’t have enough guides. So I figured, okay, I’ll apply for a job as a guide. But I didn’t have my guiding license and I really didn’t know how to hunt caribou or clean them, really. I just ate it a lot all my life. I never actually had to go and kill one myself. They said, “Yeah, sure, you can come and work for us but the first week we won’t pay you anything.” I said, “Why not?” “Can’t I get at least minimum wage.” They said, “Well, work for us for a week for free and then you’ll get your guiding license.” So I said, “Okay.” At least it would give me a chance to get back out on the land. But when my brother heard that I was out guiding, he had a laugh. Joe’s out guiding? He doesn’t know how to hunt. I did know how to hunt but I wasn’t really good at cleaning the animals and gutting them as quickly as the guys back home, you know. I know I lost that part. I’m fortunate enough to have all my aunts and uncles still alive, and my mom, and they speak to me in Chipewyan. The story is much more --- It sinks in a lot more when it’s told to you in your Native tongue, as opposed to English, because there are certain words that are not there in English. Especially when you’re told stories of the old days and the bush medicines and all that sort of stuff. So that part there, I’m grateful I still speak the language, but a lot of the times I should have been out on a fall hunt or a spring hunt and winter trapping which I never had a chance to do. Growing up with my aunts and uncles they would always come back from the bush with --- We used to have dog teams when we were growing up. In the summer time we would live off duck eggs. Everything we got from the land. The only thing we got from the store was sugar and salt and tea bags and flour. That’s about it. The rest of the stuff we got out there. We would wear moccasins in the summer time and muskrat hats in the winter; real northern dress. It was forty and fifty below when I was growing up. I remember having a little fur coat. My grandmother made me a little fur coat. It was kind of funny coming from up there because we have so much water and so much minerals, people make a big deal out of wearing fur coats. Geez, you know, what’s up with that? I had one when I was a kid. I thought everybody had one of those. Q. Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience? A. Well, all I would like to say is there was a lot of good that came out of it. In the Northwest Territories a lot of people who did go through the Residential School system went on to become quite prominent in their chosen field, whether it’s fashion design or politics or science and art. Everybody’s got issues. We all have to deal with them the best way we can. It hasn’t been addressed forever until just now, within the last few years. People are starting to think this post traumatic stress disorder type of syndrome, it’s starting to come to the surface. All these traumas that happened to you way back when must have had some sort of effect on the way you are presently. I just want to say that all those who are having trouble out there, try to figure out all the way back to what was your first real traumatic experience and work your way back. Maybe you can figure out what went wrong somewhere along that line and deal with it the best way you can. That’s about it. Q. Great. Thank you for your story. --- End of Part 1 A. Like I was saying, when we were waiting for the plane to take us away, all of a sudden I changed my mind. I didn’t really want to go. I was trying to make a beeline for the hills but my grandmother got a hold of me and she said, “Joey, (speaking Chipewyan) you gotta go to school.” “If I had a chance to go to school, I would have went, but my mother wouldn’t let me go to school.” Because the Priests in the old days used to just come in with a boat and they would round up all the kids under a certain age and haul them all away and then there wouldn’t be any sound of children in the community any more. So I guess my grandmother was the youngest one so the Priest tried to grab her too, but my great grandmother said, “You’re not taking her, she’s staying behind.” “You’ve got all my other kids.” “She’s staying with me.” Consequently she never learned to speak English or write. So she told me she found it quite difficult to live in the White man’s world without knowing how to read, write or understand English. She told me that my aunts and uncles went to school, to these types of schools before you, so in order to get along in today’s society you have to go. You really have to learn and get educated. So go. It’s for your future. So I went. The second time, when I was in Fort Smith, Chief Dan George came up. This was when I was about eleven. He went up there and shot a buffalo. He shared it with all the students in the Residential School. All the Junior boys were at the front, and then the Intermediates and Seniors would be in the back because they could look over the shorter kids in the front. Chief Dan George looked at me. He could tell I didn’t want to be there, eh. But he looked me right in the eye. He said something to me. It was kind of telepathic. It was just like he said, “Don’t worry about it, you won’t be here forever.” “Stick with it and you’ll be out sooner or later.” So I always remember that and I want to thank him for that. That’s about all. Q. What about your jacket? Did you get your jacket? A. Oh yeah, yeah, I eventually did get my jacket. I got my blue jacket with Breyant Hall written on the back. Q. Were you proud of it? A. Yeah, for sure. It was really good. It’s kind of funny that’s what made me want to go to school, to get one of those jackets. But everybody was proud of their jackets. It meant something. I’m sure all the people who went to that school in Fort Smith all remember that blue jacket with the white letters “Breyant Hall”. It was almost equivalent to getting your name in the telephone book, like in that Steve Martin movie! (Laughter) --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 29:35

Melvin Jack

Lower Post Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Could you please say and spell your name for us? MELVIN JACK: My name is Melvin Jack; M-e-l-v-i-n J-a-c-k. Q. What Residential School did you go to? A. I went to Lower Post. Q. What years were you there? A. I believe I was there from --- It was so long ago. Q. How old were you when you started? A. I started when I was 5, so it must have been in 1954-55, maybe earlier. Q. You started when you were 5? A. Yeah. Q. How many years were you there? A. I think I was there until I was thirteen or fourteen years old; 7 or 8 years. Q. Do you remember what life was like before you went to Residential School? A. That is a good place to start because I do remember my life when I was a child. My mother’s name was Gloria and my father’s name was Henry. At the age of 5 years my parents took care of me in a way that a child should be taken care of. It’s not only my parents who took care of me, but it was also the whole Village of Atlin. I remember going on trips across the lake where all the kids went, you know, and everybody took care of everybody else’s kids. We used to sit down and have a big picnic. One lady I speak about – she’s gone now – her name was Rena. When it was time to eat I used to sit by her and wait for fresh bannock to come off the frying pan, put butter on it that would be melting because it was so hot. It was a good time I remember. There was no fighting among our people. They were getting along, enjoying each other’s company, you know, and they were together. That’s as far as I recall before I went to school. Q. Do you remember that first day of school and how you got there? A. I think the first day of school I recall --- My older brother and sister went, and then I was going, so I was excited because I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I was getting away from Atlin. Before I went my mother Gloria used to sit on the hill in August and she was crying. We thought it was funny at the time. She used to say, “August moon”, and I realize now that she was crying because all her children were being taken away. I didn’t realize that until I was an adult. But when I got to the school it was night and day. There wasn’t the loving respect we got from all our First Nations. When we got there we were lined up. We were de-loused. We had hair cuts. And when I tried to ask questions I was told to shut up and stay in line. I was blown away so I had to keep quiet. Q. Did you speak English when you went? A. Yes, I spoke English and I spoke a little bit T’lingit, but not fully. I understood T’lingit. My father used to take me over to a place across from our house there, Johnny Anderson’s place. Johnny Anderson I believe was Wolf. I’m Wolf. I follow my mother’s side. My father was Crow. My father was Kokotan (ph.). My mother was Yenyedi (ph.) He used to take me over and I used to sit by John Anderson. My dad would say “sit by him”, and I would sit right on the floor by him. It’s not punishment. At the time I thought they were harsh, but it wasn’t punishment. It was to teach us. I could hear them talking in T’lingit and I sat there so much I began to understand what they were saying. And then I mentioned something and they were all surprised. They looked at me. When I was getting restless and stuff, the old man used to tell me to sit still. There was no physical punishment, punching, or anything like that. Q. It was a good educational system? A. Yes, it was, out of respect, not out of fear. Q. What was a typical day like at school? What time did you wake up? Do you remember that? A. I don’t recall the time. But the first thing when we got out of bed, we were on our knees praying. We had to pray before we went downstairs, and then we went to the Play Room downstairs, and then we had to pray before we went to breakfast, pray before we had breakfast, pray after breakfast, pray before we went to school, pray at recess, pray before we went to dinner, pray before we ate dinner, pray after dinner, pray before we went to school, pray at recess again, pray before we left school, pray before we went to supper, pray before supper, after supper, and before we went to bed. So they taught us well about their higher power. Q. What about the food? A. I think the food --- I don’t know how nutritious it was. They feed you mush in the morning, slimy mush. I don’t know how they cooked it. It didn’t taste too good. I believe it wasn’t fresh milk. They gave us powdered milk. Some of the students couldn’t eat the mush. They were getting sick and I remember the Nuns used to come and beat them up. They would say, “Other people are starving, you eat it.” They forced them to eat it. We used to get hamburger, big round hamburgers, and you would open it up and it’s just a shell and there’s grease in there. At Easter time --- I recall when we were in Lower Post we were too far away from home to go home for lunch. They used to have Lent, that’s what they called it, and they used to fast. All we ate was just a slice of bread and milk and broth, like OXO, you know, you mix it in water. That’s what they gave us. Unfortunately the Staff there were eating a lot better than us because they had their own room and as we were walking by we could see drumsticks sticking out from under the washcloth, and everybody would say, “Look, chicken, chicken.” So they treated themselves differently than us. They were preaching to us to fast because of their higher power. Whatever happened? Q. What about chores? Did you have to do chores? A. Yeah, we were forced to do chores, washing floors and cleaning toilets, whatever, to keep the place clean. I think one of the things I had difficulty with as a young child is I used to pee the bed and I used to get punished for that. I remember one of the punishments was going on the playground and being told to pick up a hundred and twenty-five buckets of rocks. The pails were quite big. They were like this (indicating) and about that (indicating) high. I think they were two-gallon or three-gallon pails. To this day I can’t imagine such a young child, 4, 5 or 6 years old, lugging the rocks across the playground and being beaten by the supervisor because I wasn’t fast enough. I could barely lift the bucket up, never mind carry it. I had to pick up a hundred and twenty-five buckets of rocks while the other kids played. Q. Are there other experiences, things that happened to you that really stand out that you can share today? A. Yes. I was abused by the supervisor. I believe I was 6 or 7 years old at the time. I didn’t know what was going on. His reward to me was a chocolate bar. Unfortunately I talked about it after. I talked to one of the boys and it got back to him. We were in the Dormitory and he gathered everybody up and he called me up. He didn’t speak. He didn’t explain to anybody why he was punishing me. He just told me I shouldn’t have talked about it. He laid me over a desk and he had a fibreglass fishing rod and started to whip me, to the point where I lost control of my bladder and I was screaming. Every time I screamed he told me to shut up. That sealed my lips for it seemed like an eternity. Also I was questioned by the principal, Father Levac (sp?). He brought me up there --- --- Speaker overcome with emotion Did Mazinsky (ph.) --- We called him Mr. George because we couldn’t pronounce Mazinsky. Did Mr. George --- I don’t know the exact words, but you know, “Did he abuse you?” Did you want to, you know? And how was I supposed to answer? So I don’t recall what the answer is today. But after that, when I was questioned, he was removed from the school for a short period of time. He was assigned to Senior Boys. He called me to the edge of the playground. It was near the edge of the river there, and I still remember it to this day where he was crouching down. I was so small. He said, “The Senior Boys are going to beat the shit out of you for what you said.” I could see the river running by and at that time I felt like running down to the river and throwing myself in. It wasn’t anger. I don’t know if it was fear, or what. But that little boy is back. He was away for a long time. Q. Did you ever try to run away from school? A. Yes, I did try a couple of times, but it was fear that kept me there, fear of seeing other boys who had the courage to run away, they were brought in front of all the boys and their heads were shaved. All their hair was cut off. They were stripped down and they were whipped with the fibreglass rod to the point at one time one of the boys was bleeding. That individual who was whipping him, I don’t know whether he was getting his jollies out of it, because the more he screamed the harder he hit. The sad part of it is when the boys were being punished, you might call it capital punishment or whatever you might call it, it was used to strike fear into us Junior Boys. One of my buddies did something wrong. I don’t know what it was. But one of the supervisors, Brother Guy they called him, brought him up in front and explained what he was being punished for. He was going to spank him, or whatever, and he tried to get away. He grabbed him, and he grabbed him by the arm and he was on the ground. He was pulling his arms up so much you could see it coming up behind his shoulder. He was screaming. So a lot of the boys started crying out of fear. I don’t know if it was fear or compassion. Brother Guy would go there and he would dish it out and tell them to shut up with their crying. I used to call it cry hiccups, you know, when you are trying to hold it down. At the time he was beating up this individual, he went down, so he started kicking him, kicking him. And his shoes flew off. So one of the boys started laughing. Brother Guy went over and tried to grab him. He pulled away so he grabbed him by the hair and dragged him up there and started clubbing him down with his shoes. It wasn’t a very nice place. Q. Were you able to go home in the summer? A. Yes, we were able to go home in the summer. But the change when I came back was like night and day. Like I said, my mom used to cry on the hill there, you know. And First Nations weren’t allowed to drink then. I look back now, the first week in August, second week in August, they started putting up home brew, I think to drown their sorrows, to drown their pain and stuff, you know. I don’t recall after I came back from the Residential School that my mother said “I love you”, because I believe today that she couldn’t love me because she couldn’t hold me. I was gone ten months out of the year. Q. Did you ever get a chance to talk to her about your experiences? A. I’ve talked to her about my experiences, but she didn’t believe me because the abuser at the time portrayed such a dignified --- I don’t know what you would call it. -- what a good supervisor he was and how much he cared for the kids. I was just told to shut up. “That never happened.” I shut up. I never talked about it. Q. Did you hold that in for many years? A. I held it in I believe for fifty years. Q. When did you first start talking about it? A. I started talking about it when I was forty years old, give or take. And I didn’t realize at the time I was talking to a counsellor, a female counsellor, that’s the only kind of counsellor I’m comfortable with is a female counsellor, and she said “I wish you could see your body language when you were talking about it.” “You are always tensing up and shaking and trying to fight it to keep the secret down, for whatever.” I shut if off. I never talked about it for years. I got married and I was married at the time. My wife told me I needed some counselling. I used to get mad. I said, “No, I don’t.” I realize now today that maybe we would still be together if I had listened to her. Q. What made you first seek counselling? A. After the separation from my wife I realized there was something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. So I needed to trust somebody to try and find out what it was. I used to be scared of my anger. I remember beating up people bigger than me and I just blacked out. When I came to, they were on the ground and I’m just pounding, you know. I was scared of that. Q. So Residential School impacted the rest of your life? A. Yes, it sure did. I drank a lot. I hardly did any drugs in my early years, but I drank a lot. I was drinking myself to death. I lived from pay cheque to pay cheque, you know. Q. Do you have children? A. I have 3 boys. Q. Have you ever talked to them about your experiences? A. I talked very little with them about the experience, and I think they understand. I think I’m going to find the right time to talk to them about it. At one time when I went to where I’m part of the Trailblazers and we went to court. We’re down in Terrace and we lost some people in Carcross, and I was working as the spokesperson at the time so I had to come North to sort of represent the Band. A very close friend of mine phoned me from Terrace, one of the support workers, Joanne Filion (sp?). She said, “The verdict came down.” “Twenty-nine charges against this guy.” And she said, “Would you like to hear it?” I said, “Yes.” --- Speaker overcome with emotion Q. Do you want us to pause for a moment? A. No, I’m okay. I just need to take a breath. Q. Take your time. Take a sip of your juice and take a moment. --- A Short Pause A. Being a single parent I was always trying to be strong for my boys. I said, “Go ahead.” She starts, “Guilty.” “Guilty.” I just broke down. I started crying. I never ever, ever cried in front of my boys before. My throat is hurting now because I know every time I wanted to cry I forced it down. We were never ever allowed to cry at school. We were never ever allowed to show any kind of emotions; happiness or sadness. I think we were taught to be zombies. And when I started crying 2 of my boys just took off to the bedroom. My oldest one, Kyelone (ph.) held me as I was crying. He was calling down the church, that he was going to kill this man. I told him it’s not the church. But it was a difficult journey for me. It’s getting a lot easier. I taught my boys. I guess I should practice what I preach because I would tell them it’s okay to cry. And then when I feel the need to cry, I push it down. Then I went to treatment, to Tsow Tun Le Lun. I never realized that --- I want to explain something about when I was talking about that little guy. Every time I looked at him he was hunched over crying, and I didn’t want to go near him. When I went down to Tsow Tun Le Lun, I went into a medicine lodge and a very strange thing happened to me down there. I was sitting. We were helping the Elders out. We were going to have a “Honouring the Elders” down there. I was sitting down, and somebody said, “Hello Melvin”. I looked around and I thought somebody was fooling me so I didn’t pay attention. Then I had to go to the front. I was going to have a doctor’s appointment and there were only 2 Elders there. Then he said, “Hello Melvin”. So I went to see the counsellor and talked. So I went in the room there and prayed. Then I went to see him in the sweat lodge and I talked to him and he said, “Were you close to any woman?” And I said, “my mother, but she’s passed away.” So he said, “Get a dark cloth and we’re going to bring it back.” I didn’t realize at the time my mother was part of my healing, and even if she was passed away, she came back to assist me. And when I was in the medicine lodge I got a stick and hit back all that shit that guy gave me, you know. I don’t fuckin want it. Take it. Take it. I could see that little guy sitting there. I was really angry. I was screaming and hollering and everything, and beating the ground. I could visualize him, you know. I could see him kind of in a semi-dark room. I started hollering to him. Go away! Go on! --- Speaker overcome with emotion I could see him running toward me. I brought him back. Right now I don’t know if I feel anger, but I know I need to talk about it some more. I think we need to find a way to educate our politicians on the pain they inflicted on our people. My mother was a good teacher. She was always kind. She treated people good. Also the Elder taught me to be good to people. Be careful of the words you say. Once they come out of your mouth you can’t take it back. Sometimes I get so angry I just want to hurt people and try to make them understand how they are hurting other people. But I know I can’t go there. I’m trying to teach my boys the good life. I remember one time I had to spank one of my boys, Jonathon. I was strapping him. And as I was going to my bedroom I seen Gerry, my oldest one, holding him as he cried. He said, “What the hell are you doing?” You are doing the same thing that was done to you in the school. So I changed. We’re staying at the end of the village where there’s no people. So it’s going to be “talk about ourselves” night. So Kyelone (ph.) went downstairs and shut the power off. I said, “Okay, Joey”, my youngest one was 5 years old, “talk about your life.” “Don’t be scared.” “I’m not going to hurt you.” Joey talked about himself. He said, “When you scream at me you scare me.” So I said, “Tell me when I do that.” “When you start screaming dad, you scare me.” So I cut it out. Another time my son Gerry, you know, I said, “Did you ever say you love yourself?” And he said, “No.” Well, say it. “I love you Gerry”, he said. I said, “I can’t hear you?” “I love you Gerry”. I said, “I can’t hear you?” And he started screaming. He started crying, “I love you Gerry.” So I took him to the sink and I picked up a cup. I filled it with water. And as I poured the water I said, “Look Gerry, I love you dad, I love you mom”, but there’s nothing left in the cup for you. You gotta learn to love yourself. And I think that’s what I’m getting them to do, I hope. But there was so much pain in there. I bumped into a buddy I haven’t seen for thirty years. The last time I seen him was thirty years ago, or more, and part of me wanted to cry, you know. Q. Did you see somebody you went to school with? A. Yes. I went to school with --- Q. Would you like to go on to another tape, or do you --- A. I think I’m fine. I think it’s okay. Q. Do you want to finish now? A. Yeah, sure, I can finish. Q. Do you have many things you would like to talk about? A. No. I can talk all day. But I think most of what I need to say, I’ve said it, you know. Q. Are there any final things you would like to share? A. I think the final thing I need to say is we need to educate the government on the impact on First Nations. They are ignoring it, you know. They refuse to understand what the put First Nations through, and they think just a few dollars will shut us up. No, it won’t. It’s like the little Dutch boy and the leaking dike. He’s got all his toes, and his nose and everything, and it’s still leaking. That dike is ready to break. Q. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. A. Thanks. Q. You’re done. You got through it. You did a good job. I know that’s hard to do. A. I didn’t realize. Q. It is harder than you think. --- End of Interview

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http://wherearethechildren.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/40-Aggie-George.mp4
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Part 1 – 18:27

Aggie George

Lejac Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Can you say and spell your name for us? AGGIE GEORGE: Aggie George; A-g-g-i-e G-e-o-r-g-e. Q. And where are you from? A. I’m from Notley, from the Notley Reserve. Q. How do you spell that? A. Nautley; N-a-u-t-l-e-y. --- Transcriber’s Note : I’m not sure of the spelling. Q. What school did you go to? A. Lejac School. Q. Where was Lejac? A. Between Fort Fraser and Fraser Lake. Q. What years were you there? A. Well, I went there when I was 5 years old. That’s 1943 to 1954. Q. Do you remember your first day of school, and can you talk about that? A. I was pretty little. I don’t know. I can’t remember. Q. Okay. Do you remember even other years? Would your parents take you to school, or would people come and get you to take you there? A. Oh yeah. Q. People came and picked you up? A. I don’t know. The first few years I was too little to remember anything. The first year I remember, or a couple of years that I went there, the first time all we did was play outside. We never do anything because we were too little, 5 or 6 years old. Q. So they weren’t teaching you when you were really little? A. No. All we did was play outside, or in the Playroom. Q. Do you remember a typical day, like what time you woke up, even later, not when you were really little, but what time you woke up, the chores you had to do and stuff like that? A. I think they used to wake us up at 6 o’clock in the morning. We used to get washed up, dressed up and go to church. That’s the first thing we did every day. Q. What about your culture? Were you able to speak your own language? A. We weren’t allowed to talk our language. We never get taught our culture. We don’t even know how to set nets or anything like that. But I do a lot of beadwork. My mom taught me how when I was about 6 or 7 years old. That’s all I know how to do. Q. Do you remember life before you went to Residential School at all, when you were living at home? A. No. Q. It’s a long time ago. So how would you describe your experience at Residential School? A. I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t like to think about it. You get punished for even looking at them a different way. They used to make you stretch out your arms (indicating) and kneel on the concrete floor for hours. Sometimes you get blamed for nothing at all and you get punished for that and they never tried to really find out who did what or why. I did that a lot of times. Maybe because I was fair, I figured, they picked on me quite a bit, I’ll tell you, because I looked like a little White girl, eh. I think that’s why they picked on me so much. Not only me, there were about 6 of us that really were fair. Q. Was it a Catholic school, or Anglican? A. Catholic; Roman Catholic. Q. And you had to go to church every day? A. Every morning, and then sometimes at night. Q. What did you think of that? A. Oh, I didn’t like it at the time. But now maybe I’m glad I did. Q. Why? A. I see a lot of people sleep til twelve, or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m used to getting up at 6 o’clock, and now I get up at 4. I think I learned quite a bit of things. But they were mean. Q. So most of your memories are bad memories from the school? A. Oh yeah. Q. Can you talk a little bit about the meanness? A. If they ask you a question or something like that and you didn’t know the answer, they would hit you on the back with those yardsticks. They’re about that wide (indicating) and they didn’t use it this way (indicating), they used it that way (indicating), the end way. I got that a lot of times. One time I ran away. I got strapped on bare bum with a strap about that wide (indicating) and about that thick (indicating). Q. That’s when you got caught? A. Yeah. Q. Can you talk about running away, like why you ran away and how far you got? A. We didn’t get very far, not even half-way to Fort Fraser, I don’t think. We just couldn’t take all that. We were feeling lonely and missing our parents. We were not supposed to be taken away at all. But the reason why my mother and the whole Reserve let us go is that they kept threatening them they would take away our allowance, which was $6. They didn’t know how else to make money, eh. So we had to go. Q. So your community didn’t want to send the children, they were forced to. A. Not really. I guess they were just as lonesome for us as we were for them, too. But they were threatened. They would take that $6 a month away if we didn’t go. Q. What was it like going home in the summer and seeing your family? A. Oh, it was joyful. Q. What would you do? Were you able to practice some traditions and some of your culture in the summer? A. I don’t know. I guess some of us did. But like me, my mom used to teach me how to do beadwork. That’s how I learned. She’s still after me to do beadwork. If I didn’t do it right --- Q. Is your mom still alive? A. Oh yeah. She’s eighty-seven years old and she still does beadwork and moose hide. Q. Wow. Did she go to Residential School as well? A. No. She never. She’s never been to school. She doesn’t know how to write or read. Q. What was the food like at school; like breakfast and lunch? A. Have you ever ate rice and macaroni together, with a little bit of meat, like what you would give to a pig. I promised somebody that I would make one for them and they told me “no thank you”. Q. What about chores? Did you have a lot of chores to do, like cleaning and stuff? Did you have to do a lot of cleaning at the school, washing floors, cleaning the bathrooms and that sort of thing? A. Oh yeah. Q. Can you talk about that, the chores you did? A. Well, we had to clean the offices, the classes, the playrooms, and the bathrooms. We would each take a turn at everything. We rotated the chores, eh. It was not bad. Q. It was more the punishments --- You were saying they hit you because you didn’t get a question right in the classroom, that sort of thing. Was that the worst part of it? A. No, it wasn’t bad, for me, anyway. If we had to do it, we had to do it. That’s all there was to it. Q. Are there any other things you want to share today? A. Not really. Why are we always talking about this? Why talk, talk, talk? We want to see some action. What I think is that the government are waiting for some more people to pass away then they’ll just have a little revenue to pay out, that’s what I figure. Q. Do you feel the process right now, what they’re doing, isn’t working? A. We’ve been talking about this for how many years now? And a lot of people I am so sorry they have missed out on this. Q. How are things for you now? Like you said when you came in you don’t even like to think about Lejac. It still hurts today? A. Oh yeah. They called us dumb Indians. You’re good for nothing. You’re lazy. But most of the time we didn’t know, eh. We didn’t know the answer. There was something else I was going to say. I forgot now. I can’t remember. I can’t remember very good. Q. If it comes to you, just say it. A. I haven’t talked about this ever since I left Lejac. I starting drinking about a year after I left Lejac, just a little at first, eh. But then it got heavier and heavier and heavier. But I quit about ten years ago. Q. That’s good. A. And I blocked all that Lejac just right off. And my sister said she noticed a lot of things about me that I don’t even know I’m doing, eh. Like she says if people get too close to me, I start getting mad and then I push them away. I tell her, “why is that?” And she tells me, “Because of this Residential School, that’s why.” She noticed that a lot about me. I never noticed! Q. Have you ever talked to your mom or your sisters about Residential School? A. No. I never talk at all, period. I just don’t like to talk about it or even think about it. Sometimes when I’m by myself, doing beadwork or something, I stop all of a sudden and tears just start coming down. Then I go have a nap. After I feel a little better, eh. Q. Is this the first time you’ve talked about it openly like this? A. Yes. Q. So this must be hard. A. Um-hmm. All those things I remember. Q. So you find that it helps not to just think about it at all. For healing, to make you feel better, you find it’s best to just not think about it? A. I don’t think so. I don’t think it will heal up. Maybe prayers might. But I’m still going to church and I still pray. I’ve been taught that way all my life. Q. Does coming to something like this help, hearing people talk and being with other people that went through the same experience, does that help? A. Yeah. I would like to see the video. I got the video. I might remember something and maybe I’ll write about it if a whole bunch of us get together and write about it, maybe, you know. Q. That’s a good idea. I know other people who have done that, where the community all got together and wrote their stories and they made a book. A. And when we’re sick --- I remember I’m pretty sure I had pneumonia one time and I tried to tell the Sister. All they did was make me dress up and go to church and to school. My sides were just hurting. They won’t believe you. They figure we’re faking it, eh. I remember this one boy, I don’t know what happened to him, but he got sick. Maybe they just give him an aspirin or something, and he died that night. They never tried to really find out what is the matter. They never did. Q. Did they have a funeral for him at the school? A. Um-hmm. I remember that. I was just a little girl. If we tell them we have a headache or an earache or something, “Oh, you’re just putting it on.” “You don’t want to go to this place and you don’t want to go to class”, or something like that. “You’re not sick.” That’s what they would tell us. Sometimes to punish they would make us go to bed without eating, or without the movie. They had a movie once a week, I think it was, yeah, once a week. Q. Are there any final things you would like to say? A. No, that’s okay. Q. Thank you very much for coming today. I know it takes a lot of courage to sit there and talk about it, so thank you very much. A. Okay. Thank you. Q. You’re welcome. --- End of Interview

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http://wherearethechildren.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/38-1-Dennis-Greene.mp4
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Part 1 – 33:33
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Part 2 – 14:21

Dennis George Greene

Ermineskin Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay. Can you tell us your name and spell it for us, please. DENNIS GEORGE GREENE: My name is Dennis George Greene. I have since added an “E” to Greene. It’s G-r-e-e-n-e. Q. And where are you from? A. I’m from the Samson Cree Nation in Alberta. Q. So you don’t live in BC right now? A. No. I’m just passing through. Q. Oh good. We haven’t had anyone from Alberta here today. What school did you attend? A. I attended Ermineskin Residential School. Q. Ermineskin? A. Yeah. Ermineskin. Q. Where was that? A. At the same location, in Hobbema, but it’s the neighbouring Reserve. There are 4 Reserves. Q. Okay. And just roughly what years were you there? A. Probably in the sixties, yeah, sixties to early seventies. Q. How old were you when you started? A. I was 7 years old when I first attended Residential School. Q. What Grade did you go into? A. I was in Grade 2, I think. I was starting Grade 2. Q. Did you go to school somewhere else for kindergarten and Grade 1? A. No. It was the same place. There were day scholars, as they called them, the ones that came during the day. But we all attended the same school, the Ermineskin School. But in the evenings the Residential School students went back to the dorms. One side was the girls’ side and the other side was the boys’ side. Q. Do you remember your first day? A. Yeah. Q. Can you talk to us a little bit about that? A. It was in the fall. I kind of came in late because my father and my mother and my family used to --- My father actually brought me. It was in late fall because my parents, my family used to work off Reserve, and my dad was a farm labourer. But he would take the family every summer and work all over central Alberta. I kinda came in late that year because we were out. It was in the evening when I got dropped off. It was already dark. My mom didn’t come in, but my dad walked me in. We were met by a Nun. It was scary because I didn’t know these people. I found it hard the first night I was there because I got assigned to the little boys’ dorm, they used to call it. I got moved to one of those dorms. So that was hard for me the first night I was there. I was scared. Actually, I was terrified. I had to deal with that abandonment issue regarding my first day, but I’ve done that. Q. Were you able to sleep that first night? A. No. I remember being scared because it was new. I wasn’t used to all these kids sleeping on these beds. I didn’t even know who was there. I was scared. I think I cried all night. That was my first day. Q. Was it hard to leave your dad? A. Yeah, because I wasn’t used to that. I was so used to being around my family. Q. Can you describe a typical day, what time you would have to wake up? A. It depended if you had to go to church. I don’t really remember the routines for my first --- I used to get up around 8 maybe, and you would have to get up. You had to get dressed and go wash up, brush your teeth, and you had to make your bed. Then you would go downstairs and line up for breakfast with the younger boys. Like I started with the little boys, they called them. We were still being paraded around like soldiers. We went down, standing in line, not in the Kitchen but outside. There was another big room where all the lockers were around on all sides of the walls. We would line up. I think the little boys used to eat first. And then you would line up. It’s like the Army where you line up, and everything, and like jail. They do that, too. All the food is in place and you get a tray and you get whatever you have to eat that day. Q. Like prison or the Army? A. Yeah. We would go through the Kitchen and get whatever they were serving. Then you would go sit down at one of the tables in the Dining area. Q. Were there a lot of children in that school? A. Yeah, there were a lot. There were younger ones and teenagers and the older boys, bigger boys. Q. What Grade did it go up to? A. At that time I think it went up to Grade 12. Q. Were you there right to Grade 12? A. No. By the time I was done they only had Grade 9 and I had to go to school in the neighbouring towns. I went to Ponoka and eventually I went to Edmonton to finish my high school there. Q. What about chores? A. We were assigned different chores. I can’t remember if they were changed weekly, I think, but I used to do kitchen detail sometimes. You were assigned a row of tables. You had to clean them off, wash them off, sweep the floor, wash the floor in that area. Sometimes you were assigned bathroom detail or dormitories. You would have to sweep them out. There were bathrooms up there, too. In the winter months, later on, you had to do the sidewalks. They always found something for you to do. Q. What about the education there? Did you feel like you received a good education? A. I guess so. But because I was forced I think after a while you got scared of being punished. You got so conditioned into doing things. It was part --- In the early years the Nuns and the Priests did the teaching, too. Q. It was a Catholic school? A. Yeah, but it was mixed. We had some teachers. I remember some of my teachers were Nuns. I’m not too sure, but the Priests ran the school at one time. They were principals. But it was a strict school. You got strapped. We got hit with wooden rulers with the metal sticking on the edges. I got hit on the head once and they cut my head. Q. Is that where the scar is? A. No. There is one beside it, a smaller one. Yeah. I got hit with the ruler. In the early years it was really strict. I got used to doing what I was asked to do, because I took a lot of punishment. Sometimes I would get in trouble. After a while, all the straps I got, after a while I got used to it, being punished. Q. It was a bad experience then? A. Yeah. Q. Can you talk about any specific times and memories you have of things that happened? A. Just some of the teachers I hated, because they were mean. You had to endure that for one year. The fights. I got into a lot of fights, not only with the people in the Residential School, but the other kids coming in. It was kind of like we were 2 separate groups. I’ve never been in jail but I understand. I had the same experience. Every day was about survival. Only the toughest survive. So at one point I became a protection racket because when I was younger I used to be under somebody else’s protection, so I in turn became one. Q. In the school? A. Yeah, in the Residential School. Q. Can you talk about that a little bit, how that worked? A. How that worked was if you couldn’t fight --- I think they still do that in jail, according to people that I talk to. It’s about being tough. Only the tough survive. If you didn’t, your food or anything was taken away. If you couldn’t fight for it, chances are you couldn’t --- If you can’t defend yourself, you know, you’re going to get bullied and pushed around. I took that for the longest time until one day I just started fighting back. And when I won my first fight I just kept going. One day I climbed up the hierarchy and I ran my own protection racket. I protected kids younger than me for guys that couldn’t fight. It was just that my mother taught me to protect people that can’t fight for themselves. So eventually parents started paying me to protect their kids. That’s the way it was. I had to fight a lot of times protecting my cousins and my relations like my nephews, so I got good at it. Q. Was there more than one person involved? Did a few of you protect the other children? A. A lot of us. Q. Would you ever protect them against the teachers, or was it really just other students? A. Other students within the Residential School, or even the day scholars they used to call them. They were the kids that got to go home every day. Q. So some kids were able to go home every day? A. Yeah. But we were a mixture during the day in the school. It was the only --- Well, there were other little schools but Ermineskin was probably the biggest school at that time with Grade 12. The rest were those one-room schoolhouses. Q. What would the teachers do about the fighting? Did they ever try to stop it or get involved in any way? A. Sometimes. I seen students getting thrown around when they were fighting, or getting hit with rulers and yardsticks. Later on I seen students getting hit with hockey sticks. It was about survival, not just from the students, the kids coming in during the day, even the teachers. Some of them used to fight the teachers. It was a world of violence. I seen a lot of violence, a lot of anger, a lot of rage. The teachers would take it out on us. Q. What about your culture? Did you feel they were taking that away from you as well? A. I think I lost my culture the day I walked in. I’m just starting to reclaim it now. Actually, I just did it over the weekend. But other than that I didn’t really have a belief system after I got out. I really didn’t like Christianity, but I recently made peace with the church because I realized it wasn’t the teachings of Christ that did all the abuse. It was the people that used that. Q. Do you remember what your life was like before you went to school? Were there certain cultural things like spirituality involved? A. Yeah. I remember going to a give-away in the winter months with my dad. My dad was a singer and later on I found out he was given the Sun Dance Lodge and the Give-Away Lodge. He knew the clan songs, the ceremonies and the rituals. But my dad was at boarding school, too, so he never really handed anything down. So I’m probably second generation. So for us that part of our life was cut. But I attended Sun Dances with my family, my grandparents and my mother. We always used to move to the Sun Dance grounds. Prior to Residential School there was a strong family connection, not just with my family but with the extended family. But in boarding school I was isolated from all that. Eventually I kind of distanced myself from everybody, not just my family, but everybody. Again, I’m just starting to make those connections. Q. That’s good. Was it hard to go home in the summer? A. No. I looked forward to going. Q. Were you ever able to talk to your parents about what you felt about Residential School? A. No. I guess one of the things you learned was it was best not to say things. I lost my voice. I shut down emotionally. I couldn’t talk about these things. It has been hard. I just started doing that and learning to communicate and express my feelings. That is new to me. Even this, besides the Discoveries I went to, this is probably the second time I’m going to talk about my Residential School experience. But other than that, nobody has heard my story, not even my family. Q. Do you think you’ll be ready soon to talk to your family? A. I don’t know. It’s going to take a while. Because you are dealing with so many issues. Right? It’s not just these people took everything. You were just stripped. You have to relearn a lot of things, even to be able to connect with other people, you know. So most of my life I’ve been probably what you call a loner. I have friends, but it’s not like I talk to them. I don’t talk about stuff like this. I didn’t, anyway. So I think I’ll have a lot of stories to be telling. I don’t even talk to my wife. Q. Did she go to Residential School? A. No. Actually, my relationships haven’t really been too good either because I’m unable to express feelings or to be affectionate because that’s something I didn’t learn. Like I said before, most of my life I’ve learned to --- I guess I still had that mentality where it was better not to say anything, because in Residential School if you showed emotion it was a sign of weakness. In order to survive you had to shut down. Q. So even if you cried, or something? A. People ridiculed you, even if you laughed. Even laughter. So for the longest time I wasn’t able to do that. But now I’m going through a healing process and I’m able to show those emotions. Q. Are there any specific experiences that you underwent in Residential School that you would like to share today? A. Any experiences? Q. Any certain events? A. Probably the violence. For me my life has been violent, not that I --- My thinking was always with my fellows. Like these guys here, before I would probably size them up and see if I can take them out, eh. That’s the way I looked at them. One look and I knew if they were tough guys or I could just walk all over them. That’s the way I looked at my fellow men. Like I said, that was in the past. I just got back from the House of Healing so I dealt with a lot of issues. Being there, it was kind of like they rewrote my history in Residential School, what it was supposed to have been, with Elders and teachers teaching you life skills, with Elders telling you the teachings and everybody was showing friendship and showing they cared. We were even allowed to hug other men. I’m able to do that. Even today, I feel comfortable because in there I was always tense. I was already in survival mode. In the morning when I get up and all day until I went to bed it was the same thing every day. So later on when I grew up that’s the way I lived in my community. I was always in survival mode, being uncomfortable around others. Most of my life I trained to be a better fight. I have fought most of my life. I have been stabbed, shot at, piled up on, but I survived. I lived in that world of violence. I trained in different martial arts, boxing and I have a First Degree in Tai-Kwan-do, but it was always about taking power from my opponents. I got used to that, to take power from my fellow men. Q. That’s how you knew to survive. A. Yeah. Q. Did that last a long time? Is it only recently that you --- A. ’96 I went to my first healing program and I realized that there were others. I didn’t know that there were other forms of strength and courage. I seen men crying. I seen them talking about it. So I realized there were other forms of strength and courage, even coming from the program I was in. I really honour those men that talk about everything, whether it’s relationships, their addictions, their anger and their rage. It helped me to understand the Nuns and the Priests. A lot of them were forced into looking after our People in the Residential Schools. A lot of them were forced. I think a lot of them didn’t go there willingly. Like what the Elder told us over there, she said that they weren’t ready for us. A lot of it, I seen the anger in those people at times when they blew up with rage. I understand my anger and the rage. It was all about rage. A lot of times I was a walking time bomb and I would explode once in a while when I couldn’t hold it any more. I understand now about colonization. I’ve learned to forgive these people. Q. If you could see them today, what would you say to them? A. What would I say to them? I would probably tell them I forgive them, but it’s up to the Creator. I can’t judge them. I don’t know. Like our saying, “You have to walk a mile in their moccasins.” But even to be able to forgive, I’ve been working on that. Because of the teachings of the Elders and reclaiming my identity, my belief system, I’m able to understand. I can’t live in the past. I can’t undo what was done. Those things helped me survive. So I can’t really say they were all bad. In an environment like that you have to survive. All the rest that didn’t make it, they either died from suicide or alcohol. They just died off, most of the people I knew at school. Q. Really? A. Yeah. I guess honouring yourself that you survive to this point in your life, but to be able to go on a healing journey is another thing. A lot of our People aren’t ready for that. They are still out there drinking and doing drugs, living in denial. But that’s why I’m doing this to show them that we can go beyond this experience. Q. Are there any other experiences that you would like to talk about? Even right after Residential School, what did you do when you were done Residential School? Did you work? A. I took off. I was only fourteen. When I moved home I didn’t have a family to move to. My parents were separated. My younger brothers were taken in by our older sisters. I wound up with the eldest sister in my family. She raised me from when I was fourteen, when I was in Grade 9, to when I was sixteen. I had to move to town and the nearest school was Ponoka. I went to Ponoka for high school. But I drank a lot. I started drinking. I still tried to stay in school because my parents told me it was the only way out. At that time there was really nothing in the community; just poverty and unemployment. I tried to follow. I tried to listen to what my parents were saying for me to finish school and get out. I drank a lot and drugs started coming in. I experimented. At one point the alcohol started coming down so I tried to commit suicide a couple of times. Well, maybe more than a couple of times. I was living in pain. I was self-medicating. There were a lot of things I seen, a lot of things I’m not able to talk about at this point because I didn’t get there yet. There are other things that still bother me, but I’m not ready to talk about them. But I did suffer abuse, sexual abuse, but I’m not ready to go into that yet. I didn’t deal with that. Q. So the healing started --- --- End of Part 1 A. I did a ten-day program. We talked about the boarding school experience. It was mostly about anger and rage. Q. Was that all Residential survivors? A. No, no. Some of it was their parents. Either they know somebody, their uncles or their parents were in Residential School. But I think it helps them because we’ve lost so much. As a people we need to go back to our teachings. Our kids are dying off now. We’re losing so many of the young people because they have lost their language and their identity. They suffer abuse at home. I work with young people. That’s why I know. Q. What is your work with young people? A. I’m a Student Counselor. It’s called Iniksipa (ph.) Academy. It’s for kids who need extra help. They pull them out of the main school system to help them try to catch up and help them change their attitude and behaviour and hopefully send them back. It’s through them that I’ve learned to see the world they live in. They take you in and they show you, “This is where I live.” “This is the way I live every day.” In our community there are gangs and crack cocaine. So many of our kids are in foster homes because our community is so dysfunctional. There is so much pain. People are self-medicating with prescription drugs. We have the highest suicide rate. Some of those statistics are my kids. I’ve lost 2 kids to suicide. My stepson got killed last fall in October. He got shot by gangs. This is my community. It is so dysfunctional. But people are in denial. Q. Do you see anything offering hope in your community, things that are working or helping? A. Before I came down this way I was so sick of my community, and I work with these kids, I was sick from what I learned through their eyes, through their experiences, I wanted to get away. I wanted to get away from there. I have always tried to help the community with whatever issues, even suicide, even when it affected my own kids. In the gangs I took the risk. I could have got shot, but I had a confrontation with one of the leaders because they were beating on my kids to try to make them join up. I went to his place. I tried to protect these kids. I just confronted him. I didn’t care if they were going to shoot me or stab me. But he learned. Anyways, I turned what I learned, I learned to apply it and even today he was so used to taking his power, so I went to take his power for a good cause. I don’t really know. I think Aboriginal Peoples had it in the past. I seen that coming to the healing program. We are able, as Aboriginal People, to develop our own healing. I think we depend on the outside world too much. All the programs they bring in haven’t helped. In the past hundred years, what has helped? Nothing. So I think we need to go back. The teachings are there. It’s from the Elders I’ve learned to heal and accept things. Q. What are the things that work the most for you? A. Going to this program here, because there was an integration of approaches. Right? It helped me. I was able to understand what we had gone through as a People throughout our history. Understanding colonialism and understanding rage and having the Elders heal you, I did some awesome healing through our way from these people, dealing with rage and anger and grief. I have covered so many issues in ten days I think I’m a better person. Q. What’s the name of that place again? The Healing House? A. The House of Healing. I can’t pronounce the name. They are sitting outside by the front door. There’s a package. For me, this woman who came to do it, she’s a Pueblo or part Mexican I think, and she’s using traditional teachings and some methods integrating approaches. So for me because I’ve gone to school I’m able to absorb all the information. I realized I needed to heal because I was tired of my life. I was tired of the way I thought, felt and behaved every day. It wasn’t taking me anywhere and my wife was going to leave me. So I had to do something. I got scared. I didn’t want to go through this, even coming here talking to you. But it helps to talk about it instead of keeping it inside. We need to tell our stories. That’s part of the healing. I think our People need to do that. Q. It makes us sick inside if we keep it there. A. Yeah. Q. Are there any final things you would like to add today? A. No. I think we need to talk about this part of our history. A lot of communities are not willing or they are unable, but we need to have that courage and start talking about it. We need to go through the healing process, because the way we’re going now the young people are dying off. We’re losing so many of our kids, our People. The pain is being passed on generationally. My father was in pain. He medicated himself with alcohol. I picked that up. I learned to deal with everything in anger and rage, with my fists and my violence. It is only when I understood why we were put in the boarding schools, why the government, what their intentions were, genocide, not just to the People but to the culture and the language, and they’re still doing that. That healing fund, if you look at the proposed healing fund money, that’s nothing. No money has been given to preserve our language or to bring back our language. A lot of these tribes lost their language. Even in my community the threat is there that it’s not going to survive the way it’s going. If we don’t do something we will die off. We will assimilate. Some of our People have already assimilated. Someday if we don’t do anything, there will be no Aboriginal Peoples, just a label of who we were. Q. Thank you very much. You said some really beautiful important things. That’s good. A. Okay. Q. Thanks. How do you feel? A. How do I feel? --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 17:01

Rita Watcheston

Lebret

THE INTERVIEWER: We’ll start with getting you to say your name and then spelling it so we can have it on video. RITA WATCHESTON: My name is Rita Watcheston. Q. Can you spell that, please? A. W-a-t-c-h-e-s-t-o-n. Q. Where are you from, Rita? A. I’m from Ochapaways (ph.) Reserve, north of Whitewood. Q. That’s in Saskatchewan? A. Yeah. Q. Which Residential School did you attend? A. I went to Lebret Residential School. Q. How many years were you there? A. I was there from 1949 to 1959. Q. Ten years! How old were you when you first went in? A. I must have been about 6, I guess, maybe 5 going on 6. I don’t really remember. But I was very young. Q. Do you remember why it was you had to go to Residential School? A. Well, my father was looking after us. My mother passed away around that time. They said that she died in 1949, so it must have been right after that. I really don’t know. I never did want to ask my dad about it. Q. Do you remember your first day? A. My first day? Well, I’ll tell you how it started. We were very poor. We never had clothes or anything. Then that one morning my dad picked us up and we went shopping. We all got a new set of clothes. My brother, me, and my sister Shirley. She’s dead now. She passed away. We got home and early the next morning he woke us up and we had to take a bath and we had to put on these new clothes. We didn’t know what was happening. All of a sudden a big black car pulled up and they told us to get in the back seat. We had no luggage; nothing. I remember we put my little sister in the middle and me and my brother sat on each side. There were 2 Oblate Fathers there with black cassocks, those black robes. I don’t know what they call them. We said goodbye. I don’t even remember if my dad kissed us goodbye or anything, and away we went. We pulled up to this big building. It was big to me at that time. They took my brother away and I never saw my brother for a while after that. Me and my little sister went to the girls’ side. My sister was very young. I think she was only about 3 years old. So for years we stayed there. My little sister was the baby of the school. She never had to go to school because she was just a little baby girl. She was the Nun’s --- She was the baby of the school. Of course they bathed us and they put a bunch of coal oil in our hair and then some white powder. Then they cut our hair. And that’s where we stayed. We went to school there. We hardly ever went home because I guess we had no mother. That’s where I stayed for ten years. --- Speaker overcome with emotion I learned how to sew at a very early age. I must have been about eleven years old when I learned how to sew. Today I’m a sewer, I’m a seamstress. I can sew anything. Just name it and I can sew it. I mostly make star blankets. So I stayed there and I never heard from my father. I never knew where he was. Once in a while he would send us a dollar and we would each have a quarter, me and my sister, and my brother would get fifty cents. That’s how we stayed. It was a really lonely life. I used to sit by the window and look at the gate and watch for my dad to come and he never ever came. I would watch for him. Finally I gave up and I grew up to be a very wicked person. I thought to myself, “Wait until I get big, boy, I’m going to beat up my dad.” This all happened. I went to school and finally I got out of school in 1960 and right away I got married. I had a girl in 1961. I was a very wicked person, drinking and drinking. I drank for a lot of years. I was really abusive to my kids. But I’ve been sober now for thirty years. Q. When did you start your healing journey? When did things change for you? A. After I sobered up in 1979, or ’78, but during all those times I lost a sister to cancer. I lost my husband. He committed suicide and I was left with 7 kids to raise. Q. What about your relationship with your father after Residential School? A. After I left Residential School I came home for a little while and I just got married right away. I still had 2 sisters. When we went to school in Lebret I had a little sister. She was a baby. Her name was Irene. So my grandmother raised her. I remember coming home maybe a few times, 2 or 3, and we ended up at my grandmother’s place. She kind of looked after us for maybe a weekend or on a Saturday night and then we had to go back to school on a Sunday. I did end up beating my dad. I must have had about 6 children and I was drinking and I was a very wicked drunk. I ended up beating up my dad. My dad is dead now. He got married again. I have some half sisters and half brothers. Q. What was a typical day like in Residential School? A. In Lebret it was like this: Get up, brush your teeth --- It was like a drill. They drilled that into me for ten years. I done the same thing, the same things. Get up in the morning. Wash up. Go downstairs. Eat. Do your chore. Go to school. Dinner. And we had to make our bed perfect. The Nun would be standing there. Everything always had to be so perfect. After I got married I tried to do that to my children. I tried to instill in them that everything had to be perfect. So that’s why I was a real angry and mean mother. --- Speaker overcome with emotion A. It hurts me to talk about this. I don’t know when I’ll ever be healed. I’m getting old and I have diabetes. I don’t know how long I’ll be living. It’s really hard on me to talk about these things. I know it has to come out. I know that’s the only way I’m going to be really a survivor, I guess. Q. Have you shared your story with your children? A. Yes, lots of times. My daughter went to the University of Regina. She took Social Work and she interviewed me, but it seemed to be easier with my daughter. She interviewed me. She taped me and she wrote it down. She went in front of her class and she spoke to 350 students. She talked to them for an hour about my story. After she finished she got a standing ovation. There wasn’t a dry eye in all the students that she talked to. So every day I try --- I don’t see my grandchildren that often. I have eighteen grandchildren. I talk to them whenever we are driving in the car, or something and I tell them about how lucky they are. Those kids have everything in their homes. I always tell them I never even had a doll. I just had a piece of wood for a doll and that’s what we would wrap up and carry around. My grandchildren have everything. I always tell them every day how lucky they are. We have triplets in our family and those crazy little boys each have a cell. Geez. Q. Things are different, that’s for sure. Why do you think it’s important for you to share your story with your family and other people? A. Because they have to know about it. They have to realize what we went through and how I think maybe that their life is easy today compared to the way I grew up with fear, fear of those Nuns and being strict. For years after I got married I made my bed every morning perfectly because it was drilled in me, right. Now for the past 6 years I haven’t even been making my bed. I always look at it and I think, “No, I can’t make my bed today!” So some of that is still drilled in me. I noticed it myself. It just comes automatically sometimes. Q. You have been able to let some of it go? A. I’ve been able to let some of it go. I have been going to different Workshops and different Residential School conferences. Q. Was it a Catholic School? A. It was a Catholic School. Q. Today do you practice Catholicism? A. No, I don’t. I just stick to my Indian culture and I try to teach my children about that, too. They all seem to know. I take them each in turn to a Rain Dance or to a Sun Dance and they know what it is to go to a feast. Q. So your relationship with them now, is it better than it was? A. Yeah, with the grand kids. With my children sometimes it’s good and most of the time it’s not good. I think they blame me for the way I was a mother when they were growing up. But I get along real good with my grandchildren. Q. Are there any memories that really stand out in your mind that you might want to share about your time at Residential School? A. Every evening after supper we would all go for walks, or on a Saturday we would go for a walk. There were about ten of us. We usually walked in two’s or three’s, eh. We were walking down the tracks and we kept walking and walking. Finally we looked back, “Hey, there’s nobody coming behind us.” So finally we all went walking back real fast back to the school. When we got there Sister met us right at the gate. “Right upstairs”, she told us. She whipped us with a big strap about this long (indicating), about 2 feet long and about an inch thick and about 3 inches wide. We all had to lie with our pants pulled down and our dress pulled up and she gave us each ten straps. That’s about the only one that stands out. I got different lickings before for little things. Maybe speaking --- I remember one time we were all teasing each other and we were all saying tansee (ph.), eh, and we all had to go up and get strapped. Just little things like that. I don’t think we were that bad. Q. Speaking your language was wrong? A. Yeah. Mostly language. Q. So you said you had a younger sister there with you. Right? A. Yeah. Q. You were able to stay together? A. No, no. She was in the Small girls and I was in the Medium girls, and by the time she got to the Medium girls I was in the Big girls. In the meantime my other little sister was of age and she came to school. Her name is Irene. She lives in Calgary. Shirley passed away in 1995. Q. How is your relationship with your siblings? A. Good. I sort of thought I had to look after them after we got out of school. So maybe that’s why I got married so young. I was seventeen or eighteen when I got married. Q. Did your husband go to Residential School? A. No. Q. Did your father or mother? A. My mother did. I’m sure my mother did, but I don’t know if my dad did. I never bothered to ask. Q. Is there anything more that you want to share? A. No, that’s about it. Just that I learned to be clean. It wasn’t all bad. There were some good parts in it. I learned to sew anyway, and that’s what I do now, besides my pension. Q. Did you ever go back? A. To where? Q. To the school. Did you ever visit afterward? A. Yeah, I went back. One of my children was in school there. I just walked around looking and it seemed so small, a little small school compared to when I was there. It seemed like it was such a big place. That’s about it. I just went back to visit once or twice. Q. You said your daughter was there? A. My daughter Cheryl was there but she didn’t stay long. I think she only stayed about a month. Q. All right. Is there anything else? A. No, that’s about it. It was just ordinary. Every day the same thing. Get up. Eat. Go to class. Go to church. Kneel down. I never try to kneel down any more. I had enough of kneeling down for ten years. Q. So now today where you are in your life right now, thinking about your healing journey, how do you feel about where you are right now in your life? A. I feel like it’s never going to end. I feel like when is it going to end, maybe only when I die, you know. I don’t know. It’s hard to even talk about it. Q. But you have to hope? A. I don’t know how much years I have left because my kidneys are failing from my diabetes. Q. I wish you the best. Thank you for your time. A. Okay. Thank you. I was really nervous to come here. Q. You did very well. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 29:02
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Part 2 – 13:32

Ed Bitternose

Gordon Indian Residential School, Muscowequan Indian Residential School, Lebret (school in Lebret was the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School)

THE INTERVIEWER: I’ll get you to spell your first and your last name for me. ED BITTERNOSE: Right now? Q. Yes. A. Okay. Ed Bitternose; E-d B-i-t-t-e-r-n-o-s-e. Q. And where are you from? A. I’m from Gordon’s First Nation. Q. What school did you go to? A. I went to three schools. Q. Okay. A. I went to Gordon’s, Muscoweguan – it was called The Mission --and Lebret. Q. How old were you when you first went to Gordon’s? A. At the time I went to Gordon’s I was about eight. Q. Do you remember what your first day was like? A. I was actually a day student. Well, my first day was very scary. The building was intimidating and the students were scary. The other thing is that I was a south-ender in my community going into a north end school so that little bit of a sense was there, like I was in the wrong territory, even though my first cousins were with me. That was one of the scary things. The other thing is that after school being a south end --- Actually, I wasn’t a south end guy. I lived in the same area as my cousins did. I had to fight with one of the north end guys. I’m not sure why but they said to fight so I fought. And that was it. I don’t know whether I was accepted or not. Q. That was their way of introducing you? A. Yeah, it must have been my initiation to that school. And there was a sense of difference between the resident kids and the day kids. It was actually the day kids, the bigger boys that got us to fight. That was it. Q. Do you remember what the food was like? A. Not really, no. I don’t remember. I just remember lining up. We had to line up in the big boys’ Play Room. And it was always the big guys in the front and the little guys at the back. The day school guys went last, so we were basically last and I don’t remember what we ate or what the food was like. We also joined Scouts I think it was and the food was pretty good there. There was lots of fruit and apples and hard bread. They had those little hard candies or those little hard cookies, too. And juice. Scouts was kind of a decent thing. Q. A nice escape? A. Yeah. Well, not really. See, I came from home and that’s when I learned a little bit about Residential School life with those guys because we stayed there sometimes. Like I said, I wasn’t a resident kid. I come from home. But in Scouts we stayed there sometimes and that’s when I remember we got I guess it was special food to those kids, but it was not nice staying there because then there were maybe three or four of us that were from the Reserve against twelve, fifteen that were resident kids. You didn’t go to the bathroom by yourself. You tried not to get cornered and that kind of stuff. It was survival of the brainiest, I guess, you just didn’t corner yourself. It was a little bit of an understanding of what those guys were going through and that kind of stuff. Actual Residential School was actually much different. But that first --- The thing is I don’t even remember whether I went the whole year or not at that school because my dad got a job at The Mission as a farmhand. Sometime during the year we left. I really don’t know when, whether it was in the fall or whether it was in the spring time. But also some time in that fall one of my friends from the school he stuck a pin in a receptacle, a hairpin, and it created – when I look at it now – it created a whole other kind of sense of trauma or questioning in my life for him because it created a whole other set of problems for me. After that I was kind of the rat because I went to get the principal and it became even uglier to be there, even though I thought I was helping this fellow when he was being shocked. The principal actually made him pull that hairpin out of that receptacle and we watched. After that we were both punished. We had to sit in the hallway, just sit there, and everybody looked at us. We did something wrong. But I was the --- I went home and told my mom and she came back and had, I don’t know, words with the principal. But I became the rat and not my buddy, Dennis. He wasn’t a rat. I was the rat because I guess I was from the Reserve. I don’t know. Q. You were made to feel different because you were a day student? A. I guess so. That was part of it. But out of all that --- That was kind of in the wintertime and somebody crapped in my brand new winter jacket pocket. Again my mom came and this time the bigger day school kids were the ones that made me fight again. And for my punishment I was hung in a well --- There used to be old horse and cow barns by the school. They hung me in the well there for --- But when we got there, first we had a fight, me and one of my cousins we had a fight. I won the fight and for winning I got hung in the well. I wasn’t scared of the well. I was more scared of what my Kokum and them had taught us about going in water where we weren’t permitted because where we lived there were sloughs out to the east side of us and the decree they used to use was that there were worms and big snakes in there that were going to get us. When I was hanging in that, that’s what I was scared of was that big --- In my mind I still have that picture of that big snake that goes in the water. It was going to get me. Otherwise the water stuff and being in the dark was actually nicer than being in school, but I was more afraid of Kokum is going to find out that I’m in water and this thing is going to come and take me from that. That was more my fear than actually anything else. Actually, it was dark and cold and quiet. Q. And they just left you there? A. Yeah. Um-hmm. They held me by my arms and left me there. I hung there I guess for the first period because I got to school for dinner. I didn’t tell nobody. Q. Who found you? A. They come back and let me go. The same guys that hung me there come back and lifted me up and it was a big joke. I laughed, too. Why I laughed I don’t know. Q. Does that bother you today? A. Sometimes, yeah. It makes me sad in my stomach. That old fear is still kind of there. I’m not scared of the dark and such, but there’s just kind of a fear there that kind of knots up my stomach. I don’t know why. It’s not being able to tell anybody I think was the biggest fear. If you tell your mom and then she comes and interferes, and yet it’s --- I know now as a parent it’s part of looking after your children. And I was very conscious of that with my children. If they were in trouble in school or trying to be aware of what they were doing, my wife was so gung-ho to go and fix whatever is going on or bring it to the attention of somebody and it would create a problem between us. I’m saying, “Hey, maybe you should ask him first?” “What are going to be his consequences?” Maybe that’s what my fear is about, I’m not sure. But all my kids are grown now. Q. What about when you went to your second school? A. That was a real Residential School. Again, that was totally different. I learned many years later that my parents didn’t want to let us go there. But remembering I guess when I was about nine of not wanting to go to that school but yet like --- Our house was maybe not even a hundred yards, maybe seventy-five yards from the back of the school and we had a little white picket fence, little movie star stuff type of house. It was a little white house and it had a little fence around it. The Nun and the Priest came and said that we had to go there. My dad was working at the barn so I went to get him and my mom said that we weren’t going there. And then we had to go there. After I got my dad he was more or less the --- He didn’t do nothing. So we went. They took all our clothes away on us and they gave us their clothes. Q. Do you remember what you wore? A. We wore little blue pants and a white shirt. That was it. And then they gave us little blue overalls. That was our uniform, I guess, the blue overalls. Q. What was it like? Did you stay in the Dorm with the rest of the boys? A. Yeah. We were given a number and we were powdered with some stuff. I always had short hair. They powdered us and made us shower. Q. What did they powder you with? A. Some kind of white stuff. I don’t know. Q. Was it delousing? A. I guess so. I use some of that stuff on my cows now. And that was it. It’s hard to remember, it’s hard to remember really actually what happened. I try really hard to try to remember so that I can deal with some of the stuff that was there. Then you try to find your friends. I had some people that were from Gordon’s that were there but they weren’t --- Again, they were from the south and I was considered a north guy now. I wasn’t really their friend but yet I was their friend because we had the Fishing Lake Boys, the Nut Lake Boys, the Gordon Boys and then we had the local Muscoweguan guys. They talk about gangs. We had them then among our groups of people. And then we had the workers, the children of the workers around the school. There were about four families of Indian people who worked there and we were considered --- Those guys were going to be treated as favourites. And with that came the --- Well, we’re going to get it when we get a chance type of thing. You become a little more --- Q. You were kind of picked on? A. Yeah. Well, you’re going to get favoured. You’re going to get the red apples or the green apples, that kind of stuff. We always used to make fun of that. And that was it. We were just one of the group. Q. Were your teachers nice to you? A. Just one that I remember. But that was when I was older. Like I said, I don’t remember the teachers. I remember there was a lady by the name of Sister Teresa. She was kind of nice. I think that was Grade 4. And then there’s kind of a blank spot until Grade 8. I don’t remember the teachers very much. I remember a Christmas Concert. Me and one of my friends from Gordon’s we were part of a Play and it seemed like it was a good Play. I remember that. But to remember actual people --- I remember the outside people more than I remember the inside people, because the group we were in I think it was Intermediate Boys. Back at that time they had animals and we were the guys that brought the little wagon up that had the milk and the cream and that kind of stuff from the barn to the kitchen. We were that group. There were about eleven of us, that was our chore, to haul the cream cans and stuff up to the --- I remember those kinds of things. I remember the people that worked in the barn and the Brother that worked in the barn and the people that worked around the Shop areas. But the inside people, not really. The teachers; no. I remember one of the Priests. He was a missionary. He had a nice little Jeep we used to all figure was pretty cool. But for inside folks, no, I don’t really remember them. Q. And what about your time at Lebret? A. At Lebret I was a high school student. That was a different experience. Again, when I was in Grade 9 there were Grade 12 boys. The first year was again a matter of survival, kind of find your way in the pack. There were actually two of us that were from Muscoweguan and the other guy was really leaned on. But he was more of a fighter and the big boys --- Coming from the Grade 8 boys at The Mission we were kind of the top of the herd there but when we come to the high school we had the mentality that we were still top of the herd but it didn’t take you very long to realize, hey, you’re going to find your place and it’s usually near the bottom. We ran into a few lickings in the bathroom because we didn’t know our place. It was always by surprise. There was never a warning. My friend --- We were standing along the door and my friend came along and they kicked him right between the legs. So when I said, “Hey, let’s do what we do to see who is to fight”, all of a sudden there were about six of them and they took us in the bathroom and we had to fight, me and my friend. It was the same thing that happened at The Mission when we were little. If you got caught in the bathroom with the big guys, the Grade 7’s and Grade 8’s and if they felt like seeing a fight then the fight happened. When I went to high school it was basically the same thing. Q. There was a lot of fighting in school, eh? A. Because finding your place in that herd. Q. Did you learn academics? A. Well, in my CEP stuff I found my report cards from high school and I was just in the 50%-55% student. I could get higher marks but my report card reported that from 80% to 51%. There was no failing but there was also no excelling. Besides, they didn’t accept that in my CEP stuff, too. It’s weird. In terms of school stuff, again I remember just certain teachers. It seemed like you remember the rotten ones, the ones that didn’t treat you so well. There was an Indian Supervisor there, same as in Muscoweguan that was cruel. If in the first call in the morning you didn’t get up and he was coming down the alley way between the bunk beds he would just dump your bunk bed over. He was tough enough that three or four of us couldn’t give him a licking because we tried, but he showed us who the boss was! He just dumped your bed. The guy in Muscoweguan was basically the same way. If you didn’t agree he would crack you over. The other guy was the same way. The little Brother that was there, he was a White guy. We also had a big French guy that was a supervisor. They were actually nicer than the Indian guys. They weren’t as cruel. They were strict but they didn’t use as much physical --- When an Indian guy was on in the mornings and you didn’t get up right away your bunk was tipped. If the big French guy was on and you didn’t get up right away he would ask, “Hey, what’s going on here? I called you.” Q. Why do you think that Indian guy was like that? A. I don’t know. He was a student. When I was in Grade 9 he was a Grade 12 student. He was a very good athlete. I think he was treated the same way with the kind of cruel --- If he said “do this”, it had to be done right now. I don’t know why he was like that. We had a Militia Corps there, too. Being part of that he was really, what can I say, he was really --- You see the old War movies and when he talks to you he’s right in your face like this and if you make eye contact with him he asks you who you think you are. He’s always trying to build himself up. It seemed like that’s the way he liked it. He always had to be the aggressor and put you down. There was nothing ever good enough. We would do ten push-ups and if we do ten push-ups he would always ask for more and he would get down with you and yell at you while you were doing that, just for no reason. Q. All of these fights and all of these lickings in all three schools, do you think they had an effect on you as an adult? A. Yeah. Um-hmm. I became that way. After I left --- I was some kind of a hockey player, too. Joining the non-Native hockey stuff and being called a chief, I had never been called a chief so I would tell them that I’m no chief, I’m a hockey player. I was always the “go fight ‘em Eddy”. I wasn’t a very good fighter but it wasn’t whether I wanted to fight or not. I don’t know, it was just --- Q. You just had to play the hand you were dealt? A. Yeah. It was expected of me so if I won, good, and if I didn’t win that was fine. After I got married it was more or less that same way with White people. I would go into a bar and if some White guy was talking too smart --- Well, he might not even be talking to me, well the fight was on. If he gave me a licking fine; if not, then fine. Guys around home were aware of that. Yet I was always away from the community. After leaving Lebret I moved to Regina. Then I moved to Estevan. Then I moved to Flin Flon. Then I went to Saskatoon. Then when I came home I lived in town and I played hockey with the town team rather than play hockey with the Reserve team. Yet I didn’t seem to care about those folks. I’m not sure really why it was that way. But there was lots of fighting. Q. That became your schtick! A. It must have been. But also like I said, sports was important. Q. I’m just going to get you to stop while we switch tapes. Have some water. --- End of Part 1 Q. How are you feeling, Ed? A. Good. I’m all right. I’ve taught myself well to drown stuff. Q. Do you want to go a little deeper? A. Yeah. Okay. Q. Tell me about some of the things that are really really bothering you? A. Yesterday we talked about that student thing and that’s what really hurts me. In Muscoweguan I won’t say that I was sexually abused but I was assaulted by kids, or by older boys. The name I was given created a sense of I had to prove I wasn’t that so I think that’s where the fighting started. Like I said, I wasn’t a very tough guy. It closed off so much stuff. I think, too, I had no --- I shouldn’t say “I had no” --- Not being able to go home, because I did run away from home (sic) and like I said, I just ran across the street. When I got home they just sent me back. Being afraid? No, I’m not afraid. I couldn’t tell anybody and it seemed like my mom and dad didn’t care. But I didn’t tell them. And when I got sent back it became lonely. I would sit in the bathroom and look at home and wonder why I couldn’t be with my mom and dad and wondering why I couldn’t be friends with these folks here. So I immersed myself in sports. It seemed that was the escape, was being the cross-country runner that would run until there was nothing left and being the hockey player who was going to stay out there until the snow was all cleared from the rink and that kind of stuff, the ball player that was left the longest at the backstop and cleaning up the stuff after and that kind of stuff. Being scared of that and being scared to tell somebody --- When I first started thinking about it was about 1992. I had quit drinking in 1975 and in 1992 I started thinking about what happened to me. Q. What was your turning point when you quit drinking? A. My wife left. The weirdest part is that I went to a Priest to help me quit drinking, a drunk Priest, yet. She had been gone from about May to August and then in August I figured I can’t do this no more. I’ve got to try to stop drinking. So there was a Priest over in the next town and I went to the Rectory and he was sitting there with his friend having a drink and I told him, “Father Roy, I want to quit drinking and how do you quit drinking?” He said, “You’re in luck, Ed, it just so happens there’s an AA meeting here.” He took me there. I didn’t want to go but I kind of committed myself to quit drinking. So he took me across there and took me in the door and called one of the guys I knew, his name was Glen. He called “Glen, I’ve got a guy for you who wants to quit drinking”. So I went and listened to the AA meeting and then Glen bugged me after that. Every time there was a meeting he would come to my place and pick me up. So I resigned myself, well, I guess life is going to be different. Then at Christmas time, about the 20th or 22nd, I got home from work and my wife was there. We just lived together until the spring time. I fixed up a room for her and she lived there and I lived on the other side. There was a whole lot of silence all winter. Then that next summer I went to take Anger Management. I didn’t do very good and yet I forced myself into that program --- Well, all the guys that were there were from the Provincial Correctional Centre. Well, first of all, they wouldn’t accept me because I wasn’t coming from a jail or I wasn’t charged with anything. I knew the lady that was there so I told her that I really need this because I don’t know how to talk to my wife. I don’t know how to talk to my kids. I don’t know what to do with all these feelings. She found a way to get me in there and I took all the sixteen sessions. Then I got a job working as a counselor, a NADAB (ph.) counselor, so that wasn’t very healthy. We learned to talk a little better with my partner. Q. Are you involved in ceremony or in your ways at all? A. No. I have never been. I have never been involved in any kind of traditional stuff in First Nations. I do lots of praying in my way. I watch the people who do the traditional stuff. I respect what they do in the traditional stuff. I do -- maybe it’s not ceremonial -- but I do the sweet grass stuff, I do the tobacco stuff in how I understand it. And I’m very conscious or respectful of what the people do that do that. Q. But you have your way? A. Yes. Q. That works for you? A. Yeah. Q. So what do you want people to know about you and your experience, and your growth as a man? What do you want people to know about you and your healing and your strength that you have gathered from those three schools. There’s a message that you might want people to know about you. What would you say? A. What I would say is what those schools did defines a little bit who you are but you don’t have to be that. As an adult I have to be conscious of my choices that I make. I have to accept responsibility for those choices that I make. Sure, the school taught me not to feel, taught me that I was less than who I was, but you don’t have to stay there. You don’t have to be that scared little fellow who is afraid and just wants to strike out. All those feelings that you have are really you and it’s okay to feel those feelings. One of the worst feelings I had dealing with was a jealousy feeling, fear of not being as good as, or am I what she wants, that kind of stuff. And it’s okay to have that. But you don’t have to carry the fear into all that other negative stuff. You don’t have to carry that fear into anger. And it’s okay to be angry. As I said, when I took Anger Management, the time-out thing was just a way to go and boil the negative feelings to a point of breaking out. It may not have been drinking but that ugliness was there. So you don’t have to be that way. That’s why I say when I quit life can be different but we have to make that choice. The thing that’s --- The environment that’s around us we have no control over that. We only have control over this guy (indicating), and that’s okay. Like I said, so much of what is in the past we allow it to affect us, even though we don’t want it to. It’s every day. I as an adult have to make a conscious decision with a higher power, the Great Spirit, or the Ancestors that I will be responsible for today, that the choices I make today are my choices. They are influenced by what is around me but I make them. That’s what I would like people to know. And also if there’s any way I can help you, I will do that and be really supportive of where you are. I can’t do it for you. However, I will walk with you in that sense. I think that old Priest did that for me. He walked with me from his drunken table to where people were trying to quit drinking. And then I left him. That’s what I think now, too, in our journey in life if we call it healing or wellness or whatever, we can only go with people so far, and that’s good and that’s okay. Life moves on but again at the end of the day we’re responsible. I can’t blame my wife. I can’t blame my Chief and Council or my counselor or whoever. I walk with them and they help me in the best way they can, but I make that choice. Q. Thank you so much. Are you happy with that? A. Yeah. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 29:50

Eunice Gray

St. Andrew’s Anglican Mission

THE INTERVIEWER: We’ll begin. If you could just tell me what your name is and say and spell your name for me. EUNICE GRAY: Well, my name is Eunice Gray; E-u-n-i-c-e G-r-a-y. I live in Tikamik (sp?), Alberta, on the Reserve. Q. Okay. Where are you from? A. I’m from Whitefish Lake, Tikamik (ph.). It’s the same thing. Q. That’s where you were born. A. Yeah. That’s where I went to school. Q. What school did you attend? A. I went to St. Andrew’s Anglican Mission. Q. What years were you there? A. I was there from the time I was --- I’m seventy-four now. I was there from when I was 8 years old until I was sixteen. Q. So what year would that have been? A. ’48. I don’t know how old. When I was sixteen, anyway. Q. Do you remember the first day you went there? A. I kind of remember in a way because it was my mom that took me there. My mom took me there. I used to cry for my dad. I didn’t cry for my mom when she would come and see me, only my dad. My dad told my mom to take me, to put me in the Mission because my parents were told that I had to go in. Q. Do you remember what a typical day would have been like in the school? A. We used to only go to school from one to 3:30. We didn’t go to school all day long. The little ones, they went to school in the morning and the older girls, we all went to school from one to 3:30. We used to always have a half an hour to play, or whatever, and then we would have to go prepare the meals for the rest of the children and the staff. We used to have our parents come and see us. They would bring something, like eat with them. There used to be a special place there where our parents could bring some kind of food, or something, and we could eat with them. That was on Saturdays. But some of the kids’ parents never showed up, so we used to share with the kids. Q. And your parents? A. My mother used to always come. My dad didn’t come because he used to look after the store. We had a bunch of minks, and stuff, and cattle. I used to cry for him if he came. Q. Did he ever come? A. He used to come once in a while. At Christmas he used to bring me something. Q. It must have been nice to be able to see them when they would come. A. Um-hmm. But we weren’t that closed in the Anglican Mission there. We weren’t totally closed in from our parents because we could see them Saturdays if they came. Q. Did your mom come most of the time? A. If she didn’t have anything to do she would come because there were my 4 other sisters. She had to look after the younger ones. She couldn’t come all the time. She had kids to look after. Q. What was it like at the school for you? A. It was a home. We had to work hard. We had to wash floors on our knees. We had to wash clothes with a washboard. We had to stand there and iron the clothes, hang them up outside. We did all the sewing and stuff. We were just like a mother would work at home. That’s how we looked after --- All the older girls looked after the younger ones. The staff members and the older girls, we looked after everybody. They just did the supervising. We did all the work, all the cooking and stuff, we did everything. The little ones, they never did anything. They had a good life! Q. You were a little one at some point? A. Yeah. Just like when you turn sixteen, you go. And then these other ones, the seniors, it was like that. It was just like something going round and round, rotating. Like so many would turn sixteen during the year and then they would leave. When you were sixteen --- Every summer we were allowed to go home for 2 months. We took everything. We stripped our bed. We took everything that was on our bed, even the pillows. Just the mattress and the bed stayed there. And all our clothes, we would take all that home. And then again when we would go into the Mission in September, they would give us fresh bedding and stuff. Q. Was going home in the summer something you looked forward to? A. In a way we did and in a way it was more like a home because that was the only home we really knew. Some of the staff members were good. Some were mean. The bad ones always got it. Other than that it was a home. You know, everybody gets in trouble when they’re at home. Q. What do you mean by the bad ones always got it? A. Well, there were some bad kids who did all kinds of things. They didn’t listen, and stuff like that. They used to get a strap with a ruler, this way (indicating) not that way. We would put our hands like that (indicating). Always the one that starts never got it. It’s the ones that got caught, they would get it. That used to hurt if you get hit here (indicating) in school. Q. And for yourself, do you remember that happening to you? A. I think I had that a couple of times that I can remember. Q. It sounds like you worked very hard at that home? A. We did work hard. We did everything. Now today my knees bother me. I’ve got arthritis bad. We used to have to hang clothes up. It didn’t matter how cold it was, we would have to go hang the clothes up. And before we went to bed we had to bring them all in and hang them up inside. Q. Did you have many friends at school? A. Oh yeah, the girls. We had no choice. Like today now we used to have to finish at a certain time. You had to finish your work. Like today now I can’t --- If I start doing something I have to finish it. I learned that from being in the Mission. Anything you do, you have to finish. It doesn’t matter what it is. At least the way I look at it is we were taught how to work, you know, and be responsible for the things you do. It don’t matter how mean the staff were, we still learned something. Q. And they were mean? A. Some were mean and some weren’t. Every year they changed. Only the Matron never changed. The Minister, he was always the same one. We could hear him coming. He used to have asthma real bad and you could hear him breathing. From far you could hear him. Q. What was he like? A. He wasn’t bad. He was nice. He was kind. But he had to strap us when we were bad. That was his job. Q. And the Matron? A. The Matron was more like a nurse, the Matron was like a nurse. Later on I think when I was fourteen I used to work in the kitchen all the time and later on when I was fourteen years old she left and she got married to a guy that was all crippled up and was on this special bed. It used to be like square. It was all chrome and stuff. His hands were all crippled up. He always stayed on the bed. He never got out of there. The last couple of years, that’s all I did was look after her husband. Q. How was the Matron as a person? A. She was cranky, but she wasn’t bad. She was nice. She could be nice if she wanted to be. She was kind to me because I looked after her husband for her. Q. She must have appreciated that. A. Yeah. Q. So the staff you said would change? A. Every year there were different ones. The teacher was always the same one and the Matron was always the same one. But the boys --- It was a lady who looked after the boys and the girls, we all had different --- The little girls and the big girls, it was different. The big boys and the little boys. The little boys got it good and the little girls. It’s the older ones that did the work. They got it. Q. And the teacher. How was the teacher? A. She was nice. She wasn’t bad, not really bad. She was nice. Q. It must have been interesting in September when you would come back to school each year, wondering who the staff would be. A. Yeah, it was always different ones. But the teacher was always the same, and the Matron, she didn’t leave because of her crippled husband. She always stayed. It wasn’t really that bad staying in the Mission. It was just the work, eh. We always had to work hard, especially washing clothes was the hardest, and the floors, because the boys clothes were always so hard to wash on the washboard, the boys pants, and that. And the blankets were hard to wash. It was just like a slave. Q. That’s what it sounds like to me is that you learned how to work very very hard. A. Yeah. I’ve always worked hard. I raised my kids by myself. I was a single parent. My husband and I broke up. So I raised the kids. I worked hard in Edmonton raising my family. Then after they were all --- When my youngest one was eighteen I moved back to the Reserve. But I wasn’t sorry I went in the Mission. I learned lots. Q. Did you have friends there who experienced other things, who didn’t have very good experiences, or were you --- A. Not that I know of. More or less everybody was treated the same. It wasn’t bad, really. Because the little kids, they were treated good. I didn’t see anything bad with the younger ones. All they did was went to school and played. It’s the older ones that had to do all the hard work. Q. So you feel that the hard work that you learned how to do when you were in school was good for you later on in life, too? A. Yeah. I looked after my family. I still look after them, even though I’m in a wheelchair and use a walker, I still look after my house. I live by myself. Q. I’m curious why you decided to move back to the Reserve after your kids had grown up. A. They didn’t need me. (Laughter) I thought, you know, my dad always said that you can’t always have your kids around you. One of these days you’re going to die and what are they going to do if they are always right beside you all the time. So I thought, well, they’re all on their own, I’ll step away. But they came to me! There’s only 2 of them that live in the city now. Q. And the others? A. They all live on the Reserve! Q. So they couldn’t live without you? A. No. (Laughter) Q. So when you were sixteen, your last year, do you remember your last year at the school? A. Yeah, because I was looking after that crippled guy. I had an easy life the last 2 years. That’s all I did was look after the old man, there. I don’t know if he was old or not. He was crippled up. I had to polish his bed. It was full of chrome on the outside. It was a real fancy bed. Q. I guess you did everything for him, then. A. Yeah. Q. And then when it was time to leave the school, what was that like? A. He hated to see me go. He said that I was very kind and he respected me for what I did for him. Q. And for yourself, leaving the school? A. I didn’t mind. When I left the Mission I went to Athabasca and worked in a restaurant. Q. Now of course you would be paid money to work instead of working in the school? A. I had to make a living. Nobody is going to feed me for nothing. My mom and I never got along. I was the black sheep of the family. My mom only went for the other kids, the younger ones. Q. And you are the oldest? A. I’m the oldest; yeah. That’s why I was closer to my dad because of the way my mom treated me. And then when I came back on the Reserve I was the one that took my mom in and looked after her until she died. But that lady wanted me to say that. My dad used to talk to me a lot. We was talking about this Residential School stuff. He was raised in the Anglican Mission, too, in Mr. White’s days. That was the first Minister that was there, Mr. White. That’s when my dad was there. And he said, “You know, if we weren’t Treaties we wouldn’t be in this mess, you wouldn’t be in the Mission.” “Only Treaties go in the Mission.” The government takes the kids, the half breeds. He said, “They don’t bother with them because they’re not Treaties.” But if a half breed, a Metis, or something like that was to go into the Mission, their parents had to pay to be put in there. Or orphans, they used to put them in the Mission. But what really started was the government paid for the Treaties to be raised in the Mission. I don’t know why, but that’s how it was. Like that guy was talking about, saying Metis this and Metis that. I don’t think he really understood what happened a long time ago. If you weren’t a Treaty you couldn’t be in the Mission unless your parents were willing to pay for you to stay there. That was the way the government put it for the people. But he worded it different. I was telling that lady that. I said that he didn’t get that straight. Because there were 2 or 3 in St. Andrew’s that had the same thing. We had 2 or 3 Metis Colony kids and their parents had to pay. It wasn’t much, but at least it paid for their meals and stuff. I guess you would say --- Like today it’s your meals, eh. But I don’t know what they paid for; room and board, I guess. Q. Did your dad tell you much about his experience in school? A. Well, my dad always talked about the flu a long time ago. Him and Mr. White and another guy, they used to across the river, they call it Big Lake, and there’s another Reserve at the other side of the lake there. They helped Mr. White go and put water and wood for the sick. When they would enter the place sometimes they were all dead. Sometimes there would be one that wasn’t and they used to just wrap them up in cotton blankets there – I don’t know what they are really called. They had blankets and they would wrap them up in there and throw them in the sleigh, the big sleigh, and then they would cut wood for whoever was still alive, and water. They used to do that to all the houses. He said it used to be pitiful watching them. He said, “I don’t know how I ever got away with it that I never got that flu.” People were dying. He used to work with Mr. White who was the Minister in those days when that flu was around. But he was raised in the Mission, too. My dad always looked at other people and he always had them --- He had them cut the wood, or something, and he would pay them. He always helped the other people. He looked after his own family, besides other people. He tried to help them. He was always like that. Because he was taught that, to not really look at himself but to look beyond himself. Q. Is he still alive? A. No. He died in ’87 I think. Q. Was that before you went back? A. Before I went back. Yeah, I went home in ’83. Now I’m still there. But now my working days are over. I’m getting all crippled up. Q. It sounds like you spent a long time in your life working hard. A. I worked here in the hospital for 9 years before I moved to Edmonton. Then in Edmonton I was a caretaker. I did all kinds of jobs. What else do you want to know? Q. Is there anything else you want to say? A. No. Q. I’m curious. Do you feel that your experience at school, the Mission school, was something that you needed to heal from, you know? A. I know what you mean. My kids are always saying, “You’re not in Residential School now.” Just like my late husband there, he went through hell because they were mean to him in Grouard. When he left us, me and the kids, I raised 8 kids all by myself, I worked and raised them all and he had the easy life doing nothing. But I ain’t sorry I raised my kids by myself. It’s a good experience. I think going to the Mission was a good experience. There were hard times and good times. But I think if you help yourself you can get healed. You can heal yourself. You’ve just got to put your mind up to it. That’s how I take it. My family was wrecked because of alcohol. I don’t know if the Mission --- He went to school in Grouard and that’s where the mean ones were. I don’t know if that wrecked his home life. I don’t know. It’s hard to talk for him. But I have a tape at home that he had made I guess and he talks about his life in the Mission. His life in the Mission was what wrecked his family life. That’s what he said on there. So I don’t know. It’s so long ago. Q. Okay. I appreciate you talking to us today. It was very kind of you. A. Yeah. Q. All the very best to you. A. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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Part 4

William McLean

Stone Residential School, Poundmakers Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay. I’ll start by getting you to say and spell your name, please. BILL McLEAN: My name is Bill McLean; M-c-L-e-a-n. Q. Is it William or Bill? A. William. Yeah. Q. Okay. Where are you from William? A. I’m from the Stoney Reserve in Morley, just between here and Banff. Q. Which Residential School did you go to? A. I’m generally with what they call Moral Rearmament Initiatives of Change.. Q. That’s the name of the Residential School? A. No. The Residential School was Stoney Residential School. Q. It was right on the Reserve? A. Yeah. Q. How old were you when you first went there? A. About six. Q. Six. How many years were you there? A. About seven years in the school. I have been to two different Residential Schools one at home on the Stoney Reserve under the United Church. Then I went to Poundmakers Residential School in Edmonton for the next three years. Q. So in total how many years were you in Residential School? A. I think I was in Residential School for twelve years. Q. So you were really young when you went. Do you remember the first day of Residential School? A. I think it was about the first of December, just when I turned six, in 1926. That’s when I was first taken to the school. At that time I didn’t know but this is what my dad and mom always told me that they take me to the school just when I turned six years old because that is what the Indian Agent said that they were going to have all the young children when they reach six years old they had to be taken to the school. That’s why they took me to that school when I was six years old. Q. What are your first memories of being in the school? A. Well, there’s a lot of things. I remember I didn’t know a word of English when I was taken to school. In the classroom the teacher was reading a book about the Little Red Hen. He was asking the children what colour is the hen? He asked me what colour is the hen? I didn’t even understand. That’s when I got my first strapping just because I didn’t understand. It wasn’t only me but it happened to practically all those children who couldn’t give any response. That’s the first way we were being abused. And we were never allowed to speak our own language inside the school building and inside the classroom. If we were caught speaking our language in the school or in the classroom we would get a strapping for it by the teachers or supervisors. That happened even during lunch hour, in the Dining Room. We were not allowed to talk or speak when we were in the Dining Room. This is one of the things that we ran into being school students. That went on for years. Q. Are there any specific memories that you want to share about your experience in Residential School? A. There are a lot of things. I have experienced so many things. We’ve been abused physically, mentally, morally from the teacher, from the Supervisors and even from the principal who was a Minister, a missionary. He used to call us all kind of names when we didn’t understand what we were told to do. He used to call us dumb heads or dumb bells. Even I remember one time one of the Boys’ Supervisors was calling us “you Black People”. So these were the things we were abused with. As I grew older learning about the history of my People --- After I came out of school I grew up to be very very bitter towards the White people. I had a lot of hatred towards White people just because of the way I had been treated when I was in school. When I learned how our Native people across the country have met so many injustices, so much suffering, that made me feel bitter. I didn’t know why I was like that but I grew up like that. If you could multiply me with the rest of the students you pretty well know what the students are like who have been in Residential School, who have been raised in Residential Schools. Q. When you were in Residential School were you allowed to go home for the summer or for holidays? A. We were allowed to go home for two months during the summer holidays. That’s the only time we were with our parents. I think there was just one day, New Year’s Day, that was the only time we were allowed to go home to our homes, on New Year’s Day. Other than that we were never allowed. We were never allowed to speak to our own sisters or cousins on the girls’ side. They wouldn’t let us talk to the girls. These are some of the things that we have endured. Q. So when you were home for the summer, what was it like going back home for the summer over the years? A. Being in school for twelve years and only living with my parents for two months a year I didn’t get to learn very much about my own traditional values or my teachings. So many things that our People --- Our People had their own teachings. They had their own gospels, very similar to what is in the Ten Commandments. Being in school that long we were never taught our own traditional education. We were never taught anything about life skills which our People learned. My father’s name was Chief Walking Buffalo. He was the first student to be taken to the McDougall Orphanage and Residential School which was built in 1879. Since he was an orphan, when he turned ten years old he was taken away from the school by this missionary who came to officially open that Residential School. His name was Reverend Doctor John McLean, and he gave my dad that name McLean. He called him George McLean. So he took him off the Reserve School and he was taught in a non-Indian school until he came back on the Reserve when he was nineteen years old he always tells us. From there on he was an interpreter for the Signatory Chiefs who signed Treaty No. 7. He was the interpreter for them after he came out of school. Then I had to learn from him, my mom and my grandparents about their own traditional values and education. One of the things for us as Native People, compared to the Europeans, our People had their own form of government. They had their own education. They had their own gospels. When the Europeans came they found the Native People in this country, since they didn’t understand our people, they thought that we were uncivilized people. They even called our People savages. That’s the first thing that our People endured, being called savages. Then from there on they made Confederation here in Canada. Through this Confederation the first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald said that he was going to make treaties with the Native people because they were going to build a transcontinental railway across Canada from coast to coast. This transcontinental railway was going to run through Indian territories so they wanted to build these treaties with the Native people. Then we were in Treaty No. 7. That’s when the chief said --- We’re called the Nakoda Tribe but they call us Rocky Mountain Shoes. We had joined the Blackfeet Confederation at the time of the Treaty back in 1877. At that time they had given us some promises, Treaty Promises. According to what the stories that we do hear from our People at that time, just like what my dad used to hear from the Chiefs that he used to interpret for them, when they talked about the Treaties and what they had been promised, they were told that some day in the future when they have schools for Native children, some day in the future they would be able when they have enough education, they can administer their own affairs. These were some of the promises that we had been given, promised to our People in Treaty No. 7. So one of the sad things is in schools we find ourselves being discriminated against through loss of promotions. The limit of education when we were in school was Grade 8. That was the limit of our education. Until back in the 1930s and 1940s when the Indian Association of Alberta had organized an association for the First Nations in Alberta, that was the time they had to give higher education for Native People since then. Before that Grade 8 was the limit. So we only had a substandard level of education. We didn’t really know very much about our own traditional education. We didn’t know enough about the White man’s education so we were left right in the middle. Later on in years when they built another school on our Reserve back in 1925 they had to put all these six-year old children in the school, in that Residential School. As I said, I was taken to school when I was six. I was in there for about eight years in that school until I reached Grade 8. My dad wanted me to get further education. He made an arrangement with a school in Edmonton, Poundmakers Residential School and I went there. I found that place was a lot better than the school I attended at home. That Residential School at Morley was very strict. They wouldn’t even allow us to go to any of our ceremonies held by our people. They didn’t want us to learn anything about the Native ceremonies. They wouldn’t let us go to any of those while we were in school. This is one of the things that I really felt that we had been abused to make us lose the traditional values. In our Native education, pre European, our Native People were taught nature’s education. They were able to read the sign of the sun. They were able to read the sign of the moon, the stars, the air, the water, Mother Earth and all the environment. And we were able to teach --- There is a sign in our own physical body which will tell --- We were taught about what it really means. There’s a sign, there are feelings in your body, even a sign in your eyes. And when you hear --- They always say if you hear a dog howling at night it means there is going to be a death, or something disastrous is going to happen in the family. Or if you start to see horses or cattle or dogs or cats or anything playing around, frolicking around, they say there is going to be a change in the weather. In the fall if you see the geese flying low it’s going to be a good winter. If you see the geese flying way high migrating south, it’s going to be a cold winter. They know practically everything about nature. They know if it’s going to be a cold winter or going to be a good winter. They were able to predict the kind of weather. They were able to predict the seasons. All those things that our People have learned but being in Residential Schools those were never taught. That’s what we lost. That’s the crumbling of civilization for us as Native People during the time we were in Residential Schools. We lost all that. We became an unjust society. We were never give the same privileges. We never got the same opportunities as the rest of the citizens in this country. We’re just like babies at the time of the Treaty. I was in Switzerland back in 2001. I was asked to sit in on a Workshop held by the United Nations members and world leaders from sixty countries. There I heard four things which I had never heard before. One United Nation member from Palestine, one from France, he asked me, “Do you realize that your First Nations in Canada have been conquered through peaceful coexistence?” That’s one of the things I never used to know. As I say, through our lack of education we don’t get promotions so our students only get so much education, a substandard education, not enough to get ourselves to become equal with the rest. He said that another thing that really held us down is how we are being recognized as a Third World People. At that Conference, that Workshop, that was the only time I knew the global population of Indigenous People, the global population of global Indigenous People, they tell me there’s 350 million Indigenous People around the world which I never used to know. I travelled with my dad, as I said, to different countries outside of North America. I have been to Hawaii, Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Philippine Islands, Japan, Johannesburg in South Africa, Bonn, Germany, Geneva, Switzerland and London, England. Then we went to South America. We attended a Conference in Florida for ten days. After that the Moral Rearmament Organization would change. We were invited by the South American governments to Brazil, Sao Paulo in Brazil and we spent another ten days there. From there we went south to the mouth of the Amazon. We found some Native People there called Amazonis (ph.). They told us they have never been confederated. We went to Lima, Peru. We went to La Pas in Bolivia. I went and asked at the Canadian Embassy what is the population of Indigenous People in South America. He told me that including Central and South America there are thirty million Natives. So these are the things that I never used to know. But what I had learned --- I always say I learned more just by travelling, seeing what is going on around the world. I mentioned that our People were able to read the signs of Nature. Back in 1938 I remember very well you see this evening star that comes out in the sky, it comes out bright --- Q. Um-hmm. A. At that time I remember they were saying that there was something wrong because of the change in the colour of that evening star. It comes with a little bit of a reddish colour. Our people were saying there is going to be a disaster in the world. So they had to put on a Sun Dance prayer, praying for the people, for everything, for nature, so that nothing would happen here in our own country. Not too long after World War II broke out. They were able to notice that. That’s the kind of education our People had. One of the sad things is since the Europeans didn’t understand our People, they thought we were uncivilized people, and then travelling with this Initiatives of Change and Moral Rearmament --- My dad always to tell us the only weapon, the priority for Native People, is to get the best of the White man’s education, learn the best of Native education and use both. That’s the only way you are going to cope with the rest of the seditions in this country. I really believe in that. What I learned from the Initiatives of Change --- People have to really make a change in their own lives. They have to make their own decision in their own lives if they want to see a change in their society, a change in their community, a change in their nation, they have to start with themselves. In 1958 I went to the Moral Rearmament Training Centre. It was the first time I had ever been to a place like that. It was a big conference for people from all around the world. I found people from sixty different countries, I think. I know they told me there were about six hundred delegates there. One of the things I learned when I attended there, after being there for four days --- When I first went to that Training Centre I was placed in the same room with a fellow Albertan. He was from Edmonton. His name was Jack Freebury (ph.). I was put in the same room with him. Right away I had resentment. I didn’t know why, but I wouldn’t speak to him unless he speaks to me, talks to me. Attending the sessions I hear people giving the convictions from their lives, how to put right what’s wrong in our own lives, how to put a change in their lives, saying that human nature can change and how to apologize to people and how to ask forgiveness and all that. Gee, I thought, how can I forgive somebody who has hurt my feelings? That’s the first thing I thought. But later on I began to start to think of my own gospels from my own People. I started to think. One day during the session I heard one of the big leaders there talking to the whole audience, speaking to the whole audience and I started to feel very guilty. I thought somebody must have been telling him what kind of a person I was. He was making me feel very guilty by what he was saying. Just then a thought came to me. You can’t hide anything from God. You can’t deny anything from God. Right then I started to think of my own roommate. So that evening I went back to my room. When Jack came back in the room I said, “Jack, I want to apologize to you for hating you for being my roommate. I want to apologize to you. I want you to forgive me for this.” So he said he will. And he said that he wanted to apologize to me, too, and asked me to forgive him. He said before he met this International Forum for Moral Rearmament Initiative of Change he never had any interest in the Native People. He didn’t understand the Native People. He didn’t care for the Native People. So both of us got honest with each other. From that day on we became one of the best friends. He’s a White man and I’m an Indian but we’re still the best of friends. From that day on all my bitterness and hatred left. I was able to speak to anybody. I also found myself feeling very superior to the dark people, the Black people, and I was very superior to the Asians. But from that day on I was able to speak to any of them, feeling they have the same feelings. I feel that they are all God’s people. I think this is what is needed here in our own country. There is a need for change in ourselves as Native People, a change in our society, a change in the community and a change in the nation. That’s the only way we’re going to see a better future for the future generations. Or else we’re going to follow in the same footsteps of so many conflicts there are in other countries, just like what is happening in Africa. When I was in Johannesburg we also went to Uganda, in the central part of Africa. It was very lawless there. There is no freedom there. I found that out. If there’s not a change in the future with all the Natives getting so much education, learning just as much as anybody, if there’s not a change in ourselves there could be a lot of conflicts. That’s what will happen. So as I say, that’s why we need a change in ourselves, to put right what is wrong in ourselves. Put right what is wrong in our society, put right what is wrong in our community and in the nation. I heard that man speaking, that Member of Parliament. I listened. He was referring to the need for change; a change in the nation. I maintain that no matter how much suffering we have endured, endured injustices and all that by the survivors of Residential School, if we make a change in ourselves we will go on to see a better future for our children. But we have to start with ourselves. That’s what I see. Q. Do you think that starts with people sharing their stories? Is that why it is important? A. Well, that’s one of the things that is needed. We do have --- A few of our own People have gone to these Initiative Change Training Centres and they begin to realize and there begins to be some changes in some of our Native People. And then we’ll feel that it’s not only us that need to change. It’s everybody in the country, the dominant society and everyone in the country so we can have a better relationship without any discrimination, prejudice and all that. Because discrimination and prejudice is not born. It’s being taught. These are the things that we really have to get down to see where we are wrong. I’ve been saying that we still have a long ways to go to really understand each other. If you could multiply me, between me and Jack Freebury, my friend from Edmonton, you could well see what kind of two cultures there is here in Canada. There’s a needed change. So I would like to see that. I’ve been hearing people talk about this, but there’s more need of change. One thing I said one time when we were talking about the national day for Aboriginal People, I said that it’s time for us, the First Nations of Canada --- --- End of Part 1 …part of the government department under this thing. I was saying if that time ever comes that’s the only time our Native People will understand. They will have an interest in their own people. They will understand their own people. They care for their own people. They know where the need is in all these different communities across Canada. They know where the need is in the lives of the Native People better than the present bureaucrats in Ottawa. I don’t think any of them ever set foot in these Indian communities. That’s one of my visions. Q. It seems since Residential School you have learned --- Since Residential School you were talking about learning more about our traditions and one of the important questions that we ask is about people’s healing journey. That is very important. So could you talk to me a bit more about your healing from Residential School? A. Yeah. That’s why I say there is a need for healing and reconciliation in ourselves, no matter who they are, not only the Native People but the rest of the people. That’s one of the things that is really needed. Q. Is there more you would like to add about Residential School or is there anything more that you would like to say about that? Is there anything more you would like to say about your experience in Residential School? A. I have been helping the teachers at the school right now. That’s what I’m talking about right now, where there is a need for change. With the kind of education that we’ve got, like I said, they are discriminating against our people, our children, through social promotions so when they reach Grade 9, when they are going to go to high school, they find themselves about a grade or two behind. That’s when the big majority of our Native People drop out. That’s where it is. That has to be changed. We have to get the same level of education as the rest. Q. So you have been very busy. A. Yeah. Q. Since you left the Residential School when you were eighteen you have been working hard. A. In those days in Residential Schools they sent out teachers who were the leftovers. All the good qualified teachers go to the towns and cities. The ones that didn’t get a job in the cities, they had to go to the Indian Schools. They are the ones that really didn’t have enough degree to be teachers. That’s one of the things, too, that really kept our Native People down. I was just saying the other day that you never see a millionaire Native Person in this country. You see other people from other countries, they come to Canada. Canada is supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world. A lot of them became millionaires but none of our own People ever become millionaires. Q. We buy Lotto tickets! A. Yeah. Q. All right, William. A. So what happened to the students in Residential Schools we do know it was so sad to know all about that, that that could be changed with a change in ourselves and a change in our society and a change in our nation. Just like when I was hearing that Member of Parliament speaking out there. If we had more of them, Members of Parliament that really know what the need is, I think we can have a better Canada. Q. He had very wise words. Thank you for sharing your time. A. That’s what I have learned just by travelling and seeing other countries. Q. You have been to a lot of places. A. Yeah. I seen the history of other countries, other nations, I have seen it with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears. Some people ask me how much education I have. They ask me if I have been to university. I say that I have never been to university, but I have been to nature’s university. I learned more through nature. Just the other day I was telling my children it is going to rain within four days. And it happened. Somebody asked me in Cochrane --- I went inside a café. There were four elderly men that I know and their wives were sitting at a big table there. When I walked in they said, “Oh, here’s a man who can tell us what kind of winter we’re going to have.” I looked around and I said, “I think we’re going to have a cold winter.” “How do you know?” they said. I said, “I noticed that you are growing your beards. You are preparing for a cold winter.” Q. That’s good. A. So that’s my story about what happened to me. You could pretty well tell that it happened to so many of our students. Q. Thank you very much. A. One of the things that happened to our students was they didn’t even know about their own traditional values, and when they come out of school and they have their own families, they are not able to teach their children about these traditional values and unable to teach them the kind of teachings that our People had because at one time our people were very noble people. But that has been lost. They aren’t even taught about their own kinships. They always say if you know about your kinship you will grow up to learn to respect your own people, respect your own relatives. Without knowing your kinship you will be just like a dog. You don’t know if they are a relation or not. Q. That’s true. A. So many things our people have in their own education which need to be taught. In my lifetime --- Lately I begin to find out in White society there is still a need for them to really understand our people. Last summer at the Calgary Stampede I was sitting in front of a tee-pee seeing all the tourists and all the people walking through the tee-pees. A couple of men approached me and they sat down. They told me they came from Spain. They are studying native history. One was a photographer. After they finished talking to me they asked me, “Where can we find the Indians?” I said, “You’re talking to one of them!” Right away I know all they know about the Indians is about the stereotype people. They think that we’re still dressed in our feathers. Q. They were looking for someone with braids! (Laughter) And buckskins. A. Yeah. Q. That’s funny. A. So this is my story of what happened to me. Q. All right. A. I had to go through a Training Centre for the change in my life. I was able to forgive, I was able to give my forgiveness to my People. So everybody is my friend. One of the things my mother told me one time when I was young, she said, “Sonny, as you go down in life don’t ever meet a person with a dead face. Always meet a person with a smile. Be polite, no matter who they are; a child, a stranger, no matter who it is. They all have the same feelings. The Creator made us all the same. The only difference is the race, colour and creed. That’s the only difference. Other than that we’re all one person.” She always said that. These were the kind of teachings our Native People had. This has never been taught in the Residential Schools. So that’s where we really became lost. We could be called a lost people. Q. That’s why we do these interviews. We do these interviews so the stories aren’t lost. Because a lot of people are getting older and we want to make sure that those stories are kept for the next generation and the next generations. They are all wonderful stories, like your own. Thank you. M’gwich. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 25:46

Beverly Albrecht

Mohawk Institute

THE INTERVIEWER: We want to offer you tobacco and thank you very much for coming. I’ll give it to you afterwards, because people handle it and that’s all we hear. But for the interview we have also brought rocks which have been blessed by our spiritual people in Winnipeg, so you can hold onto tht through the interview. Pick a rock, there. I take a few little notes here, just so you know, as we go along. Can you tell us your name, please and spell it for us. BEVERLY ALBRECHT: Okay. Beverly Albrecht; B-e-v-e-r-l-y A-l-b-r-e-c-h-t. Q. Where are you from? A. I’m from Six Nations, but I live in Brantford, so I’m Status, Quega (ph.) Turtle Clan. Q. What Residential School did you go to? A. Mohawk Institute in Brantford. I went from 1966 to 1970, and that’s when they closed it. Q. Wow. Were you there when they closed it? A. Um-hmm. Q. Oh. You’ll have to tell us about how that felt. Do you remember your first day at the school? A. Yes. There were 3 sisters who went, including myself, and 2 brothers. But the boys were separated from the girls. They had their own Dorm. My family went before me because I was in the hospital. I had to have open heart surgery in Toronto, because I was born with a heart murmur. When I was 7 I had to have open heart surgery as soon as I went to the hospital in Toronto. When I left the hospital I had to go to Residential School. I didn’t find out until later on in life that we were under Childrens’ Aid and my mom was a single parent because my dad died and she couldn’t take care of all of us. So we got sent as a family. I found out later that my mom was in Residential School, the same one, but I don’t know how long she stayed, because her mom died young so her grandmother raised her for a little while. And her dad couldn’t raise her, so she was sent to Residential School. So my mother went, and myself, and I’m glad it closed. Q. Did your mom ever talk about how she felt having to send you there? A. She thought it was best for us because she couldn’t take care of us and she didn’t have very much support, like emotional support. I was 7. I was the oldest. My brother was 6. My other sister was 5. The other brother was 4, and my younger sister was 3. Q. Three when she went to Residential School? A. Yeah. She just said that was the best for us. So I just accepted it. Q. Did you go straight from the hospital after your surgery to the school? A. Yes. I remember the first day I went there were steps that you go up into the Institute. I remember there was a little boy sitting on the steps and I was waiting for someone to come and get me to tell me where I had to go. He gave me a hug and gave me a kiss on the cheek, and he goes, “You’re going to be all right.” I didn’t even know this boy. I found out later who he was. But I thought that was different. This is an experience that has stayed with me. That was my first day. I could see my brothers at supper time, when we had meals, because we came in in different lines. And then we got to see them. Q. Do you remember anything else about your first day? A. Just that we had to all dress up. We had to wear a uniform. Everybody dressed the same. We had to get our hair cut. And being scared. I didn’t know what was required, and that was part of the requirement that everybody looks the same. They have short hair. And boys and girls met at mealtimes. Q. Were you allowed to talk to them at mealtimes? A. The only time I remember talking to my brothers is Sunday. We have a Sunday dinner. That’s the only time I remember talking to them. The boys sat on one side and the girls on the other. Q. You had just had surgery. Did you have any after surgery care when you went to the school? Was there anyone coming to check on how your heart was, and stuff after that? A. Not that I remember. The only time I remember being sick was having mumps. I remember I was in class and they had a piano teacher. I was going to learn piano lessons, but I couldn’t take it because I had mumps. That’s the only other time I remember anybody taking care of you. They were separate from the Dorms. They had a Sick Room, they called it. Q. Can you tell us about a typical day? What time did you wake up? Did you have chores to do? What meals did you eat? What about the education, and that sort of thing. Just take us through a typical day. A. Okay. I think we woke up about 7, but I’m not sure. It was early because we had to do chores before we went to eat. We all had to get dressed, make our bed and line up. We had to make our beds like the military, really tight, so a quarter would jump. That’s how we were taught to make our beds, because we had bunk beds. One of my chores I remember was doing the stairs. I had to clean them with a toothbrush, that’s how clean they were supposed to be. I remember using bleach. I still use bleach, not as much as I used to because I have a daughter and 3 sons and they say I use too much bleach. Also, in my profession, I’m a Personal Support Worker, I think that’s why I got into that kind of environment, because that’s all I was used to is cleaning. After we did that we had to get in line, go out and have our breakfast. It reminded me of the Army because everybody is lined up. We had 3 different levels. There was Junior, Intermediate and Senior. It was by your age group. You had different privileges for whichever group you were in, plus what time you had to go to bed. After breakfast we would go to school. We used to have to walk there, go to our class and learn. I thought the education was all right. But if you were bad, or if anybody was bad, we had to squat. That was our punishment, to go down the hall. And also you had to stand, pretend you have a book on your head, and make your back straight because that’s part of discipline they said, and also to have good posture. I remember that. I remember one trip when I was a little bit older. We went to the Royal Winter Fair. I didn’t know what it was. I just remember it was all decorated and it was nice. I remember going. But now that I see commercials, now I know it’s called the Royal Winter Fair. At that time I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was just some kind of fairy land, or something, because everything was decorated. I enjoyed that. For May 24th we would go to the Reserve for bread and cheese, but we would take the bus and go for the day. But we were all dressed the same and everybody still had short hair. I remember the first day before I went to bed, we had to do a hair check to see if we had lice. They used very strong chemicals in our hair but I didn’t know what it was. Q. Even if you didn’t have lice? A. Yes. Everybody did it. They had to have it. For breakfast we usually had porridge. They called it the “Mush Hole” because that’s what we had was mush. If you talk to Residential School survivors some still like mush and others don’t. I still like it, but some people won’t have anything to do with it because if you have it every day, it’s something that you don’t forget. I won’t forget it anyways. We would have play time. The girls would usually play together. There were a lot of different Cree people from different Reserves, and if they were caught speaking their language they were strapped for it. Q. Could you speak your language when you went to Residential School? A. No. I didn’t know my language. My mom knew hers, but she was so afraid to speak it with us because she went to Residential School and they were taught the same way: you don’t speak it or you get heck. It’s like they said it was wrong. So she never taught us. But I knew that she knew how to speak, or listen, even to communicate with the older people. But I don’t know my language. Q. Before you went to school did you practice any traditions at home? A. We didn’t really have a tradition. The only thing I think of being close is doing things together. Before I went into Residential School my mom used to take us to visit relatives. She was like a mother duck and we were behind her. I always think family is important so I always keep in touch with my family. I tell them, like my daughter, even though she’s older now, she’s got her own family, she says, “I didn’t used to like it when you used to take us visiting because to me it was like a long day.” I said, “That’s what I learned from my mom.” Even though I was young, it is something that stayed with me. And even to this day I still feel that visiting people, even elderly people, even if you don’t talk to them, just listen, you learn a lot. So it’s something that I pass onto my children. My boys are very social. They like to visit people. Q. What other experiences are you able to talk about that happened at Residential School? A. Okay. One of the things that happened to me was me and my friend were running around the Dorm. We were going in between the bunk beds. We called them House Mothers. They were people who took care of us. They are Non-Native. This one lady was over weight so she couldn’t fit between the bars, so we would go through there. And we got caught running around. So we got sent downstairs and they had an office. In the office were some lockers. We were both put in there and they closed the doors on us. I think I only stayed there ten minutes. She stayed longer. I don’t know when she came back up. So even to this day, when I’m in a room I have to keep the closet doors closed. I think that affects me. I know where it came from. I’ve had counselling and I know that because I was so young it stays with me. That was one of the things that happened to me there. Another one was on Sundays --- Because they didn’t want us to get along with the other girls, they would have boxing matches to make us fight just so that we wouldn’t like the other girls, and also, too, because they thought they had so many rules, they thought if we fight with each other we’ll end up taking our anger, or whatever we have, out on the other girls. I remember fighting with my sister. She’s 2 years younger than me, but we never beat each other. We just did it. We were just talking about it last week that we were taught to defend ourselves. But that’s not very loving and it’s not very physical. You don’t do it just because you want to. They did it because they wanted us to be angry and to beat up on somebody younger. Q. Really? Who would arrange these fights? A. The House Mothers. They are the ones who took care of us. But every day we would have a different one and they would have different shifts. So we would have one who would wake us up every day. Another one would go to meals with us. Another one would make sure that we had our bath or our shower. The Shower Room was --- Like say it was Juniors. All the girls would go together, and then the Intermediates another time, and Seniors at another time. In our cloakroom we had one locker. We had one set of clothes for play/school and another one for going to the Mohawk Chapel. We went every Sunday. That’s where we would walk. That was our worship. They didn’t want us to do smudging or anything. My mom didn’t do smudging because I guess she didn’t really know that much. I didn’t find out about smudging until later on, when you were asking if there was anything different. Q. Just back to the boxing for a minute. Would they have other girls watch that as well? A. Um-hmm. Yeah, it was like a spectator thing. They would all cheer, and whatever. Q. Wow. How did the girls feel about that? A. Well, a lot of them just did it because they had to. I don’t think they wanted to, but it was because it was required, they just did it. Q. Do you remember anyone being hurt? A. Not really bad, I don’t think. They would stop it before someone got really hurt. I think it was more just so we couldn’t get along. Q. Would that kind of fighting continue with the girls after, like in the Dorm? A. No, no. They would just say it was at certain times. If you had a problem with somebody they would say if you want to fight that one, you can. Q. Like if someone was --- A. Like the next week. Q. Wow. A. But I don’t remember anybody getting seriously hurt. But just thinking about it, it would stay with you. Q. Are there any other experiences that you want to share with us? A. I had cousins, other relatives that I knew that went as families, too. I have a niece who is older than me. We’re still real close. We’re both on our healing journey. I was mostly at her mom’s. That’s my sister, my older sister. I was at their house a lot, even before I went into the school. My niece and I, we’re still close. Q. What about the education? What grade did you end up with when you left there? A. Probably Grade 4 or Grade 5. Q. Because it closed down? A. Yes. Q. Can you talk a little bit about what happened when it closed down? You were there when that happened? A. All we knew was that it was closing down. They never really told us why. It was just that we knew we couldn’t go back. Only once we went home in the summer, because you could go home for the summer, and my mom used to come and visit us once a month. She would take us out to the show in Brantford. I liked that. But with closing down, I didn’t really understand why it closed down. Q. How old were you when it closed down? A. About ten. Q. So after it closed down, did you go to regular day school then? A. Because I was under Childrens’ Aid I went into a foster home. Because there were 5 of us in the family, the boys were with a lady and we were with her sister, us 3 girls. So we didn’t even get to go home. We went to foster care, until I was about thirteen or fourteen. Q. That next year after it closed down, did you go to a regular day school? A. Yeah. But we had to take a bus. Q. What did you think of that after your experience in Residential School? How different did that feel, going to a day school? Did you like it better? Or was it worse? What did you think of it? A. I don’t think it was any worse. I think it was just different because we had to go on the bus and we had to try to make new friends. I’m a shy person so I usually kept to myself. Q. What about your healing journey? Can you tell us a little bit about how things are for you now? First of all, I should ask: Do you feel that your experience at Residential School has affected your whole life? A. Yes. Because we were not allowed to show affection, it’s hard for me to say “I love you” to my children. That’s why I took counselling. It’s something that I have to think about daily, and to show them, not just to say it. Like I show them, but I don’t say it. They want me to show them. With my grandchildren it’s easier. When I went to counselling --- I was ten when I left Residential School to go into foster care. I asked the counsellor why is it hard for me to do that? She asked: “How old were you when you left?” I said, “Ten.” She said, “That’s the age you left Residential School to go to foster care and that’s why it affects you.” It’s something that stayed with you but I never thought about the age. I told her that I’m trying to show my children that I love them and that I care for them. But like I said, with grandchildren, or from a baby to ten, that’s when I could give them hugs and kisses. But after that I couldn’t. That’s when I found out why. That helped me in counselling because that was part of my life. It’s still part of my life. I tell my children, I have a daughter and 3 sons, I tell them about Residential School and things I went through. They said, “We never knew how it affected you.” And I said, “It changes your life, but it was something I don’t regret going because I listened to my mom and I always kept in close contact with my mom.” I learned about her story. So when I went to Lost Generations, a Residential School Support Group, they had that for 5 years. That really helped me because I got to hear other stories and I got to know how we could support each other. There were people from Waswanipi, in Quebec. My niece and I went up there about 4 years ago. They had a conference. It was thirty years before they had a conference. We were glad we could go to share our stories, how we’re healing. I still go to a women’s circle in Brantford. I go to Jan’s group, and she teaches different things, how we can support each other. Q. How old are your children now? A. My daughter is twenty-nine, my son is twenty-eight, my other son is twenty-seven, and the last one is fifteen. Q. Was it easy for you to talk to them about Residential School, or did it take quite a few years before you were able to? A. Well, when my daughter went to college and university she learned more about it. But she said that she couldn’t understand what I went through until she heard it from an elderly woman and what she had to go through. She says that now she understands why I am the way I am. Once she started asking questions, that’s when I got into it more. I didn’t want to pressure them or tell them this is the way things are because I didn’t want them to think negatively. Because there were good points. We did make friends. The ones in Residential School are your family, so whenever you see anybody, they are still your family, and that’s the way I feel even to this day. Q. I know the school is still standing. What’s it like for you when you see the school now? A. Oh, I still go there. I go there for the library to get information. I’m doing a family tree because I didn’t really know my family. I go there and get information because they have things from the Census and stuff like that. A lot of people, if you talk to them, who went to Residential School, a lot of them haven’t even gone back to their name. They had a different name when they went to Residential School. When they left, they changed their name because that’s how it affected them. You didn’t go by names. You went by numbers. You were a number. Q. Do you remember your number? A. My number was sixty-six. Like I said, with our locker you had your number on there, and on your clothes and shoes; the two outfits. Q. What about other meals there like lunch and supper? Did you feel you had enough food when you were there? A. Yes. But you never ever saw any overweight children because they got you to run around and do things. Some people planted, other people did dishes. An institution has all kinds of dishes that you have to wash and then you spray them with disinfectant. You had to clean everything. They had big machines for laundry. Other ladies went to the Sewing Room. There were all kinds of chores, but it was things they taught you to be, like a housewife or a sewer, to do laundry, to be a farmer. So I think they taught us things like that. But for little children if you’re not shown love or anything, you don’t know how to express that because you were told that’s bad --- You were not even supposed to hug your brother or sister! Q. That affected how you were able to mother your children? A. Yes. Q. Before we talk about your healing journey, are there any final things you would like to share? A. I would like to say thank you for this experience here, because it helps me. And I’m glad that I can help other people. I’m always learning. Q. What about your healing? How has that been for you? A. My healing? I do journaling for myself, like I said, with my women’s circle, we make crafts such as moccasins, dream catchers, and sometimes we quilt and things like that. Q. Does it help you to learn about traditions that were lost? A. Yes. Because when I go to the Reserve there are a lot of things that I never experienced, so I’m just learning them for the first time. So that helps me, and whatever I learn I pass on. Q. That’s good. Any final words? A. I’m just glad that I’m here. Q. Good. Thank you very much for coming today. You did a great job. A. Thank you. Q. These things really do help and make a difference, every single person who has the courage, like yourself, to come forward and share their stories, makes a difference for generations to come. People will finally know what happened, because nobody knows it. There are too many people out there who have no idea, so every single one is so important. Thank you for coming. A. Okay. Q. Now I can give you your tobacco. You keep that. That’s for you. A. Thanks. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 17:32

Harry McGillivray

Prince Albert Indian Residential School & Dauphin (the school in Dauphin was the MacKay Indian Residential School)

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay. Could you please say your name and spell it for us? HARRY McGILLIVARY: My name is Harry McGillivary. Spell it? Q. Yes, please. A. H-a-r-r-y M-c-Gi-l-l-i-v-a-r-y. Q. Thank you. And what Residential School did you go to? A. I went to PA; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1959 and ’60. Q. Two years? A. Two years. Well, ten months I guess. Q. In Prince Albert? A. Yeah. That’s the only one. Q. Was that a Roman Catholic School? A. No. Anglican. Q. How old were you when you started? A. I’m sixty-one now. Take away ’59 --- Q. Were you about five, just like kindergarten age? A. Let’s see, sixty-one take away fifty-nine. How old would I be?—Fourteen. Thirteen. Q. I’m not good in math, figuring those things out. That’s okay. You were young! A. Yeah. That’s pretty young. Q. Do you remember what life was like before you went to Residential School? A. Well, we lived on the Reserve at that time. There was nothing on our Reserve at that time. I came from a very poor family anyway. I only had a single parent. My dad was killed in a car accident at a very early age. My mother was our sole supporter, I guess. Q. Did you have brothers and sisters? A. Yes, I had brothers and sisters. Q. How many? A. Well, the total in the whole family is thirteen. Two of them are survivors, too, but now they’re gone. Q. Do you remember your first day of school and what that was like? A. It was a day school in the beginning. It was close by where we lived. Q. And it was a day school? A. It was a day school. Q. So you were allowed to come home very day? A. Yeah. Q. Did you go to a boarding school at all? A. Well, not until I reached --- I don’t know what grade I was in. That’s the time I went, in ’59. that’s when I went. ’59 was the time. I’m going to start from the beginning there, from ’59. Q. Okay. Let’s start there. A. In late August of 1959 an Indian Agent by the name of Pete (something) from Indian Affairs came to our house. He was talking to my mother. The only two words I remember at that time was Prince Albert. Then he came over and he pointed at me, “You, and my brother David, and you.” That was it. Then he was talking to my mother. Then my mother started to cry. We didn’t know why. That same afternoon he came and picked us up. He just took us the way we were. Like I said before, we came from a poor family. He just took us the way we were with the clothes we had. We had nothing else. And they putted us in the train station that evening and we took off. But I was happy to see that we had some relatives with us too at that time. They putted us in the train and we travelled all night. Where we were going we didn’t even know. We just kept on going and going. Later the train, on them tracks, it goes clickety-clack. That’s all we heard all night. By the time we reached Prince Albert it was the next afternoon. We reached Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and they putted us up in the school. They brought us up to that school. That school used to be old Army barracks. They were shaped in an “H” shape. The first thing they did was they stripped the clothes that we had off our backs. They stripped them off and we never seen our clothes again. They were taken and they were gone. Burned, I guess. And the next thing they did was they clipped off our hair and our heads looked like a little soup bowl. You know, they cut your hair (indicating). They cut it. Then they took us to the showers and they sprayed something on our hair. I guess it was to keep the --- Now I know what it’s for, to keep the lice out of your hair at that time. Now I know. Then they settled us into Dorms and that was in ’59. That was a long ten months. Then the loneliness started to set in. We longed to see our mother and our brothers and sisters. But like I said, coming from a poor community, there was no electricity on the Reserve. There were no phone calls, no letters. We had a pretty lonely life. Like I said, there was no love, nobody to love you or nobody to care for you, nobody to tuck you in bed or tell you a story, like the care we had at home. Mind you, like I said, we were a very poor family but we were happy when we were home. Being in school was a very different situation. We were underfed, I guess. We were always hungry. I always laugh at this one because we used to go and steal in the farmer’s fields. We used to go and steal carrots or whatever vegetables there were. I laugh at this one now and then. We used to pull the carrots and you know, you clean them up with that green stuff they’ve got on top there. You clean them up and there’s a little bit of dirt but that didn’t matter. We used to say it was a little bit of gravy. (Laughter) That’s what we used to do there. But loneliness --- I don’t think anybody loved us. We were just there. Q. Did you ever get caught stealing the carrots? A. Well, some guys did but I didn’t. I knew some of them got a good licking. Q. What was the food like there? A. Aw, it was terrible. You only got a ration, or whatever. That’s why I say we used to get hungry and steal. That was the bad part there but we weren’t sexually abused or anything like that. That part I would say we were never sexually abused. I didn’t in my part anyway and I didn’t see anybody get sexually abused too. Mind you, we had a few good lickings, but that’s a part of growing up as a boy. You got in a few scraps. You gave a licking and you took some, too. But that was part of growing up being a boy. It was mostly the loneliness that set in. Q. What about your culture. Did you speak your language before you went? A. Yes, I spoke my language. That’s the one I just about lost. I just about lost that one. But I lost my culture. Today I can’t even fillet a fish yet and I’m sixty-two years old. That part I don’t know how to do. Like I told you before, my dad was killed at a very early age and we had no teacher in our family, nobody to teach us. That made it worse when they sent us to boarding school. I completely lost it. Every time you tried to talk Cree they told us to shut up. I saw a few kids get a licking for just trying to talk their language. But I managed to get it all back after I came back from Prince Albert. And then they shipped us to Dauphin. In ’61 and ’62 they shipped us to Dauphin, to MacKay School. That was a better place to be. Q. That was a better school? A. That was a better school in Dauphin. Q. How come? A. Like I said before, we used to steal those carrots. We used to go and steal crabapples but they were a little cleaner. We used to stuff those crabapples in the fall in our pockets, eh. Q. So what was it like going home for the summer. Did you get to go home at all? A. Well, we never went home for Christmas. It was like I said before, we came from a poor family. My mother didn’t work. There was no Welfare at that time. Everything was tough, tough living. So in 1962 I came out of school and I joined the work force. I went to work in an extra gang and then I never went back to school. I tried to help my mother out raising up these kids. Five of us went to the Residential School --- All different --- I think three of us went to Dauphin and two went to Birtle. Q. Do you talk to your brothers and sisters about your experiences and do they talk about their experiences? A. No. We never do. Q. Did your mom go to Residential School? A. No, she didn’t. I don’t know if she ever did go to school. Q. Did you ever get to talk to her about your experiences? A. No. Q. So what was your best memory of Residential School? A. Well, we were healthy and we were well fed in the school. The school was there but I had to leave to go to work. Q. How old were you in 1962 when you left? A. Sixteen. Q. Sixteen. A. Sixteen. Yeah. Q. And what’s your worst memory of Residential School? A. Just the loneliness to be back home with the family. Q. Do you think that still stays with you today? A. Yes. I’m sixty-three years old and I’m not married. I think that’s where I picked it up. There was nobody to love us there for ten months, nobody to care for us. Q. Has life been difficult since Residential School? A. No. I went into the work force. Q. And that was a lot better than school. You were happy to get out? A. Yeah, I was happy to get out and work and kind of help my mother out. Q. Did you ever try to run away when you were in school? A. No. There was no sense running away. They would catch you anyway. They would have sent you to a worse place. Q. Did you go back home at all after 1962? A. Yeah, I came home in ’62. I worked on the extra gang for CNR. Q. And you lived at home at that time? A. Yeah. Q. So how are things now for you? A. Well, I’m retired now. I worked in Toco Sawmills for thirty-six years. Q. Do you think they gave you a good education at Residential School? A. Yes, they did. The education was there. Yeah, the education was there. Q. Well, we’ll talk a little bit more about if there are any final things you want to say about Residential School. A. Well, let’s see. What was I going to say. I was going to talk about that Indian Agent who picked us up in ’59. I’ve been mad at him for all this time. If you see an Indian Agent come to your house or anything like that, just grab him by the scruff of his collar and the seat of his pants and throw him out. Tell him the days of bright coloured jackets, cheap wine and beads are gone. We’re in a modern age here now. We have the resources to build our own schools now on the Reserves and we have the challenge and the knowledge of our Aboriginal People to teach our young people. You’ll be glad to see your children get on an 8:30 bus in the morning and you’ll be happy to see them come back the same day on the four o’clock bus. Q. Did you ever see that Indian Agent again after that day? A. No. I never did. I don’t know if he’s still alive or not. That goes for all Indian Agents. Q. So do you still live here now? A. Yeah. I live here. Like I said, I’m retired now. Q. And you’ve never been married? A. No, never been married. Q. So do you take part in any healing groups or anything like that? A. No. But I belong to a church group. Q. What’s the church group? A. Yeah. Church of the Redeemer. I’m a People’s Warden there. Q. That’s good. And you find it easy to talk about your experiences now? A. This is the first time I talk like this. Well, the second time I guess. Last year, too, when they had this Conference, I talked about this. Q. So you never talked about it before that? A. No. Q. Do you find it a little bit easier every time? A. Yeah. Last time I cried. This time I didn’t. But I didn’t mention my --- Well, she was like a big sister to us at that time. Her name was Victoria. She is a cousin of mine. She was older than us. She knew our loneliness when were up there as small kids. She used to take us to town sometimes. She knew. But she died there a couple of years ago. I never had the chance to say thank you to her. Q. That would have been something you would have done. A. Yeah. But I never realized that until after she died. Q. When did she die? A. A couple of years ago. Q. Well, you get to say it now so it’s always going to be there, that “thank you”. Thank you very much for coming today. Are there any final words you would like to share. A. No. I guess that’s it. Just get that Indian Agent and throw him a curve. Q. Good. Well, thank you so much for coming. A. Thank you. Q. Okay. You’re done. Good job. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 33:03

Charles Scribe

Jack River School aka Notre Dame School

THE INTERVIEWER: Charles, could you please tell us your full name and spell it for us? CHARLES SCRIBE: My name is Charles Scribe. The spelling is C-h-a-r-l-e-s S-c-r-i-b-e. Q. Thank you. Where do you come from? A. I’m originally from Norway House. Q. Oh. And what school did you go to? A. In Norway House I attended the Jack River School. It was also known as the Jack River Hostel, or Notre Dame School. It was a Mission School which was operated by the Oblates. Q. Excellent. Do you remember what years you went there? A. I started school there when I was six years old. I spent nine years there. I attended as a day student for those nine years that I was there. It was run by --- Our teachers were Nuns and it was run by a Priest. The Principal was a Priest and there were Brothers, I guess, that were the staff. There was the odd lay person there but generally it was run by the Nuns and the Priests. It was a sort of traumatizing time being there. It was similar to being in a Residential School. We had to abide by all the regulations and whatever religious things that were imposed on us. One of the things I remember clearly when I was growing up as a young boy was my mother and dad were Residential School survivors but they maintained this concept of family. They concentrated on that. Before we went to school they were very adamant in maintaining a family nucleus. We weren’t Catholics at the time. We were Anglicans when I was a young boy. Although we were Anglicans we attended Sunday School in a church that was evangelistic, or Pentecostal, you know. This was during my pre-school years. We had the opportunity to visit the Sunday School. It was a really good experience for me at that time because the Sunday Schools were run by a Minister and his wife. He had a son and a daughter so he had the type of family that everybody looks for. Most of his teachings were family oriented. He taught us the biblical stories about Jesus and his growing up, things like he was a carpenter’s helper. They covered all the things that were positive. At that time we felt that we had no problems. Everything was positive. Our lifestyle and everything was positive. Everything was clean and pure, even attending this school. In our community our traditional ways were almost lost. Everybody had become Christianized. My dad maintained Christianity very strong. He was a war veteran. He was a family man and consequently the stories we were listening to were very positive and related to family. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed going there. My mother maintained her traditional ways and she provided these teachings to us as well. But she was not from our community. She was from a different Tribe outside the community. Her people were stronger in maintaining their traditional ways so she kept us informed about the way things are for Indian people in a traditional aspect. Nonetheless, we followed the teachings of Jesus, the teachings that were taught by this Minister and his wife. We grew up that way until I attended school. Q. How did that change everything for you? A. Well, one of the things that was most traumatic was seeing the way that the Catholic Church depicted Jesus. One of the things that really traumatized me at that age was seeing this man, you know, that we’ve got to respect, hanging on a cross and he was all bloody with thorns on his head and a stab wound in his side and he was nailed to a cross. When I saw that it was really traumatic. The Nuns and the Priests were telling us the reason why this occurred was because Jesus died for your sins. I said, “What do you mean by sins?” They said that we’re all born with sin, we’re born with original sin. I wondered why because we always believed that we were born into this world pure and everything was positive. So I wondered what they meant by original sin. So I asked the question: What is original sin? It took a while for the Nuns to answer it but their answer was because your mother and your father committed a sin in order for you to be born. The sin that they were talking about is that they had sex together. And we weren’t aware of this at that age, you know. Q. Because you would have been just six years old. A. Yeah. It was shocking. It was really traumatic to learn that my mother and father were committing this sin in order for me to be born. So it was very devastating and very shocking. I couldn’t look at my parents again the same way. My feelings toward them changed. They were Residential School affected too. They were a little bit distant from us. They didn’t put us on their knee and embrace us the way a normal family would do. But nonetheless they showed us that they loved us and when we heard this story it was really traumatic to me to understand or to learn that my mother and my father had committed a sin because of their holy union. It made me feel really dirty. It made me feel bad. It really had an effect. The other aspect about it that was really puzzling was we asked them why are you Nuns and why do you not have a husband. They said they were married to Jesus and they even showed us their ring. They said that this ring means we are wedded to Jesus. That was puzzling because they all had rings, all of them, you know, and they all said the same thing, all these Nuns. It was really puzzling for me as a child because we were learning that a man and a woman commit themselves to each other for life and only to themselves. Here was a bunch of women married to Jesus. And again that was kind of shocking. It shocked us. It shocked me. Again, it made me feel not too good looking at them. It seemed like it was not real. We grew up that way. We noticed that in the school a lot of the kids with us were feeling the same way but they probably didn’t know how to express themselves. Q. Were you allowed to ask questions? Did they respond in a nice way when you asked those kinds of questions? A. No. It took them a long time to answer and sometimes they refused to answer. One of the things --- Like I was saying earlier, one of the things that was really puzzling was the fact that I was born with original sin. We eventually became Catholics at a later age. Q. Your whole family? A. Yeah. The reason why we became Catholics was my mother and my father felt we would be able to achieve a better education in the Catholic Residential School system. That was their feeling at the time and probably because there was no other way of getting us educated. Q. You went to day school for all those years? A. For nine years. Q. You were allowed to go home in the evening and be with your family? A. We were able to go home in the evenings. It gave us a break and it gave us a refuge, a place to go, a refuge. It gave us that. So we were able to go home and forget about what was occurring in the school. There were other students who were residents there from the outlying communities. They were caught there. A lot of them would approach us because they were suffering. They were lonely. They had nobody to turn to. There was a Brother in the school, one of the Brothers – I don’t really want to name him at this time – but he would go around looking at little boys. He would go around reaching for them and basically trying to find out which one would not respond. That was his way of searching out which little boy he would be able to I guess probably molest. So that was going on. Q. Did that ever happen to you? A. It never happened to me because I was able to run home. That was one of the advantages I had going to this day school is that if I felt that things were not right within the school then I was able to run away, run out the door. Q. Were you able to talk with your parents about what was going on? A. To some degree, but at that time they were kind of closed in. They felt that we shouldn’t be talking about these kinds of things, especially if it related to a religious type of thing. They themselves were taught to respect Christianity and the stories that existed in the bible. Q. They probably couldn’t have done anything anyway. A. Yeah. There was no avenue for recourse. There was nowhere they could have turned. They were looking for a way to best educate their children and there were five of us. I had four sisters. So they were looking for this and they wanted us to grow up to be competitive in the society. We were able to do that to some degree without difficulty. One of the things they kept telling us in the Residential School system was that we had to become educated so that we could fit into society. Once we were able to fit into society then we would be able to get a fancy home with a two-car garage, a white picket fence and stuff like that. They were teaching us how to mingle into society, how to become part of it. But it wasn’t working for us because to this day I still don’t have a white picket fence. I was never able to achieve that. So they were giving us a false sense that if we become educated then we would get these things. But in order to get those it was very difficult to achieve and consequently a lot of the students that I went to school with resorted to alcohol because of the frustration they were suffering from. They were thinking they were going to achieve this but they were never able to because of the way society is, you know. So that was one of the things they suffered. It was one of the things they suffered. Q. Did you feel like you suffered from that experience and from that trauma as well? A. Well definitely. The experience I described to you in the beginning about the relationship between my mother and father being sinful was really traumatic. I learned later on in life that pre-puberty, our life between the time we’re born and the time we achieve puberty is the most important time in our life. Whatever occurs during that time is going to affect us the rest of our life. This definitely has. Although I’ve been married for thirty years now, in my younger days I couldn’t establish a good relationship. Every relationship that I tried to get into turned out to be dysfunctional. So it was difficult to establish or build any kind of family because of what you learn at that age, particularly when you learn that the holy union of man and woman is sinful. So that was really traumatic. It was a really traumatic time. I grew up feeling heavy all through my life and I grew up looking at my mom and dad the way I shouldn’t. They gave me a feeling of anxiety, they gave me a feeling of depression and all these things. That was rooted at that time when I was six years old. I was still in my age of childhood. I hadn’t even reached puberty and I wasn’t prepared at that time to hear those kinds of stories. Q. Was there a time in your life when you felt like you were able to rise above that trauma and make a positive change for yourself? A. Oh yes, that certainly happened. Q. You are married now? A. I’ve been married for thirty years; yes. My wife and I have a very stable relationship. Q. How were you able to make that transition? A. Well, in the seventies, in the 1970’s I had an opportunity to listen to Elders. In their teachings they were teaching about the importance of family. They were talking about grandmas and grandpas teachings and their way of life and the way that we should be living as Indian people. They were teaching that. At the same time my grandfather was talking to me. My grandfather on my mother’s side had maintained his traditions. He kept talking to me about the different types of ceremonies that existed. So gradually over time I became interested, you know. One of the things they were telling us was that in our search for our identities we have to try to be determined. We need determination and we have to be able to become self-sufficient. This is what they kept talking about. One of the things that they were telling us is you have to realize your childhood dream. At that time, at six years old, my father got me interested in airplanes so eventually I became a pilot and I spent ten years flying as a bush pilot. But during that time I was also in search of my identity. What increased my search was the loss of my father to cancer. I started looking and I started searching even deeper. I found that the teachings in our traditional ways were very positive. I started learning these teachings reflected every stage of our life from the time we’re born until the time we pass on into the spirit world. I began learning that the Great Spirit designs this for us and the way that we live is the way that he designed it. So we started maintaining this and things started becoming positive. We started learning that our whole traditional way of life is based on family. It’s a family way of life from a way back, from our ancestors, from as far back as we can go believed in this way of life. It was family oriented. It was very much unlike the Catholic belief. It was not male oriented. There were no vows to remain celibate and things like that. There was a teaching of respect, respecting the holy union of man and woman, and consequently Indian people were able to develop that respect for themselves. It reflects in their ceremonial way of life. Taking the clan system, for example, our clan system, a lot of people nowadays are looking for their clan, or their spirit name and things like that. The reason why our people had the clan system was to ensure that our blood remained pure, you know. One of the laws that they followed was that clans shouldn’t marry within the same clan. So that way the blood remained strong and as a result children were born healthy. Nowadays it’s not like that because people marry just because of beauty and they don’t marry because of the way the person is from within. A long time ago our ancestors were able to tell us who you were going to marry. That was because they recognized compatibility in individuals. They weren’t doing it because one or the other looked beautiful. They were doing it because that individual looked beautiful inside. We never got this from the Catholic Church. We were told we were sinners. We were told we were pagans and heathens. We were told to worship objects that were man made. We did the way of the cross, we prayed with --- Everything was man made. And we did ask that question: Who made this? And they said, “Man.” So we said: “Why are you condemning us for praying to this stone?”, or using this stone as our object, just like the stone that you gave me. We asked that question: Who made this? And they had no choice but to say it was made by God. So it angers them. It angered them. They singled us out. We became the bad person among the group because we weren’t going along with them. So it gave us that feeling of isolation as well. They isolated us from the rest because they didn’t allow us to mingle with everybody else because of the way that we were thinking. You had a question? Q. Yeah. I was just thinking about how you talked about reconnecting with your traditional values and now you have a wife and you’ve had a wonderful marriage for thirty years. I want to know if you have children. A. Yes, I do. Q. How many? A. I’ve got a really large family. Q. Oh. A. I’ve got two daughters and one son. And I have grandchildren. I also have great grandchildren. I’ve got other children from a previous marriage and some of them have children. Also, in the traditional ways, I have a large adopted family. I have other sons that are adopted and I have many nieces and nephews and many children, grandchildren, moms, dads, aunts and uncles all over the place, all over Turtle Island, you know. Q. Um-hmm. A. So in the traditional ways the family concept grows, not only with the biological family, but it expands to include everybody else that treats you like family. So that’s our traditional way. That’s the way it is. We’re not centered on one family nucleus. But one of the things we must remember is these teachings were included in my pre-school days when the evangelist or Pentecostal-ist taught us about family and how this was related to Jesus’ life. Those stories were positive. I’ve always liked them. Even when he broke bread and was able to feed multitudes. I see similar things happening among this huge family that I’m talking about. Sometimes there are gatherings and there’s representations from families from almost everywhere. What our ancestors were trying to teach us in the seventies is very true and it was very effective in changing our lives, understanding where we’re truly coming from. Q. Our tape is about to run out. We’ve got about two minutes left. Did you want to answer one more question? A. Sure. Q. What made you want to come and share your story today? A. Well, I thought that people should get the message that family is very important. We work with many families. My wife and I are both counselors. I’m a Medicine Man and a traditional healer. I’m certified. I feel that it is very important that this message about family comes out because in our work with people there are always misconceptions about our traditional ways. We’re always being taught that there’s someone out there inflicting something on us, you know, and basically all we need to do is look within ourselves and deal with our inner child in order to --- Q. I think our tape just ran out but that’s really important. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: It’s okay. It’s still on. Q. Oh good. A. That’s important. Q. I think it’s important, too. I was going to say that it’s a very important point. A. That’s why I wanted to do this. Q. I appreciate it. I have learned so much from listening to you today, so thank you very much. A. Thank you. Q. Do you live in Winnipeg now? A. I do, yeah. Q. I was hoping you didn’t come all the way down from Norway House because it’s quite a trek! A. Um-hmm. Q. We lived for a time up there a few years ago. A. I’ve lived in Winnipeg since 1965. Q. Wow. A. I’ve been back to Norway House on occasion, you know. I ran a business up there, a flying service, for six years. Q. Wow. Do you fly any more? A. No. I retired. Q. My brother is in the Air Force. He is going to graduate next month as a helicopter pilot. A. Oh yeah. Q. He thought before he joined the military about doing bush flying. A. It’s interesting. I started off in the aviation industry as a flying instructor. I spent about two or three years doing that. Some of my former students still fly. Some of them are in the commercial airlines. They are all old. They’re bald! Q. They’re rich, too. A. They ask me how I keep myself looking young when I meet them. The stresses and the pressure involved in that field takes a toll on their life and it ages them. Q. I was going to ask what your secret is, too, because you are thirty years married and all those grandchildren, I don’t even believe it! (Laughter) A. Well, we had lots of family and maintaining a positive mind. Many of our people can’t do that. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 27:16

Roy Nooski

Lejac Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Would you please tell us your name and spell it for us? ROY NOOSKI: My name is Roy Nooski; R-o-y N-o-o-s-k-i. Q. And where are you from? A. I’m from Nautley Reserve. Q. And what school did you attend? A. Lejac School. Q. We’ve had quite a few from Lejac today. What years were you there? Do you remember? A. I think it was 1951 to 1956, or ’55. Q. How old were you when you started? A. I was 6 years old. Q. Do you remember your first day? A. My first day? My grandfather --- Two people came out of the vehicle and went inside to talk to my grandfather. He talked to me and he said if he didn’t let me go, they were going to take that $7 monthly Family Allowance and put him in jail. So that’s why he let me to go to school. When I went to Lejac, Father Clenahan (sp?) asked me: “Do you speak Indian?” I said, “Yes, I do.” “Stand up.” I was happy. I stood up. “Roll your sleeves back.” So I did. “Put it out.” That’s the first time in my life I ever got a strap. I didn’t want to get the strap any more so I asked this guy Russell, I believe, (speaking Native language) “The White man wearing granny’s dress, what do you call him?” And he says, “Father”. I says, “He’s not my father.” “He’s a priest.” (speaking Native language) “Don’t talk your language, you’re going to strap you again.” But he heard me, eh, and I had to get a strap again. It got to the point where I was getting 7 on each hand because of my language. Q. That happened on your first day? A. Yeah. Q. What is your language that you speak? A. I speak Carrier. Q. Carrier. And you still speak it now? A. I had to relearn it again. Most of it I still don’t know. I have to ask questions. Q. So that was taken from you, your culture? A. Yeah. Q. What about practicing any cultural things? Do you remember life before going to school, living with your grandfather? A. Yes. We used to do a lot of trapping and cultural activities like making snowshoes and that. I don’t do that any more because I don’t know how to start it. Q. Can you take us through a typical day at Residential School, what time you woke up and that sort of thing? A. We wake up about 7. We had to go to Mass at 7 o’clock. Then we had breakfast. We pray before breakfast and after breakfast. Then we go to class. Ten o’clock to twelve sometimes we have Catechism. Most of the time I got hit with the ruler on the knuckles, and sometimes that yardstick on my neck. I tended to speak my language instead of how they pronounce it. Like they would tell me to say “yes”, I would say “ah ah”, and I would get it. They teach me pretty well not to speak my language. Q. So how would you describe your experience at Residential School? A. My experience in Residential School was pretty harsh for me because I’m not used to getting the strap. My grandfather raised me. I never did get a strap from my grandfather. He would sit down and talk to me and tell me what I did wrong and how I’m going to repay that family, or something. So I would make wood for them or pack water to apologize. But over there it was different. Q. So if you had hurt somebody or had a little argument with another kid, your grandfather would teach you to go and do something for them? A. Yes, make amends. To forgive, I guess. But I used to get the strap in Lejac. Talking to my cousin Sally, I got off the rink and I went up and talked to her and asked her if grandpa or her dad was coming for a visit. “Are they going to visit on Sunday?” She said, “Father is over there.” “You had better get back on the ice or you’ll get the strap.” I said, “Aw, I’m used to it, it’s always on the hand.” When I went inside the cloakroom Father called me. So I went up. I thought I’m going to get the strap again. I was so used to it that I just rolled up my sleeves. But no, he said, “Take off your shirt.” So I took my shirt off, my t-shirt. “Take off your pants.” I took off my pants. The bigger boys were around. I took off my pants. “Take off your shorts.” Again I had to take off my shorts. Then, bang, oh boy. I don’t know how many times he hit me, and I think I did go down on one knee. I just about fainted. I was looking at the bigger boys for help and they’re giggling and pointing fingers at me, making fun of me. So in my mind I took their picture. When I grow up I’m going to beat them up. I’m going to hurt them in my own way. Q. Are there any other things that happened to you at Residential School that you would like to talk about? A. I believe the first year I went there we used to pile wood by the outside washroom. You go inside and they got different places you can go to the bathroom. Donny was there before me, working with Patrick, and maybe he was his uncle, or something. He’s the one who called me in the back so I went with him in the back. I didn’t know anything about this. Just about in the middle of the big woodshed, I was screaming but nobody would hear me, I guess, and that’s where I was first sexually abused. I was small. He was a little bigger than me. I couldn’t fight him off. He still had me down, anyway. It happened at the same place within that same month. It was a little further down, close to the corner, the same thing happened. I was sexually abused. After that I started to get the sense of what was going to happen so I avoided them things. That was the last time I got sexually abused. I never talked about it too much. But after I went to the Treatment Centre I can let it flow. So it’s easier for me to talk about it now and I do some Workshops on that to help other people. Q. What about the education you received there? Do you think you received a good education? A. Education: Grade 4. One year in St. Joseph’s, so I got Grade 5. I had to go to skid row to get my Ph.D., so I got my Ph.D., nineteen years of it. I was poor, hungry and a drunk. Q. Do you think the troubles you suffered later in life are a result of Residential School? A. A lot of this stuff brings me back to the school when I was taking pictures of them people laughing and giggling at me. I sit down in the bar in Vancouver and a couple of tables over, or even at the next table, people are just happy and drinking, I push my beer away and start fighting with them. Even walking down the street, people coming over laughing and just enjoying themselves, I just start fighting again. So I went to jail quite a bit on assault, eh. I had that for years. Oakalla, too, I ended up in the black hole for ten days, just for fighting. I cut a guy on top --- I did a lot of that negative stuff, knifing on the streets in Seattle, First Street, skid row in Vancouver. It’s hard. Q. So what about life right after you left Residential School? How old were you when you were finished school and what did you do right after school? A. Right after school I was working for ninety cents an hour piling lumber. I went up to Prince George and I made $1 a hour and paid $2 a day room and board. But going to jail was easier. They feed you 3 meals a day. Q. Jail was easier than Residential School? A. When I first went in doing eighteen months I said, “These people respect me.” What did I mean? They open the door for you when you go inside. They close the door for you. You don’t get the strap. And when I mentioned that most of the inmates didn’t like me because they’re doing time, too, but it’s hard. But for me I thought it was a little bit of respect. Q. Do you want to talk a little bit more about those nineteen years, your time on skid row? A. Nineteen years on skid row sometimes I sleep in a garbage bin, you know, but you don’t smoke in my house because I got cardboard boxes and newspapers for the winter. That’s where I stay. Always in the summer I go in the back alley or Oppenheimer Park or down by the sugar factory or under the viaducts. There’s all different places to spend my time. Once in a while I visit my dad, stay over there, sneak a towel and take a shower. What I do is go to the bus stop and go wash up over there. I spent most of my time on skid row. It wasn’t a hard life at that time. I don’t have to worry about light bills, I don’t have to pay for rent, I don’t have to buy grub. I just go in the sandwich line-up or Harbour Lights. There’s lots of places you can eat to survive. But most of the time I’ve been drinking. The first time I was drinking Bay Rum. That’s after shave. The Army brought that in. That’s been on the street for a long time, until people were starting to die off from it so they banned that from the shelf. Then Blue Heaven got on. That’s Aqua Velva, just for a short period of time. Then Sterno. We call that Pink Lady. That was on for a long time until that got off the shelf, too, because too many people were getting alcohol poisoning from mixing it with something else. Q. When did you start drinking? How old were you? A. I was about 7 or 9, 7 years old. Q. Really? So when you were at Residential School? A. After school, in the summer holidays. Q. What was that like, going home in the summer? A. The summer was the happiest days of my life, going home. But when I would stand there talking English, you know, they would look at me --- I’m going to translate it. “Why am I speaking White man and he’s blacker than me.” That’s what they’re telling me. I’m blacker than them and why do I speak White, you know. That’s all I knew. That’s what they taught me. Q. Did your grandfather raise you? A. My grandfather raised me, yes. He died in 1959. That’s when I kind of lost it. Q. So after you came back to school after that. You were at school until ’55 or ’56, so it was a few years after that. A. Um-hmm. Q. Do you have any brothers or sisters? A. No. I was myself. I’ve got a half brother, John Twostep and sisters Eleanor and Mavis. Q. What was the school like for accommodation? What were the dorms like and stuff? Were there a lot of kids in one room? A. There were a lot of us in one room. It’s just like the Salvation Army Hostel in Vancouver. I shouldn’t say that, but we were close together. We each had a different area. We were in one area and there was another one upstairs, but I was on the second floor. The gardener down there --- It was sure nice to get carrots or turnips thrown over to us. We would all rush, eh. That’s how I learned how to use my fingernails to share it, open it up and go around and open it up and share it. Q. Who would throw the turnips over the fence? A. Tony, that looks after the garden. Q. So he would throw a few extras over so the kids had something to eat? A. Yeah, he would throw it over and we would all share it with each other. Q. Did you do any farming there at all? Were there animals? A. We did a little bit of planting potatoes and that. We packed a lot of wood, in the winter time like this, we had to line up. Q. Before we talk about healing for you, are there any other final things you want to say about Residential School? A. It was pretty rough but I learned how to survive. There’s stuff I did in there. I learned how to steal. I used that on skid row, to feed myself. Q. Can you talk about that a little bit, learning how to steal? A. Sometimes we would get hungry and there’s a place where they used to keep apples. We used to grab a box of apples and sneak them out and pass it to everybody. We get sneaky. Q. Did you ever get caught? A. No. We even took some of the priest’s wine, I think, because they had a big jug. We stole that, too. I think that’s what I learned. I learned how to steal. And then I had to learn how to undo that after I started healing. Everything was negative. That’s what I do, I help my People. I bring them back. They call that psycho-drama, or something. Q. So do you want to talk a little bit about that, what has worked for you for healing? A. My healing? Q. Yes, and then maybe what you do for others now. A. The first time I got my healing started was in 1975 when my partner, my wife, died. The Cowichan Elders sat me down. I was going to Vancouver to look for a job. They said, “You sit down, we want to talk to you.” After 4 days of working with me I said that I was going to Vancouver. “No”, they said, “the graveyard is still warm and you want to go to Vancouver and drink around and have women here and there.” They said, “No, sit down and listen.” “Stay in one place for one year.” “Don’t go running around here and there.” I said, “Why?” They said, “The rest of your life, is that what you want to do?” “No,” I said. So I sat down and listened. I said, “There’s no work here.” They said, “Do you know how to wash your socks?” “Yeah, I know how to wash my socks.” “Well, you’re going to work at the dry cleaners on Monday.” I don’t know how to work in a Dry Cleaners. I said, “No, no, no.” Do you know how to wash your socks, you work down there. That’s how I learned how to work in dry cleaning. I stayed there for a year. After that, in 1985 I went into the Treatment Centre at Round Lake and I dealt with some of this Residential School stuff. That was heavy. But then I could speak my own language too. I would get angry and punch everything. I punched the bag. For me I feel a little bit lighter after that. Q. Was that a time when a lot of people weren’t talking about it, in 1985? A. Yeah. Nobody even mentioned that. Even when I mentioned that, 2 ladies were giggling. After I got off the floor and I sat down and took my breath, I went over there. They thought I was going to hit them because they went like this (indicating). I just told them to stand up and give me a hug. I said, “thank you.” You weren’t laughing at me, I said, you were laughing at yourself. And I said the same thing to the other one. They are both --- I think they have passed on now, from drinking. I stayed 5 weeks, I believe. There was a lot of heavy stuff. In ’85 I quit drinking. Eighteen years and 4 months later I started drinking again. So now I haven’t drank since March 26th, so I’m doing good. I feel good. Q. That’s good. What about for other people? You said you run some treatment centres or you --- Can you talk a little bit about what you do for other people, other survivors? A. Some other survivors, if they are just off the street, I make sure they feel comfy, not just hit them with one big aftershock letting them go past Residential School sexual abuse. We get to know each other first. Then I ask them if they do any counseling or if they are seeing a therapist, you know, if they are, it’s easier for me to work with them. Because the therapists send their clients to me and then I do the heavy stuff of letting them let go of the past hurts. I even got a letter from Texas, from a lady thanking me for helping her. She’s off the street now and is happily married. Q. Do you find in your work a lot of people that you talk to have suffered because of their experiences at Residential School? A. Lots of them suffered. Some got jewellery like me, too. Q. Um-hmm. Do you have scars? A. Yes. Q. Was that from Residential School? A. No. Cutting myself. When you got that self-pity trip, when you know you’re not good for nothing, you feel shameful of yourself, or I’m not worth it around here, plus the bottle --- I’ve been in the hospital and they want to bring me to Essondale, or someplace. I was going to sign papers and my drug and alcohol counselor tell me, “Are you crazy?” I said, “No, I’ve got a hangover.” So he said, “Don’t sign that.” I said, “What’s that for?” “Did you read it?” I said, “No.” He said, “If you sign it you’re out of here.” “Do you know where you’re going?” I said, “No.” “They’re sending you to Vancouver.” “You’ll never get out of that hospital.” So she took over and took me out of there. Edna. She was a big help. She was the one that helped me go to the Treatment Centre. I lasted eighteen years and 4 months. So that’s what I do now. Sometimes I do my work up in the mountains. Sometimes I go in their own house. Like this Saturday, tomorrow, I gotta go see a lady and help her do some work. Her husband passed away years ago and she’s still got that tightness. Q. Do you find that it helps for them to talk about things? A. Yeah. How can I explain it? Okay, I was in Duncan, away from here. I can drink. Nobody knows me here. I ask my wife, “Give me some money because I want to go get some beer?” “Nope.” “Get a taxi and get your beer.” “Pay him.” “Nope.” “Give the money to your sister if you don’t trust me.” “Get her to get the beer.” “Nope.” Anger starts setting in. So I pick up the phone, “Sharon, I need a meeting.” So okay we go down there in twenty minutes. So I went down there. Everybody was there sharing, but walking in the door in a nice black dress, with pearls on it, was a lady. As soon as she walk in that lady she kind of shake and shiver like. After we had our circle I said, “I can help you with that Residential School stuff you’re packing.” She said, “I don’t know you.” “Who told you I went to Residential School?” “Oh, don’t worry”, I said, “I used to pack that stuff you’re packing.” And I did some work with her. I got Sharon to sign her up. I got Sharon to walk her around. I tried. I said, “You’re a grown woman now, you’re not that little girl any more.” “You can say what you want.” “You can swear.” “You can shout, do anything you want.” And that’s what she did. The next morning I went to the mall because I was looking for my son. I was having coffee and all of a sudden this lady come running. Her facial expression from yesterday to that morning was more open and happy. I believe she’s working in the Band Office now. So that’s the stuff I do. Q. I think that’s really good. Are there any final words you would like to say? A. Final words? Q. Any final things you want to talk about before we wrap up? A. I don’t know. Opening up for yourself, not for anybody else, I think that’s the best medicine. Not because my wife says, not because my daughter, not because the counselor says you have to quit drinking, you’ve gotta do this or that. It’s for yourself. Heal for yourself. So that’s what I’m doing right now. Each day it’s different. Like now, this is a different experience for me. That’s another healing, letting go. Q. So thank you very much for coming today and sharing. A. Thank you. Q. We’re done. You did it. Good job. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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Robert Tomah

Lejac Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: So Robert, tell me what school you went to. ROBERT TOMAH: Lejac Residential School. It’s in the southern part of BC at Fraser Lake. I don’t know what region that is in BC, but it’s in the Fraser Lake area. Q. But you live here now, right? A. Yes, I live in Prince. Well, I haven’t always lived here but I’ve been here for 3 or 4 years. Q. Are your people from this area? A. Just sort of north of here, about 300 or 400 miles northwest. Our Nation is the Sikanni Nation. Back in the old days we were nomads. We traveled from one place in our traditional area to the other, just gathering food and moving around. Q. How old were you when you first went to Residential School? A. Well, the first time I went there was in 1966. I was about 9 years old then. Prior to that we lived up along the Peace Omenaka Region. There’s a river called the Injinika River (ph.) there, and the headwaters where it is now, Kamesk (ph.) Mines and all that, there’s a big mine going on up there right now. But in the spring of ’66 I lost my dad. My dad died so up until my dad’s death we lived in the bush. We didn’t speak English. We didn’t know --- Well, our cousins, our relatives came up with river boats and all that older type motors. That’s about all we knew. There were little log cabin stores down at the Injinika Point, we used to call it, and that’s where we got our groceries. We didn’t know what a car looked like. We didn’t know what streets looked like. We were just natural. But in the spring of 1966 in June when my dad passed away, that really changed my life. Then we had to move by riverboats downriver to where the Peace runs off the Parsnip, where the Peace River begins, known as Findlay Forks. It was a really big shock to me at that time because as a young boy it was sort of like glamour, but you know everything I saw, all I saw was it was like a beast. I remember telling my mom moving there, everything was done so easy, everything was friendly, the environment was friendly, but underneath there was something hidden that I could detect as a child. It was something I could not comprehend and I kept telling my mom maybe we should just move back up to my dad’s trap line and stay in the cabins there. But that didn’t happen. So in the fall of 1966 right from the confluence of the Findlay, Parsnip and --- What do they call the other river? I’m trying to remember the other river. There’s another river there. Oh, the Manson River, which made the flow of that Peace River. A plane picked us up there some time in September, early September, me and my brother, and we were flown to Lejac Residential School, which is in Fraser Lake, BC. In my mind as a child I thought I could trust anybody because I trusted my parents. I loved my parents, my mom and dad. And I was still going through the trauma that I just lost my dad just a few weeks ago. So I thought that the world, the outside world was like the world I just came from. That was a really big mistake for me. The first thing that we did when we got to Lejac, when we landed at the Residential School there, the Priests and the Nuns met us and we walked up to the school, which was about half a mile, maybe. We got into the school. I remember we got there when all the other kids were having dinner. So we didn’t know about lining up and things like that. The way our mom fed us we waited for her. We just sat around in circles. My mom gave us the food that we were going to eat. But right away everything looked different to us. There were so many cars. We didn’t know what to call them. Again, the glamour was there but there was just something hideous hidden under all that glamour. So I told my brother in my Native Sikanni language, “stick close together”. So after lunch we didn’t know what to say. The supervisors talked to us in the English language. We didn’t understand. We understand a little bit, but not all. Even to say “cup” it was very hard to say “cup” because we would say “cup” in our own language. They were trying to communicate with us and we were trying to communicate with them, even using our hands and all that to the point where sometimes we argued with these supervisors, because we would get frustrated and get scared. There was a lot of anxiety. I remember the first time, within about 3 or 4 hours, one of the supervisors, I think his name was Jim Lundy, an Irishman or something like that. He’s got red hair. He asked me something and I remember he just banged me over the head, on my ears. I didn’t know what he wanted. They could have slapped me silly but I wouldn’t know what they want. Right? They were trying to get something out of me, but I wouldn’t know because I didn’t speak their language. So that was frustrating. My dad always taught me to be honourable in a warrior way. A warrior is not a warrior at all if he just screams his head off. A warrior is a person who is one with himself, one with his spirit and what he does. His word is honour in everything that he does. So finding that, it was very hard for me. I even said a little prayer and asked my dad, “Dad, please, say something to me to try to communicate with these people.” It got to the place where I was exasperated. They were exasperated because they couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand them. So they brought my cousins over, Vera and Violet Izonee (ph.). Those girls had been there before, so they came over and they talked with us in our language. They tried to explain to us in English. They don’t want you to speak your language. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. I said, “Couldn’t we just learn their language and hang onto our language?” They said, “No.” Through my cousins what they told us is you guys what they’re telling you, the Priests and Nuns are telling you that you guys are speaking a satanic language. Like in the bible it says speaking in tongues and all that, you get that, get caught speaking in a foreign tongue they say it was satanic. At that moment something happened to me. I remember there was a change there when my cousin told me that. My trust was gone. I had to wake up to something, but to what? Then I began to ask questions within myself and say, “Why are they saying this?” My dad lived such a good life up there and nobody didn’t bother anybody. All we did is gather and worship in our own way. Our church was out there in the bush on a hill beside a river where we could hear the mountains, the rivers and the trees. We could feel all the energy. That kept us healthy. We didn’t need a doctor. All we needed was to be one with the environment and the Creator who is above us. Then I realized something in me had to die. Something in me had to die. So that night I went to sleep. We were in the Junior Dormitory, not Intermediates, just Junior. We went up there and they made us take showers and all that. That one, Fitzgerald, I think they call him, he was the Junior supervisor. I remember before we put on our pajamas he made us all bend over and he checked our rear ends, looking around for dirt or shit, he says. Like if anybody didn’t clean themselves right, then they really got a good spanking or a good licking, or they get put away in a room alone, like solitary confinement. That was the first time I saw that because my mom and dad never did things like that to me. It was strange. It was scary and I wondered why they would do that. In the morning they would wake us up about 7 o’clock, wash up, and march us all down. Then we have to kneel down before breakfast. We say the same thing. Many Natives do that, they do similar things, they slowly sing in their native tongue to worship the Creator. Some use feathers. Some use smudge. Some use going in the water or just standing under waterfalls in the morning. That was your morning prayer. But it was strange to me and I keep nudging my cousin, my brother Chuck, “what are they trying to teach us?” And just for me and him talking we get banged over the head. So in our own language we can’t talk. It wasn’t out of rebellion but I just couldn’t figure out why they can’t see if I don’t talk in my language and I don’t do the thinking, like be me, Robert, not somebody else like Art, not being George, but being Robert, being me to express myself, why can’t they see that? In the end I realized I have to have something in me die more. The first time I went to church they had a whole bunch of these little cups, they call it holy water, all the way down one hall. You have to put your finger in there, bless yourself, say something and kneel down. And you do that all the way into church. I respect that because I know that somehow in some form that they were communicating with the Creator, our Creator for all mankind. But what I began to realize then was the way the structure that we were under was that it was a dictator, just like Hitler, where I can no longer be free to go down to Fraser Lake, jump in the water in the morning and do my own prayers because it was satanic. All during this time, just the first year up to Christmas, and after that I noticed we started learning English, we started putting away our Native ways. They shaved our heads. We didn’t have long hair any more, which we were proud of. They dressed us in a different way. It was just like when they took off our bush clothes, when they undressed us, they didn’t realize I guess that they were undressing our dignity and stepping on it. They didn’t have vision enough to see that. Anyway, it went on to the place where we started learning their language. We were pretty good at it by then. We went to school. We learned to write. The older people who went to Lejac School before me, they had to work in the gardens, they had to work making wood for the school. But at least in my time in 1966 we had a certain time to go to school and to go to church. But they were revising our minds where we were not ourselves any more. Me and my brother began to see some things, the change in us. It was easy to lie because the system taught us that if you lied you got away with a lot of things. You don’t have to get a spanking or sent to no Detention Room. If you blamed other people and you could prove your point that the other person done it, then you can get off scot free too. This school I realized at that time was teaching us not something that was good. But to give us criminal minds --- Just like they starve you to a certain point where they give you very little food so you had to steal. If you stole an apple you got in trouble for that. If you stole a piece of bread you got in trouble for that. So what happens then is human nature, what I see in myself, I began to turn. I began to deny myself. In order for me to survive I had to collaborate to learn and start thinking criminal-wise, learning how to steal, learning to blame other people, learning to let go responsibility and learning to say, “No, I don’t have to own up to it.” But then in the long run there’s a thin line if you went overboard and blamed everything on the world, then you were wrong. Right? Then you can say it’s people’s fault. They brought me up this way and I’m like this. But the most unique thing about my surviving this school after my dad’s death and after that a lot more death, my mother’s death in the end --- 2003 was pretty hard for me, but up until then what I see in my surviving is what my dad taught me about my Native way of belief, how to go back into the bush, go back. The minute you end up back in the wilds, in the wilderness you can feel it. You don’t have to say nothing. You sit and begin to communicate with the trees, the air, the animals themselves. If I practice to a certain point where I can just balance my natural with my spirit, I begin to hear their languages. I begin to hear what they are telling me. So that’s what kept me. Suicide at that time was pretty high on my mind because I just could not understand. There was always an enmity there. They were the higher authority; we were down here. They told us when to go to bed, which wasn’t bad. There was some good to that, you know. But at least they could have given you something to eat before you went to bed, but we went to bed hungry. We would hear the younger kids crying and we would try to comfort them, but we would get in trouble for that. For punishment they used conveyor belts. Sometimes they put holes in the conveyor belts or they let you have a really hot shower and while you’re naked they hit you anywhere on your body with it. And those holes, when they would hit you, it would make round circles. Sometimes when the person was getting punished it sounded like a gunshot in that place because somebody was getting punished. So I realized when we started learning their language it was really hard not to own up, because now you realize you are living in two worlds and you don’t know how to balance it. No one is there to tell you. Your Elders are not there and as a survivor you’re trying to balance something. It’s very hard as a young person or a young child to try to come to grips with what --- If a punishment goes on for so long, you have to give in because you’re young. You have to give in because you’re young. Revise your mind. Today I do have anger and sometimes resentment, but because of what my dad gave me, in the end when things get folded away, we’re all going to stand in front of the Creator. Every person has got to answer for themselves, not for their parents, not for their kids, but for themselves, the way they conducted themselves here on this planet. I guess the hardest part is --- I keep going back as a young person to what my dad taught me. In spite of all these things I was going through, I know it was not right, it was inhuman, but in my heart, my heart cries for them. Why can’t they see? Why can’t they see what they are doing to themselves? Because what they’re doing to me, they’re just using me as a mirror. Maybe some of them see that there’s something that’s real there, the Native way. That mirror reflects their life, so the more it reflects their life the more they try to destroy it, what’s real, and try to put in what is superficial there and just a format. I went there for one year. That first year it was really hard because I couldn’t communicate and I couldn’t understand, but in the end, just before Christmas, I started coming around to where I started learning their language. Just before Christmas, sometime in November, we were playing Indians and Cowboys. I was a Cowboy because they chose me to be a Cowboy, the rest of the kids and the older kids. Some of these kids sharpened sticks and they would chase each other, chase the Cowboys. I had a stick go through my leg here (indicating). One of the Indians threw it and it stuck through my leg. And because I didn’t know anything about being hurt or anything like that --- My parents taught me, not that my parents were naïve, but I thought the way my dad taught me is if anything happens to you it always will go away. So I broke that stick off and I figured it would go away. One of the boys called a supervisor out to the field and he came out and checked the stick. He said, “Oh, that will be okay.” “If it starts hurting come in and we’ll try to get it out.” He made it sound so simple. With me, I didn’t figure it was that serious. It was the first time I got hurt. My dad and mom taught us how to be careful and all that, but somebody threw this lance through my leg. By evening, within 2 hours, my leg was so swollen up I couldn’t run, I couldn’t walk. They brought me up to the Dispensary and they said I was supposed to go to the Vanderhoof Hospital. I don’t know what the doctor done. The doctor just pulled it out and put a band-aid on it. In them days they didn’t do too much for things like that. For Christmas we couldn’t make it back home. We stayed there. It wasn’t so bad because one of those Brothers, his name was Brother Caledon (ph.), and that guy was human like us, the way Natives see humans. He was a true man. He stayed with us over Christmas and he went sliding with us and did a lot of things. He took us up to Fraser Lake and we were playing hockey. We went to Vanderhoof. He just drove us around. It was something like my dad coming back and putting the family back together. That’s the way it felt for a couple of weeks for Christmas. But after that it was the same old thing. Everybody put on their facades again and it went on. Like I mentioned, when my leg got hurt there was a middle-aged Nun there from thirty-nine to forty-six, something like that. Well that Nun did some things to me that wasn’t good, like sexually, but I don’t feel like talking about that very much so I’ll just go on. But for the education of the young people, I’m not saying that our government or our churches are bad. But you gotta think that in order to overcome something there’s either got to be dictation or severe trauma, a traumatic way of bringing this thing forward. So it’s really hard at the moment what I’m trying to say because you see the spiritual part of things with the spiritual you. You balance yourself and realize who you are. But once you’re over-balanced on one side, if you are too spiritual then you’re getting out of whack, too. If you’re too natural, then you’re getting out of whack and you start over-eating and start over-drinking and start getting into alcohol abuse. But in order to balance this I realized I have to come to grips every day where the most important thing to me is the being for this moment, just the now. Never mind the future and never mind what happened back here. But at the moment where I’m standing and what am I thinking. How do I feel about myself? How do I perceive myself and who I really am. The more I see that, that’s the hope, one of the key hopes that brings me from day to day. With my children -- I have 5 boys -- the oldest is in and out of trouble. He’s been in the Correctional Centre in incarceration so many times, he just makes me cry. A lot of times I say to myself as a father, “Where did I go wrong?” When you duplicate something, you duplicate a paper, it’s not as exact as the original. Or when you mimic something, you’re not the original, you’re a mimic. I’m talking to my kids today and telling them I began to realize something in my life that I deny myself because I figure or I feel that the format or the formality out there is telling me “you’re not good enough”, “you don’t have education”, “you’re not dressed like this”, “you don’t have a couple of million dollars in the bank”, “you’re not like that”, “you’re not like this”, “you just don’t add up.” But what I realized is that this natural material is there for us to use. One of these days it’s going to pass away. But in order for me to grasp something I have to realize and look inside myself and say, “Hey, I count.” Today my children see --- This last time my son ended up in jail just before Christmas, and he would tell me, “Dad, I’m going to revise my life.” “In here I hear every word you told me about what grandpa taught you.” He said that he was beginning to see things. The unique thing about it --- He came to his Hearing and his lawyer looked at it. They brought it in front of the judge, they looked at the witnesses, what they had to say. It was all lies. So what happened there --- --- End of Part 1 So your son, after he went to court, he was talking to you. A. Yeah. In the end they just threw it out of court. So today he is free. All charges are dropped. He’s a free guy. But what I told him, I says it’s up to him to realize who he is inside and to begin to believe in himself. Never mind about his brothers, never mind about me. What he’s got to nourish is love himself enough to realize who he is and begin to build himself up to give himself what’s his journey on this earth. It’s only him can set himself free. Just like myself, only I myself set myself free; nobody else. I think about these things, my actions, where they are leading me. Why? A couple of years ago before my mom died, I was a heavy drinker. I worked for my Band in the winter. For 9 months I stayed sober. I started drinking really heavy in 1987. In ’86 I lost one of my favourite sisters. I loved my sister. She used to invite me to a lot of her cook-outs. She would cook all kinds of nice things, make pies and all that. I was a hunter then, living in the bush, and a trapper, living on the trap lines. It would be a really big treat going to a family cook-out, making pies and all that. But I lost my sister in 1985 to leukemia and that was really hard on me. For a while I closed up on the family there, my mom. Then with all these things coming to where I lost again --- Going back to Lejac, what you learned there you try to use those tools but they’re not strong enough. So I moved out here to Prince George and I ended up becoming a drunk. I went out with a lot of young friends like me and just party for the weekend. I had money. You go party, dance with the girls in bars. You know, it was a lot of fun. But little by little, what I didn’t realize was that every time I drank it was just like somebody throwing a rope around me and tying me. By the time it came to 1992 I realized I couldn’t stay without drinking. I always had a bottle. Sure, I was working, sure I was working. In my mind I figured I was functioning normally, but I always had a bottle, at night, before I would go to sleep. Then I moved on from one relationship to the other. Just because a girl said she loved me, you’re a nice person and we hit it off, okay. So just from one relationship to another. But it all goes back into that alcohol relationship. Some alcoholic relationships are genuine. They can both be alcoholic and hang on and stay together. But with me it wasn’t like that. Anyway, it got so bad that alcohol took my life completely to this very building --- The older --- Like there was Mohawk Security here. That’s back about 4 or 5 years ago. If you asked him he would tell you I came in here dirty, grubby, asking for a dollar, anywhere I could get so I could have another drink. Four years ago that changed. I was in a back alley here in Prince George. I was down and out. I had 2 bottles of wine in my hand and my friend invited me over to her place. In the morning I woke up and those 2 full bottles were there. I was so sick I said, “Today’s the day I either have to change or I’m going to die this way.” There again a voice, just like a higher voice that was respectful of us, the higher power, because my ear was open where I could hear enough. He called me back. He said, “It’s either those 2 bottles now and pay the consequences, or you quit now and walk away from it.” For 3 minutes I didn’t say anything. I was hung over. I was sick. But in the end I thought of my dad, all that my dad taught me. My dad didn’t teach me to be a drunk. My father taught me things that I would help my fellow men, especially my children, and if I die a drunk I’m not helping my children. I’m not helping nobody. So from that day on I just quit. That was in December, 2001. It’s almost 4 years ago. Ever since then I never went back to drinking. It’s just like the way negative things happen. I’m not saying that it was planted by the Creator, but a year after that, the same day I quit drinking, December 5th, my mom passed away of cancer. That was the hardest part in my life. It was very hard on me. Because I realized that the person that was really close, I came out of her body, my mother, just like Mother Earth, just gone. Today I still go through problems with that. I still grieve her. I’ve got her pictures. But that day when my mom passed away I had all the options. I had the money to just go back and drink, and drink myself sick back into it and say it’s not worth it. But one thing stopped me that day. I realized that if I did go back, how much of my children, how much of my nieces, how much of my nephew, how much of the young people today, Native people, would I be helping by going back. AA don’t work. Alcoholics Anonymous. Quit drinking don’t work. Like going to Treatment Centres don’t work. But I came to a point where I had to make a decision and say what do I really want. I know I’m grieving my mom right now. But what my mom would want me to do is to go on, to go on even though I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t know where, I didn’t know how, but that’s when I came to the point again, to the now, just that moment, just for that moment and don’t worry about the next moment. Just for that moment, feel myself. I tell you something, as a Native warrior, an Indian warrior, I don’t know how many Nations know about this, but a man grieves, a warrior grieves but a warrior doesn’t have to shed tears to do that. It’s not because there’s some kind of misunderstanding about that too, that warriors when they cry they show their weaknesses. I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s just the way that some of us are. We can feel the pain in our heart and the anguish but we just don’t know how to express it. So sometimes we become passive about that. We don’t come out with it. We don’t really bring it out. Some men out there, warriors out there, do share that with their wives. They share it with their other half. But that’s a part that is really crucial for me. I tell my brothers and my sisters that I don’t know how to really cry. But what I do know is that I love. Sometimes I over love them too much to where at times the world really don’t care what they see, but whether it’s love, they don’t see it. Because we’re all wrapped up in our own natural ways. Q. You were telling me that you want to build a cabin. Why do you want to build a cabin? A. Well, actually building a cabin is not only for myself. I mentioned to various chiefs here in BC that it’s just a vision that I see. They have all these Provincial Parks, big lands of Provincial Parks, and most of the Nations here in BC are fighting for land claims. So I was telling a couple of the chiefs, “How come you don’t have healing camps?” A couple of chiefs could get together and have a big healing camp, or there could be multiple healing camps where all Nations can come and show their culture, how they sew their moccasins or how they do their rice, you know, just different things. The young people would go to these cultural camps and begin to come back to the process of how their ancestors worshipped. It’s not that I’m saying bring back the old ways. What I’m saying is we learn to balance both sides and begin to know where this road is leading us. So that’s one vision that I have. I do a lot of self help. I phone Vancouver a lot, that crisis line in Vancouver and I talk. I mentioned that to a couple of the counselors there, too. Today the worst stuff you see right now is that crystal meth. It’s really doing in a lot of young Native people. If we do have these camps, that will strengthen them and bring them back and make them see there is hope out there, not to just exclude the world, but to bring it back and to enlighten to realize where they come from and realize who they are, making them deal with themselves. So their problem is always not somebody else’s problem, or shove it off and say, “well, this person made me drunk.” I mean, like my kids always come to me with excuses like that. They are in denial. They say, “Oh, dad, I wasn’t going to drink, but this friend of mine came over and we started having a bottle and the next thing it turned into 2 bottles.” I said, “It’s up to you, you have a mouth to say no.” Have 2 or 3 shots and say, “No, that’s it.” “I’m leaving it.” I still suffer from Lejac syndrome, Residential syndrome, the things that I went through, especially with females. Female relationships. I can’t really talk to females, even though I want to. Like what I’m saying in my relationships. I would give them money so they wouldn’t bother me. Right? Anything they want so they wouldn’t bother me. But because of Lejac, because of what transpired between that Nun, it’s very complicated because as old as I am, I get scared of females. When I get scared I don’t know how to handle it. When you get scared and you don’t know how to handle a situation; two things happen. You either get angry or you just walk away and you don’t say nothing. So that’s one of the barriers right now that I’m dealing with, that where I learn to draw myself out as a bachelor. I live alone now for the last 3 or 4 years. I don’t communicate, hardly communicate even with my family. They phone and I tell them I don’t have time. I gotta go do this. But it has been said somewhere that a person has to take care of his own house first in order to get out there to be a help to anybody. So because it was lots of years of my alcoholic ways and those chemicals are still going to be in me, today and tomorrow it’s still there, it’s gotta work itself out, so every day I’m careful of where the triggers are. I don’t hang out. I guess that’s one of the reasons it is hard for me to hang out with relatives, go out, and even Christmas time. Christmas, holidays, birthday parties, anniversaries, I don’t go for that because they are the biggest trigger. Everybody is having so much fun and enthusiastic and the first thing you know you had too much wine or too many martinis or something like that and you know you’re doing something stupid. You end up with a charge for impaired driving. Q. Good. I have to stop because I have another interview, but that was an amazing story. You’re such a great speaker. A. Are you familiar with auras around people, people having auras? Q. Yeah. A. That is the Native way of seeing things. But I guess the thing I’m trying to tell you is what I’m struggling with right now is why are there so many books being sold. These churches, why do they sell bibles for $35 bucks? If religion is so true --- I don’t have to sell the environment out there because I know the Creator is out there. I don’t have to make money off it. It’s there. If the Creator wanted me to be a millionaire, he’ll give it to me. Right? Like I said before, I’m really afraid of writing things because if we’re just writing things without the hand of the Creator in it, it’s going to come to nothing. Q. I agree. A. That’s the guideline I try to walk in my life every day. To be productive --- But I’m surprised at my passiveness. Before you wouldn’t have got me. I would have got mad at you. I would have swore at you. If you asked me a question about Lejac I just would have been so pissed off I wouldn’t say nothing to you. But there are changes, and that’s what makes me happy is the change in me, my nature that I put on from that Residential School, how to be deceitful, how to lie, that’s why there are so many young people today that go into criminal thinking because of the way I brought up my child. I was talking about my son there. In Lejac they made us stand against the wall and that’s the way I tried to raise my kids. If they say, “well, my dad” --- But I realized in the middle of what I’m doing I believe the most important thing is to try to carry my dad’s way of governing. Q. That’s a good story. A. Just for your information, the Sikannis they went as nomads. They had head men, just like the Norse people from Norway, they had head men. They never went under clans. They went under totems; like the eagle and grizzly totem, or eagle and wolf totem, otter and wolverine totem, just going on each family. Q. That’s good. A. Okay, is that it? --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 24:51

Dillian Stonechild

Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Can you say and spell your first name and your last name for me. DILLAN STONECHILD: Dillan Stonechild; D-i-l-l-a-n S-t-o-n-e-c-h-i-l-d. Q. What Reserve are you from? A. Pikases (ph.) Q. What school did you go to? A. QISR; Qu’Appelle Indian School Residence. Q. And how old were you when you first went in? A. I don’t know. I was in Grade 5. I don’t know how old I was. I don’t know what age you’re supposed to be. Q. You were probably ten? A. I never failed no Grades so that’s the age I was when I went to school. Q. Do you remember what your first day was like there? A. No, I don’t remember. I just remember the events leading up to why I had to go there. There were events leading up to it. My first day was loneliness. I was alone. Loneliness. You could see it in the other students that were there. Some were crying. They had big red eyes and you knew they were crying. You knew they were lonely so you kind of bonded. I remember my one friend there, we bonded and became friends. We’re still friends to this day. He’s still living, which is rare amongst a lot of the boarding school people my age to be still living. Q. A lot of people have passed on from there? A. Yes. A lot of people have passed on from boarding school. Q. You said you still have a friend and he was your main friend. Do you still keep in touch with him? A. Whenever I see him. He lives in Standing Buffalo so I see him downtown or in the Fort so I always say “hi” to him. We always talk. We’re friends. We were good friends in there and we’re still friends to this day. Q. That’s nice. Between the two of you, do you ever discuss what happened there? A. No, we never ever discussed it. He knows and I know some of the things we experienced. It was the same my first day of school. I remember going there. Like I say, I can’t really remember going there. I was young. I got beat up by a teacher in the White school in Balcarres and then the Indian Education Supervisor or counselor, his name as Dave Zelnik (ph.) at the time, and they took me --- No, it wasn’t then. I don’t know why I got beat up by the teacher. I got beat up by the teacher and then I went to school there. My mom pulled me out of school and we charged the teacher but nothing came of that. The teacher beat the charge so I went out of school. There were other Indians in the room and they seen the teacher banging me around. We were outside playing, playing King-of-the-Hill and I threw down this one White boy. Then the teacher seen me and he started banging me around so I got beat up. I had a big lump on the back of my head. The next thing I know I got taken out of Balcarres school. My mom took me out of Balcarres school. So I went there. I don’t know what time of the year it was, maybe in winter time or in the spring time I went there. Like I say, there were lots of lonely kids. I think this was the last year Fathers were there. I remember Father Sharon (ph.). I don’t remember any of the Nuns. I just remember Father Sharon. He was the only one I remember. Then they took us to --- How long we were there --- Then we got clothes, we got shoes, we got whatever else, little outfits, like our little --- We were all dressed the same. Maybe some of them were different colours and then we went and got a haircut. I got a haircut. That wasn’t good. I didn’t like that. So I didn’t like that. And then we just fit into the whole situation like that and we started going. It wasn’t that good there. It wasn’t that good at first when those guys were there and then it wasn’t too good after that. Q. What do you mean that it wasn’t too good after that? A. Well, like, you see, you could say the monitoring of the children wasn’t the way it should have been. Today, say, if you have a group of children you should have an adult supervising them, staying awake watching them all night. Because then you could say there was abuse happening from older students at the school with younger ones. That happened to me. I was abused. And my friend he knows about it. There were other older guys who tried to do that to him and I don’t know whether they did or not, but whatever happened, it happened to me. Like we were such a young vulnerable age that we didn’t know these guys weren’t supposed to be doing this to us, but they come and did that anyways. Q. Were they other students? A. Other students, yeah, but older. We were in the medium ones. They were in higher ones. Q. Like senior? A. Yeah. I was in Seniors all the time but it was different Dorms for the younger group; maybe Grades 5 and 6 and then over here Grades 7, 8, 9 and 10, or whatever like that. Over in the residence, whatever Grades, they were over there. And it wasn’t good. Then you rebelled like that and you start to build up rebellious and you weren’t like that but maybe it grew over time of the wrongs that happened to some of the male students there because of the lack of monitoring of the individuals there. So as years went by and there’s been lots of guys like that, lots of men, lots of younger guys in boarding school that have been abused that have not lived, that have not reached the age I have, because they continue to drink and do drugs and lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Q. Have you quit doing that? A. Yes. I quit drinking and doing drugs for fourteen years my last time. It’s because to say why I quit, I don’t know, it’s hard to say why I quit, but like boarding school --- Q. You just quit like that? A. Yeah. I just quit. But then like to say about the boarding school, all through the years it was good. There were fights at times. I was a fighter. I always ended up getting in fights because I started rebelling. I ran away three times. I beat up a White kid downtown, and from that time I got sent to Boys’ School. But before that I was rebelling and I ran away. I got a big strap from one of the child care workers that were there. He had a nice big strap. And it hurt. It hurt. But that was the thing, you weren’t supposed to cry because they had all the other boys around watching you. So you just went with the flow. You had to go with the flow to survive in there. Maybe other people that were a little bigger and stronger, maybe they survived better, but I fought a lot. I was probably one of the students that fought the most in the school. And like I say after that I got sent to Boys’ School and beat up a kid downtown, I got sent to Boys’ School. I ran away that night after I beat up that kid. And then boarding school was done. After it was done, there was no more boarding school. Maybe I did go back to boarding school. I don’t know. I went to Boys’ School, to the Ranchero (ph.) Society, and from there --- It was all right there at the Boys’ School, but all those events leading up from all the dysfunctional-ism that happened at the boarding school, all that led up to dysfunctional-ism that happened in my life. My life is no different than a thousand of others my age, young individuals that things happened to them, but they didn’t get to live as long as some of us fortunate ones have, like I quit drinking and doing drugs. From then, from that time after I quit drinking and doing drugs I got out of jail. I was out of jail. I got picked up that morning at the bus depot by my uncle. He took me to a medicine man up north. From there that medicine man, I went into his sweat lodge with him. He told me, he said, “You drink? There’s something down the road for you. If you drink or you do drugs there’s something down the road for you.” He said, “It’s hot. If you step on it you’ll still be living but it won’t be too good.” I knew that was a warning. Prior to that he gave me other warnings. One time he told me just like I see you hanging on the edge of the fireplace just like you’re going to fall in and I had no idea what that meant. I had no idea what he was telling me. So then I went out drinking and I was drinking and I stole a truck and I rolled that truck. It had spilled a bit of gas on the back and I was looking for my beer with my lighter, like that (indicating) down like that, and that gas blew up. It blew up, as big as this room, a big flame and I went running out of the fire. “Oh, I swore, fuck, and I was on fire.” I caught on fire, my shoes were on fire and I had to take them off. Then I thought, I never thought, and then I thought oh, that’s what he meant and the warning kind of kicked in. After that I would understand whenever he told me something. After that then I understand the things that he told me. Q. You could understand him then? A. Yeah. Like he would be able --- We would be at the ceremony and he would point at me. “This one over here”, he says, “I can tell him anything and he won’t get mad because his words, the way he learned, the way he taught, the one who taught him was (something)”, so I had that much. I knew that much about him that I would never be angry with him or anything like that. Q. So you credit your traditional ways for your healing? A. Yes. Q. Do you think a lot of the trouble that you got into was because of what happened in Residential School? A. Yes. Because after I got out of Residential School, after I got out of Boys’ School I went to jail. And there’s my friends! There’s my friends! Holy jeez. Just like that. Q. They were all boys from school? A. Yeah. Well, not all of them. A few of my good friends they were there, too. Oh yeah, we just fit in. Boarding school just prepared me for jail. After that it was nothing to think to go steal a vehicle and end up getting caught. Go to Court, plead guilty, get to jail right away. It was nothing. Q. Normal? A. Yeah. It was just everyday life. That’s the way all the guys that were my friends did. And some of them right now they must have had so much bad things happen to them in boarding school that they’ve taken out some of their negative emotions on members of the opposite sex and now they’re doing life. They’re doing life. Q. They have been in and out of jail? A. They are habitual criminals or dangerous offenders. They will never be out. That’s the sad part of it. The sad part of it when you take a child, you have a child, I take that child away from you. That child is not going to grow up knowing the love you would give it, say the love that I would get. At ten years old that’s kind of an important time in a child’s life to be around his parents. But a lot of people will say they were glad they were away from home because my mom and my dad drink all the time. But then you can’t understand until you do understand. Your parents, their parents were taken away from their children and they lost that love. And then drinking alcohol was there and they drank --- Q. Did your parents go to Residential School? A. Yeah. Q. So you know that’s where they learned it from. Right? A. Yeah. My grandfather, my Musha, his parents died when he was young; four or five years old. He grew up in boarding school. Q. So your grandfather and your parents? A. Yeah. My grandfather and my mom and dad, my Musha and Kukum went, my other Musha and Kukum on my mom’s side. So it was all --- And then you just lose love. I mean, like you could grow up --- I could say I never remember being hugged when I was growing up. I don’t remember that from my mom or my dad. I never ever remember anything like that. You grow up and you start growing up --- Now I can say we’re kind of turning it around because we are relearning our traditional ways of where this is important to nurture our children so that they don’t have to face the same hardships that we faced. I say there wasn’t much wrong with boarding school if they would have monitored the situation better. Q. If they had paid attention to the students? A. Yes. But then when you have students that are in the school there, they are locking up. They are not going to tell. Now they’re ashamed. They’re not going to go tell and say, hey, that guy did whatever with me. They’re not going to tell nobody that. That’s the way it was. They just clam up and then you start rebelling against society. Like I say, fourteen years I spent in and out of jail just rebelling against society. Q. Because of that? A. Yes. And you get caught up in alcoholism and you’re controlled. You live for that alcohol. That controls you. Drugs and everything like that. I mean, I did so many drugs, not to say to forget. I just became so caught up in that lifestyle and that’s how a lot of my friends from boarding school --- I had one friend who was in Gordon’s. His name was Roger (something) and I met him in jail, the late Roger (something). He hung himself. He was a really good guy. He was one of my good friends in jail, too. Five or six or seven or ten years later he hung himself and that was when Mr. Star over there was doing those things to those young fellas, taking them boxing. He was a boxer. It all kicked in to me after. That must have been what happened to poor Roger. Poor Roger ended up being abused by that Mr. Star over there in Gordon’s. It’s devastating when you realize some of the things that are never going to come out of it. No matter all I tell you, all anybody else tells you, there’s how many other people my age that aren’t going to say nothing about it, that are stuck in the city, that are stuck on the streets, that are stuck drinking and doing drugs. We used to do drugs so much. There’s all the barbiturates. We would do drugs. We would shoot ‘em up right until we pass out, we would shoot ‘em up and shoot ‘em up and then just pass out. Q. Just to forget? A. Yeah. And then you would wake up later with a needle in your arm. You’re just caught up in that life all because of the neglect at the boarding school. It was all because of that. You could say that if we had a healthy lifestyle and things were good there --- Sure I had some good times at boarding school. I had a lot of good times. But then maybe down the road what haunts you in your spirit brings you down more and you don’t realize it. You just don’t realize it. It’s just like a big ball of mud rolling down the hill getting bigger and bigger until finally it crashes at the bottom and you have to go back up and try and make things better for yourself. At the end of my journey down at the bottom of the hill when I crashed, now I have to go back up that hill now and make things better for myself because I know now that there is a boss up there and I have to answer for the wrongs that I did. If I don’t answer for them and try and make things right down here, I’ll have to answer for them up there. And up there, it’s different up there from the teachings that I’ve learned through the years, through the traditional men. The only two traditional men I’ve ever listened to, and only those two teachings that I follow: my dad and that other late man up north. Q. What do you want people to know about you, Dillan, and about your survival and your healing? What is it you want people to know about you that’s really important? A. I would say the most important thing for anybody to leave is as long as you quit drinking and doing drugs and then open up your heart and try to address those issues within you. To say, to address them, if you can address them, don’t maybe you become --- As you say, I haven’t addressed them. They are there, but I’ve forgotten. I tried to forget about them. I try my best to forget them. I try to make my life good so my children will try to be good as they grow up. They learn by example. I know when I grew up I know my mom and dad drank and drank and drank. Eventually they quit. It comes a time in a person’s life when he gets direction from the Great Spirit, gets a call, gets his call for him to straighten out his life down the road eventually like that. So I just wish that if there’s people out there that need help to somehow try and get the help. It’s so hard to ask for help if you don’t have resources around you and the right kind of people to show you the road that you must follow. As a First Nations person I know my road. My road goes up to Kishimanitoo (ph.), so I know all that. I know all that. Back then with all the negative things that happened to you and all the things you try to do to forget things, going on a self-destructive lifestyle that only leads to death and jail and now to try to lead a positive lifestyle that leads to the Great Spirit like that. Q. I like what you said earlier. I don’t think a lot of people hear that enough that Residential School/Boarding School prepared you for jail. I never heard anyone say that before. A. Yes. I’ve told a lot of people that. A lot of my friends have agreed with me that were in boarding school. Because maybe the ones that were successful in boarding school that came out of boarding school that graduated from boarding school, maybe nothing happened to those ones. But when you get the younger ones in with older guys it was no fault of their own. It was probably no fault of theirs. Maybe that happened to them somewhere down the road and they were just acting out in that whole vicious circle that happens. It’s a bad spirit. You get a bad spirit in you, that bad spirit is going to make you act and do negative things and then it’s going to have a whole bowling ball effect on all those around. Q. Is there anything else you would like to add before we stop? A. Oh, have a break. Q. Have some water. A. Okay. Q. How long were you in jail? A. I was in large jail for fourteen years. I was in Boys’ School for one year so you can say eight years I was in boarding school, one year in Boys’ School and fourteen years in jail. So fifteen years you could actually say I lost; the eight years in boarding school they were the bad times, but there was a lot of good times. There were sports. The sports were good. We had running, basketball, volleyball and hockey. All the sports were good. But I say the only thing wrong with the boarding school was not monitoring of the children in the Dorms. If you had --- Q. By good people? A. Yes. By good people, people that cared for the children that wanted to see good things happening. But when you have those old people, those other cultures there working who don’t even care about the children, that are just there for their pay cheque --- That’s probably the way a lot of those cultures were because probably, who knows, maybe the same things may have happened to them somewhere out there. They may have been chronic alcoholics that needed help that were thinking they could look after children and were in such a situation, a volatile situation. You could say it’s a volatile situation because of all the wrong things that happened in the boarding school. Q. Have you ever talked to your parents about their experience? A. No, I never ever talked to my parents and I never ever talked to them about any of my experiences. One year I won the Athlete of the Year, though, at the boarding school for cross-country running. Like I say, not everything was bad. I slowly --- It takes a long time to come out of things. If you don’t have the right person, the right Elder --- Q. It’s funny because people remember you for the bad things you did but they don’t remember the one time that you did really well in cross-country? A. Oh yeah. I was bad. As I say, I was really bad, really really bad. I and my brother we would go stoning semis at the highway, just rebelling. My brother went to boarding school. He didn’t go too long. He was more of a mama’s pet. But me, I stayed there. I just ended up staying there. I don’t know. I just accepted it because I couldn’t go back to Balcarres because of the teacher there so that’s why I stayed at boarding school. Q. Are your parents still living? A. My dad just passed away two weeks ago, three weeks ago. Q. I’m sorry. A. Or a month ago, March 9th, February 9th. Q. You mom lives here? A. My mom lives on the Reserve. Two of my sisters, one of my brothers have died and I have two sisters living. Q. They all went to Residential School? A. All except --- They all went, yeah. All except my two younger sisters. My two younger sisters are the ones that died. My one younger brother has died. Yeah. I don’t know if any of the stories that people hear that I have to say, that anybody else has to say, will help any of the people heal in their way. There’s only one way you can heal and you have to go up. You have to actually look up and ask him for to help you. When I got out of jail my first plan was to go, whenever I started my healing journey, was to go to the city and go buy drugs. That’s what I was going to do. I had my plan and I had my money. I had my drugs all lined up. But my uncle showed up and picked me up and there was a whole spirit that come and took me away from there. That’s the way the medicine man said when he left me. And he did that. After that I stayed there for a week and then I caught the bus and left. During that week he said, “Come here. You know, there’s somebody down the road, two of your friends down the road. They are going to come to you like that. They are going to come with you like that.” And he said, “They’re going to tempt you, or whatever that way for drugs or alcohol. They are going to come and you are going to have those two tests.” He said, “I don’t think you can quit, though.” “But”, he said, “up here we don’t care if you do or you don’t.” Because like that --- I can understand why he said that because if you were to care about everybody that came into your circle to try to help them and you couldn’t help them, down the road you are sure going to feel sad for all those people. They would just bring you right down. So he told me that. So when he told me that, “I don’t think you can do it”, and then so when those tests came, those were the first words that came to mind. My first friend, he had a drink. “C’mon bro, c’mon bro, have a drink.” For a whole half an hour. I was getting mad at him. I was about to hit him but we were good friends all the time. So I left. I just left. That was the first words I heard. “I don’t think you can do it.” That gave me the strength to say “No”. The next friend, the same thing. “I don’t think he could do it.” And that first friend, he would go like that (indicating). I don’t think he could do it. I said, “No, I’m not going to do it.” I just hopped out of the vehicle and hitch-hiked home like that. Q. You’re pretty strong. A. Now I am, yes. But that’s the way. And then once I got --- If people can find our father’s ways they can heal over time. It doesn’t happen --- The first seven years when I quit drinking, seven years I just dedicated my life to the sweat lodge, nothing else, to the sweat lodge and the ceremonies to make sure that I was healed inside. You could say nowadays what I say about the boarding schools, about the assaults, the sexual assaults and whatever happened in there like that, that don’t bother me. I could leave it back there. But I just don’t think about it. It’s just there. It’s back there to stay away from me. I have my own life and to keep on with positive thinking and keep my life strong. Q. Good for you. Have you ever talked to your siblings, your brothers and sisters, about starting their healing journeys as well? A. No, I don’t talk to them. I don’t talk to them about it. They know we have a sweat lodge. My late dad, my father, had a sweat lodge. He passed it on to me. So now they know all the things to try to make your life better. They know where the door is. They have to come there. The more you tell a person, the more I drink --- If you were to drink, the more I tell you not to drink, the more you’re going to drink, the more you’re not going to be my friend. So we don’t tell them nothing. I don’t tell my children. If they go drinking I don’t tell them not to drink. I just tell them the experiences of my life and hopefully it will open their eyes so they can see this is not a healthy lifestyle. It’s going to lead to not good things. That’s about all I have to say. Q. That’s great. You did a really good job. A. Thank you. Q. That was a really good interview. You’ve got a lot of information out. That’s really important that you gave out a lot of valuable things to share with people about your journey and about what happened to you in Residential School and in jail. But also your bravery. That’s really powerful. I think you’re a really good role model for people. You should start talking to some of the young people. I think that would be really good for you. Because we were all captivated. You’re a really good story teller. I’m really proud of you. A. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 32:41

Samuel Ross

All Saints Indian Residential School and Birtle Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Would you please say and spell your first and last name. SAMUEL ROSS: Samuel Ross. Q. Can you spell that, please? A. S-a-m-u-e-l R-o-s-s. Q. What Residential School did you go to? A. I went to Prince Albert All Saints School in Saskatchewan. Q. How old were you when you went into the school? A. I think I was about six or seven. I think it was in 1948, anyway, when we left here. Q. How many years were you there? A. I was there until 1953. Q. Do you remember your first day when you went into school? A. Oh, I don’t really know. Well, the Indian Agent and somebody else came and got us. There were four of us, eh, me and my three other brothers. They all took us and took us to the train station and they put us on a passenger train. There were older people there, I mean, schoolboys I guess who were older than us. We had to fight when we got into that train, the passenger train. They had to drag us in there you might say. We didn’t want to go. Anyway, they got us there on the train and hung onto us until the train left, until that train was moving fast enough for us not to jump out. I remember that part. Well, anyway, we went, all four of us; two older brothers and my younger brother. One of them was younger than me. I remember that. He was a little smaller than me. When we got to --- I remember changing trains in Hudson Bay. In Hudson Bay we changed trains. They looked after us, our older brothers. They took us to another passenger train and away we went to Prince Albert. When we got to that school in PA it was in the morning, I think, sometime in the morning that train got in and we all got off and then they put us in a big truck, you know, like a truck, not a bus. They loaded it up and they separated us when we got to that school; Junior, Intermediate, Seniors, I guess they put us in. At that time I wasn’t able to speak English, eh. I didn’t understand English so I just spoke Cree. We didn’t understand English I guess. We couldn’t speak it. I think I was six or seven. I was pretty young then, eh. Well, we were separated in that school; Junior Boys, Intermediate and Seniors. Same thing with the girls, I guess, but with us anyway. I was with my younger brother in Junior Boys. They put us in the Dormitory. That school that they had there was an old Army Barracks. It wasn’t really a --- It used to be an old Army training camp. That’s why they turned it into Residential School Dormitories. Anyway, when I was there I remember at that time, boy, I was pretty tough in 1948. The hardest part I can remember was my younger brother was smaller than me --- Philip (something) was there and Ernie George, they were smaller than me. I was a little bit bigger, but we didn’t see our older brothers. They were Intermediate and Senior, eh. Well, they used to sleep all over the place, those guys. Me, I don’t know why that --- But I was a little bit, I guess I was a little bit older for my age than that and I used to sleep --- They used to wake up those little kids, those young ones, and tell them not to sleep all over on the outside – not inside – outside all over and then they used to come and feed us carrots, our older brothers, eh, from the garden. This was in September when we went there. Anyway we were told -- later on I found out -- not to speak Cree and yet we didn’t understand English. When we first went there, you know, they took all our clothes off and I remember getting a bald head. They cut off all our hair. They put that DDT on your head there, and all over your body. They figured that we were lousy or had lice, I guess, I don’t know. I remember that one. They told us not to speak Cree. Try to understand English. Every time we spoke Cree we get --- Well, they had a little stick, a willow, that we used to get. They had straps. I seen that they had straps, the supervisors. But every time you spoke Cree they would either spank you and sometimes you didn’t go for supper just for speaking Cree. But most of the time the food was no good either. They had very poor food that we got there. I remember we only had one spoon when you go for breakfast, one scoop of that porridge and a tin cup of what was supposed to be tea, I guess. That little bread that was on the table when we said grace, they used to say grace in the morning, every morning. Before the grace was over we grabbed for that bread. If you were not lucky or fast enough you didn’t get any, just that little porridge there. The way we survived the Senior Boys, our brothers, they used to come and show us how to steal potatoes and carrots, you know, from that big Drill Hall or go to the garden and get some from the garden; potatoes and carrots, turnips. Anyway, the worst thing was we were always hungry. No food. Not enough food. Sometimes our older brothers used to come for us, you know, and they used to say to the supervisor “we’re going to take them to the skate or picture show in town”, but what they did was they took us to the dump in town, the dumps that they had in town. They used to take us across the bridge and they used to --- That’s where we had a feast. We ate everything there like oranges --- Well, it was scrap, eh, but for us it was surviving. But it was good. Oranges and apples, even though some of them were a little bit rotten, but we ate the good part of the apples and oranges. We used to put them in big bags to bring them back to school. We used to crawl in underneath the crawl space, I remember that hole that used to be there, and hang them up there. At night we used to sneak out and go and eat what we brought back from the dump. Hunger was the main thing. I remember me and William Lesland (ph.), we were told not to speak Cree. But we got caught one time talking to each other. They took us and they gave us a bar of soap, I remember that pink soap. You had to chew on that, take a bite of that soap. It was pink, eh. They were watching you. If you didn’t gargle with that soap, they gave you water to gargle. It’s for the next time you speak Cree you’re going to get a good licking, or you’ll have to gargle that soap again, you know. That’s what they told us. Gargle that soap so you wouldn’t speak Cree again. They washed your mouth with that. Well, you know, you had a licking all right and then you wouldn’t go for supper just for that. Every time you spoke Cree, our language, you had to look around first before you would talk or whisper so nobody would hear you. The supervisors were all over, not just one supervisor either. They had those supervisors out there to get you in line. You had to line up for supper for your meals to go to the Dining Hall. Your clothing. We only had one set of clothes. The clothes that we took there you had them and then they give you a set, but if you had your clothes torn or broken, that’s the way they stayed. In the winter time, those winters at that time were pretty fierce. They were cold. I don’t remember having decent mitts or even decent underwear or good footwear like shoes for winter, you know. I froze my toes quite a few times just wearing those oxfords. They were old. I froze my toes I don’t know how many times, and I froze my fingers. But the thing that kept us to survive we used to steal those potatoes. They had a big Drill Hall there. There was a hole and we used to manage to get inside there. We would steal potatoes and then come out with a whole bunch of carrots, turnips and potatoes. That’s what we survived on. Sometimes we would go to the dump once in a while. And then once in a while a Senior Boy would go and kill rabbits, down the hill. They used to make slingshots. In the wintertime I don’t know how they managed it but they used to get rabbits. They used to take these old pails from the dump and that’s how they cooked the rabbits, eh. They used to feed us with a lot of potatoes and those rabbits, and carrots. Some of them would throw some carrots in there. I guess maybe that’s why we stayed a little healthier because we ate those vegetables, those carrots, turnips and potatoes. The meals at dinner time at school were something there. I don’t know what they were making. They called it stew, I guess. One round spoon. We never heard of nothing like toast or anything. We didn’t even know it was invented yet. Supper, the same thing at supper. Maybe you get two sausages and one scoop of potato and that’s it. That bread, you were lucky to get it. And Senior Girls, I guess they felt sorry for us. Once in a while they would throw a loaf of bread out when they used to see us hanging around the Dining Room and they were setting up the tables. But anyway, I was there when I was six, seven, eight, nine and when I was maybe about ten, I guess, things started to change because we knew how to survive then, eh. Ourselves, we used to go to the dump and go and have a good meal over there. But still, you can’t speak Cree. You learn your English. We went to school all right. We started to speak. As soon as we knew a little English we got away from getting a licking because we were speaking a little bit of English. We understood a little bit of English because if you didn’t, but still we wanted to speak Cree. We got caught a few times. We got a licking just for speaking Cree. Anyway, this went on until I was thirteen, eh. I knew already how to survive, how to steal, I guess you might say, potatoes and carrots. My older brother didn’t go there. He didn’t go. Just the two of us, my younger brother wasn’t able to hack it. Just me and my late brother Joe, the two of us, were there until 1953. The reason why I stayed ‘til 1953, my late dad died. They came and got us in May, in the Spring, at the end of May, somewhere around there. That principal told us you’re not coming back because you will be going home in about the middle of June anyway so you don’t have to come back after the funeral. That was the last time I seen that PA. But you know out there I remember the clothing, the hunger that we went through, the lickings, all of us had to learn English, that was the worst part I can remember in that Prince Albert, all the lickings that you had in school there. At first, yeah, when we didn’t understand English --- But the one thing I want to tell you about when I went to Birtle, later on, I went to school here in day school for about a year. And then when I went to Birtle I was about maybe sixteen, sixteen years old. I think I went to a little more day school here. When I went to Birtle that Indian Agent says “there’s no room for you. They are all filled up.” “But I tell you what”, he says, “as soon as that school opens I’m going to send you to a school where they have room.” So he came and got me and he said, “You’re going to Birtle.” “There’s no room in Brandon, Dauphin or Portage”, he said. But a lot of them went, those other young boys. So he took me, he sent me over there. I got on the train with those boys and I went to Portage and Dauphin. They got off the train. I got off in someplace, I think it was in Breslaw, or someplace --- I got off and they put me in the station wagon and they took me to Birtle School anyway. That was the worst one, too, that school. I was sixteen years old already, I remember. That school was a farm school, you know. There were ten of us that spoke Cree; five girls who were there already and just me from here and four from Norway House. I think they were from Nelson House. They tried to show us how to farm over there, you know, get up early at six o’clock in the morning and clean barns and work. And then from there later in the morning you got ready for school. You went to school. After school you went back to work until about supper time. And then after supper you did your homework. And if you didn’t finish your chores you had to go back and do them again. This went on until about February. Before February --- Around January I told the principal I didn’t come here to work. I came here to get some schooling. I want to be educated. “All right”, he said. “I don’t like working in that barn, that’s it, give me a ticket and send me home.” “You’re going to go to school”, he said. I’ll give you a good job, an easy job. I’ll put you in the boiler room. So that’s where he put me, in the boiler room. So I worked in that boiler room. I was the first guy up in the morning, digging the clinkers. That guy showed me how. There was a guy there, an elderly man, that little janitor, I guess, showed me what to do and how to work and look after the boiler room. I worked like that. At first I didn’t mind it, you know, but then I got --- I was the first guy up in the morning, clean the clinkers, burn the garbage, mop it, close it down, clean it and burn the garbage, make sure there was enough coal there --- Saturdays I used to go --- Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays I used to haul the coal from that one-mile siding in the boxcar to make sure that bin was full all the time with coal. I got tired of that. There were two or three guys that used to help me haul that coal out there. They were told to help me and we filled it up. We did that Saturday and Sunday. One day I said to the principal again, maybe in February, I said, “that’s enough, send me home”, I said. “I didn’t come here to work. If I wanted to work my brother is in Thompson. I would have gone with him already”, I said. He used to send me some money, my late brother, eh. He used to send me while he was working, that older brother, send me a little. I used to get that. What they used to do when we got money, they opened the letters, eh, and take the money. They tell you how much you got but they won’t give you fifty cents a week. The parcels they didn’t open. They just give them to you. I used to watch those trains go by at night when I was doing my homework in that boiler room. I watched those trains going by. It’s useless. That’s when I made up my mind to leave the school, to run away from there. And if you didn’t work you didn’t eat. That was the rule. If you didn’t do your chores you didn’t eat. You just had to work. Anyway, when I ran away from that school that night when I left here --- My late mother gave me a good wallet and my uncle, I think, he gave me a good jack knife. I had a good jackknife all the time. I carried that jack knife and my good wallet. I wrote my late mother a letter. I said, “Send me ten dollars. I need ten dollars to buy…” I didn’t tell her how I was going to use that ten dollars. I buy a pair of gloves and put that ten dollars inside the thumb, the thumb part of the glove. She sent a parcel, too, and a scarf. So that’s what she did. She sent me a scarf and those gloves, there. I took my parcel. That’s one thing that school didn’t do was open a parcel, just the letters. So I took that parcel down to the boiler room and I opened it there. There was ten dollars there and that’s when I made up my mind. So on Tuesday night I filled up the coal, one Tuesday in February, towards the end of February. It was snowing heavy. I used the railroad track. I looked at the map. I studied the map. I know there was a little town every ten miles marked on that. So that night I made twenty miles, eh. I started off at eight-thirty. And when I got to that second town I waited for the train to come by, the first one. It didn’t stop. It just went right through. It was a passenger train. But the second one, I watched them all the time. They had little passenger cars behind there. That’s the one I got on. It was two dollars to get to Minnedosa on that one. I got to Minnedosa. I got off over there. It was hard walking in that snow, too, especially on the railroad track, eh. When I first left it was tough going on that railroad track. There was snow on the railroad track. It was hard walking. But I made it anyway. When I got to Minnedosa I guess I was tired. I didn’t know about that. I went in that little station there and I asked that guy “can I rest here”, I told that janitor. He said, “Yeah, go ahead”, he says. “I’m going to wait for the bus to come in”, I said. So I slept. I didn’t know how long I slept. I was tired. When I got up it was daylight all right. I knew. I went to the bus depot and I asked that guy, “oh, it left already”, the bus. “The bus left already.” “You’ll have to wait until tomorrow”, he says. “There’s another one tomorrow.” I went and hid at the station because I knew they might be looking for me. Anyway the next morning --- This was on a Tuesday --- Wednesday --- Thursday morning I didn’t sleep very much. I got up and waited for the bus. When I got to the bus depot, boy I was glad when that bus pulled in. I went and bought with whatever money I had there --- I said, “A ticket to The Pas”, I said. “You haven’t got enough”, he said. “Well, what about to Overflow (ph.)”, I said. “Yeah, he says, you’ve got enough for Overflow (ph.)”. “But we can’t drop you off any old place”, he says. “That’s okay. My uncle is working over there.” I lied about that a little. “I’ve got my uncle cutting cordwood over there.” I knew about this already. I used to see people going there from here. He looked at me for a while. “Oh, I’ll give you a ticket anyway.” Boy, I was glad when he gave me a ticket. The reason why I didn’t have enough there was I had to sell my wallet to that janitor. I gave him my wallet and my jack knife so I had enough there for that fare to Overflow (ph.). I kept using a little bit to eat chips, eh, soft drinks and chips, and a chocolate bar. I wasn’t thinking about that fare. I thought it wouldn’t be that much. Anyway, when I got to Overflow (ph.), that was the end of the line. It was Thursday night, at night. I was thinking already what to do. I had my ideas. I figured I was going to make a big fire in the bush and hitch hike from there all night. Sooner or later somebody would pick me up I figured. When I got off in Overflow (ph.) at night there I was lucky. I seen my cousin. They were cutting cordwood. Sure enough I seen them. Boy, I got off the bus and I told them what happened. “I ran away from school”. “Pay my way to The Pas.” I guess they must have been drinking a little bit. They were laughing and feeling happy. They bought me a six-pack of mixed drinks, coke, orange, seven-up, chocolate bars and chips. “You go home now. We’ll buy you a ticket.” He knows my mother good, that guy there, eh. Relatives. Cousins. “Tell them we’ll be in on Saturday”, he says. I says, “All right, I’ll tell them, and I’ll tell them to pay you.” So that’s how I got on the bus when that bus came. Thursday night I got here. And then my late mother and my late aunt went to see the Indian Agent at that time, that morning, Friday morning. He said, “When did you come in?”, he said. “First, before you say anything, I want to tell you why I ran away”, I said, “why I took off from there.” So I told him, eh, all the work we had to did, six in the morning and you know no recreation. There was an arena outside, an outdoor rink, but we never got to use it. All we done was work, work, work, all the time. At first I used to smell just like cow manure. It went through your clothing and then when I went to the boiler room I didn’t have enough time. I did my homework in that boiler room, the last one in and the last one to get out. I made sure there was enough coal. He said, “When did you leave?”, after I told him what happened in that school. You know what, you said you left Tuesday? I said, “Yeah, Tuesday at eight-thirty I left over there. It was snowing. But I used the railroad track”, I told him. I took the railroad about twenty miles and then got on the train and then by bus. “And it’s Friday morning”, he says. “Yeah.” “And no call from Birtle to tell him, my relatives or him, the Indian Agent that I was missing from that school already.” No call for him or to tell anybody that I was not in that school already. That’s Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; four days already went by without no notice telling anyone. So that’s one thing --- There were lots of other boys that tried that, you know, to Norway House and Nelson House. They used the highway to try to get away from that school. They ran away but they used to bring them back. They used the highway and they used to get caught right away and they used to bring them back. But me, I used the railroad track. I went south instead, to Minnedosa and then from Minnedosa I knew how to catch the bus there and go from there up north to The Pas here. That’s one thing I always wondered. What happened if I would have froze? I would have been lost, I guess. But I worked hard. I was healthy. That’s how I made that trip, when I ran away. Anyway, Dick Bell – that’s our Indian Agent – he said, “You’ll not go back to that Birtle, but I’ll wait for Portage or Brandon.” That’s when later on he sent me back to Brandon, about April. He sent me to Brandon. But Brandon was also full. It was full. But I stayed in a boarding house. That’s why I couldn’t put my --- Like it’s not a Residential School. It’s a boarding school. Later on after that I was advanced enough in my schooling to go Winnipeg. That’s also a boarding school, in Winnipeg. That’s the one thing I wanted to share with you. Why didn’t they report my running away from there after that? I left there Tuesday at eight-thirty. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then we went to see Dick Bell that morning at ten o’clock in the morning. No call yet from Birtle, that Residential School. But I don’t mind telling you this. I want to tell this. I’ve been thinking about this. You think it might be a joke. But I told this guy already, that guy who has a video camera, I’m going to hire you to come with me. I’m a plumber now, eh. I said, “I’m going to hire you”, I told Sam Esther (ph.). He’s got all that video. “I’m going to take you with me to that school”, I told him. I got an extension ladder. I’m going to take that with me. When we go over there to see that school and take pictures of me here and there, eating, running away lots, and when I get to that school I will stop in Swan River Hostel, and we’ll go around that ways. It’s not far from Way-Way (ph.). It’s only half an hour ride from Way-Way (ph.), that Birtle School. Ask those people over there. I went there this winter. That building is still up, that school, that building, eh. That’s when I told Sam Esther later after I got back. I went to watch the hockey game over there. That’s how I know. Bishops were playing over there and we wanted to watch the hockey game. But anyway, I told Sam Esther (ph.) you want to take a picture of me. I eat lots on the way, lots of dessert in Way-Way (ph.). I’m going to eat a whole pie! (Laughter) And I’m going to climb up that ladder. I’m going to set up my ladder to climb that school, that building. I know what it looks like. I can never forget that. I will never forget the way it looks. I’m going to climb up on that school, I told you people, taking a picture of me with your video camera. I want to make sure I’ve got a roll of toilet paper with me. I’m going to throw it over the top of that building and I want you to take a picture. I want to take a picture of me making a big poop right on top of that school. (Laughter) That’s what I think of that school, I told him. But you know, he laughed. It’s just a joke. It’s what I’m thinking, I said. That school was too much work. No recreation. And over there, too, we weren’t allowed to speak Cree. If you spoke Cree there was no supper for you and they put you to do extra work, and at Birtle. Yeah. Every one of these Residential Schools, I don’t know why they didn’t want --- --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 25:56
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Part 2 – 14:54

Arthur Fourstar

Birtle Indian Residential School and Prince Albert Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Art, I’ll get you to spell your first name and your last name for me. ARTHUR FOURSTAR: A-r-t-h-u-r F-o-u-r-s-t-a-r. Q. What school did you go to? A. Birtle, Manitoba. And also the Prince Albert Indian Residence. Q. How old were you when you first went to Birtle? A. I was five years and ten months old. Q. Do you remember what your first day was like? A. It’s a bad memory. I was taken to Residential School on October 20th, 1944 and I’ve gotten that date from my school records. Q. What do you remember about that day? A. What I remember is I was at home with my mother and she was making bannock. I was playing on the floor. My father was in the Second World War so there was just my mom and me. And on that day that I mentioned, all of a sudden the door opened and an RCMP Officer and a man whom I came to know as Mr. Finlayson (ph.) came in. The RCMP Officer went over to my mother and held her from behind and Mr. Finlayson – it could be Mr. Findlay – came to me and just grabbed me and took me out to the car and threw me in the car. I remember screaming. I remember my mom doing the same thing. But the police officer held onto her. When Mr. Findlay threw me in the car, I went out the other door and I ran. But he ran after me and caught me. I like to think of the word abducted. After he caught me he threw me into the back seat again and they tied me with my hands like this (indicating). And we drove away. I had no idea where Birtle was. We drove through the night. I didn’t know. I didn’t even know it was a Residential School that I was going to. There were lots of kids there and a big building, bigger than I had ever seen in my life. That’s when the darkness began. They kept me over there for five years without coming home for the summer, year round, because they couldn’t find my mother. I understand that today. In the summertime they used to chase me to bed at seven o’clock in the evening in July and August when the sun was still high. And in the big dormitory that I was sleeping in I used to sit on the windowsill and just look, I guess. I didn’t even know which way was home or where to go. I didn’t even know where I was. Sometimes the supervisor used to catch me sitting on the windowsill and beat me up pretty good. It was terrible. If somebody ran away from school and they caught that person, that student, whether it was a young girl or a young boy, they used to make us go into this workshop area where they had big wooden benches and they used to strip that boy or that girl and bend them over a table and whip them. They used to make us watch that. I was really really scared. I had a lot of fear. I also got a lot of beatings. I remember one time during the summer holidays, the summer holidays started, they used to load the students from Saskatchewan onto a big truck with canvas over it. When they loaded that truck with Saskatchewan students to go home I wanted to get on that truck, too. I was about eight then. But they wouldn’t let me. When the truck drove off I chased that truck but I couldn’t catch up. Those students, they had their hands out at the back. They were going to try to pull me up onto the truck, I guess, if I could have caught up, but I couldn’t. Walking back to the Residential School a goose crossed my path with little goslings behind it and I was so angry I kicked that one gosling and I killed it. --- Speaker overcome with emotion As a result of that Mr. Findlay took me upstairs and he filled a bathtub with cold water and he put me in it. He left me there. I don’t know what my skin looked like. He would come in and let me get out of the water for a little while and then would shove me back in there again. A month or so later I broke out in some kind of a disease and all the kids were already gone. It ended up they took me to Brandon. I was wrapped, except for here and here (indicating) where they fed me through a straw. Then from Brandon they shipped me to a place in Winnipeg. I think they called it St. Boniface. When they first got me there they put me in this hallway just inside the door and I was in this hallway and I could move my head. Just across the hall there was a little baby, and that little baby had a huge head. I was watching that little baby and a couple came in. I guess it was the mother and father of that little baby because they stood there watching that little baby and the lady was crying and the man had his arms --- I remember thinking to myself what a lucky little baby. At least his parents are there. That’s the way I fell asleep. When I woke up again the little baby was gone. --- Speaker overcome with emotion I didn’t know where it went but wherever it went, I wanted to go with him. I never seen him again. They put me in a room. I guess I was supposed to die. A lot of times I wished I had. I remember the doctor coming in and the doctor saying while the nurses were working on the bandages, I remember the doctor saying, “Is he still with us?” I don’t know how the nurses answered. After they finished wrapping me up they gave me some juice, I don’t know whether I fell asleep or what, but I seen this old lady and she had on a shawl. It was like she was floating toward me. She looked so tiny. She came to my bed and she began to --- Those bandages, they went like this (indicating). She looked under them and she started to chew something. I was watching her. As she was chewing she was stroking me. I don’t know how I felt, but it was beautiful, though. And she looked so kind. That stuff that she was chewing, she went like that (spitting) and she began to rub me. After she finished, those bandages, they closed by themselves. And then she started to move away. I wanted to go with her. I learned later that was my grandma. In one of those ceremonies we talked about this morning; shaking tent. Within a week I was out of the hospital. The doctors were amazed. They asked me what I did. I said that I didn’t do nothing. But I never told them about this. All that stuff, the beatings and stuff like that, I went through all of that. I was just telling my friend out in the hallway. I said, “Have you ever heard the saying if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it really fall?” I was telling him. You know what, I identify with that tree. My mosho (ph.) told me, she said, “You go find that tree because when you find that tree you will find yourself.” I think for a long time I somehow wanted to be heard but it seemed that nobody wanted to listen. As a result of my Residential School I had a lot of anger. A lot of that stuff those guys are talking about, a lot of anger, revenge, hatred --- I was charged with non-capital murder and convicted of manslaughter. I spent time in the penitentiary. That’s a shameful part of my life. But I think it’s all a part of my Residential School. When I was working in Stoney Mountain Penitentiary – I have a complete pardon – I got a job at Stoney Mountain Penitentiary. And Birtle is just off Highway 16 there. I went there, I stopped there. I was alone and I went inside. I went upstairs to where I used to sit and I went and sat where I used to sit in those evenings of July. I went and sat there and I began to shake. I had to crawl out of there. I had a really difficult time. I was alone. After I got outside I had to sit in one place for quite some time and smoke before I could get up and walk away from there. I don’t think I’m finished with that place yet. I told the psychologist over there – I forgot his name – he works for Native Clan, I think. Yeah. I worked for him, too, Lawrence Elderby (ph.). I told him about that. He said, “Art, you and me have to go back there. We’ll camp there.” But it never happened. I wish it had to at least try to see what it was. Sometimes I watch TV, especially when they were bombing Iraq with those smart bombs. I wished they would do that to Birtle! --- Speaker overcome with emotion I spent a lot of time in Dispensaries there because my ears used to freeze. That’s why I’ve got big ears, I guess, and other things. They wouldn’t let me go inside until it was time, and half the time my ears were frozen. I would like to have a smoke break. There’s something coming up here. Q. Take a deep breath. We’ll turn the camera off so you can go ahead and let it out. --- Speaker overcome with emotion Q. That’s all right. Take a deep breath. You’re safe. Take a deep breath. Breathe. --- A Short Pause A. I didn’t know this was going to happen. Q. Take a nice deep breath. You have to remember that you’re the boss. You’re in control. A. I guess that’s part of it. It seems like I always have to ask for permission for this or for that. Q. You don’t have to ask for permission here. You’re in charge here. Take that with you. Put it in your pocket. A. Thank you. Q. You’re so brave. I’m so proud of you, Arthur. You did such a good job. That poor guy. --- Speaker leaves the room momentarily and returns. Q. How are you feeling? A. A little bit shaky but okay enough to continue. Q. Do you want your water? Have a sip. A. I had to give myself permission to breathe. Q. It’s almost like your entire story is still inside of you and it’s trying to come out. And you want to keep it there. You’ve gotta let it come out. This has happened before with some of the other survivors. You have to find a way to let it come out because you can’t carry it any more. Number one, you don’t have to carry it. A. Yeah. I guess one of the things that I learned over there in Birtle is how to withdraw and have no feelings, because sometimes when I used to get a strap it was like I was dead. No feeling. Sometimes I withdraw into a nothing world. Q. Zoned out? A. Yeah, I guess so. One of the things that was broken over there was family bonds. Those were severed. When my mom and my dad passed on it was like no feeling. I heard people around me say “you’re so strong, you stood there and you were like a warrior, man”. But no, I wasn’t. It’s not that. It’s something else. And it’s still over there. Whatever it is, it’s still over there. My brothers and sisters, I’ve got two sisters left. You know, I don’t even know where they are and it seems like I don’t care. My brother, he drinks in Saskatoon on 20th Street and it’s like it doesn’t matter. I try and pretend sometimes that it matters when there’s other people. But it’s like I’m dead sometimes. I’m doing some work with some guys in the penitentiary right now, with gang members. The program that we do involves a lot of the stuff that we’re hearing. We used to call it Medicine Wheel. But we discussed that word “medicine” and we found that we have too much respect for that word “medicine”, and we’ve taken that word “medicine” out of it and now we call it the Life Cycle of Life. It’s still in those four stages, four directions. And those guys in there boy, they’re going through a lot, too, we tell them. They come in aggressive, confrontational and right in your face type of guys. By the time they leave there, they are crying. It’s a big change. Yet I can work with other people not knowing what’s happening inside of me, like just now. I’ve been through a number of relationships. I don’t know a thing about relationships. I have four children; three daughters and one son. They are all from different women. I’m not proud of that but I’m proud of my children. I have grandchildren. It feels so good to hear that word “Mosho” (ph.). That’s a powerful gift. I would like to leave it there for now. Q. Do you mind if we wrap up? I would like to know what your hope is, your hope for yourself. A. My hope for myself is to be able to make peace with myself. Right now, like I was telling my friend, we hear a lot about that word “survivor”. Inside the walls when I go to work with my friend, we can’t always stay survivors. We have to move past that and become what we call it, any way, “seekers”. When you talked about your son going out and seeking a vision, he was a seeker, and I think you’ve got so much to be proud of there. When we’re seekers we’re seeking information, and as we gather this, in my experience, too, as I’m gathering this information I begin to have the tools to make peace with myself. Even today I’ve touched something that has remained untouched for sixty-some years, and I know where to go. I think in seeking we get direction. Because when I say that I know where to go, I’m talking about that shaking tent, and when the spirits come, Art needs to make peace with himself and step into the world of Eldership and become a peacemaker. So my hope is that I’ll be a good one, a good peacemaker because I’ve been through so much. That stuff that I’ve been through I think is what is going to make me strong, once I get through it. And I’m going to get through it because I think it’s important to the Creator. I believe in God. I want to work for God in a good way. My Indian name is Neawatsakos (ph.), four spirits. I have a Dakota name. I’m a Dakota Indian. And I have a Dakota name: Tatayopokwana (ph.): He who opens the door. And my hope is to live up to those names the best I can. And I need to do some more work, but I know where to go. Thank you. Q. M’gwich. That’s really good. Just take a deep breath. Take a deep breath. A. Thank you for being here, man. Q. You have probably one of the best tools to help yourself because your grandmother appears to you. I could only wish that our ancestors appeared to us to guide us. Right? You can only hope and wish for that. A. I’ve seen some beautiful visions already. It’s powerful. Like in my dream, a big huge eagle came to me and this eagle, his wingspan was from horizon to horizon and I was hanging onto a feather, just here (indicating) and the eagle was coming down and I was looking. I had long hair and when I looked down I seen a sweat lodge and I don’t know what that eagle did but all of a sudden I was sitting inside that sweat and it was just like daylight. Over there, in that number one spot, was an old man sitting there, and he looked so kind. Where the eagle landed me, I was on the east side facing west and I was sitting there. All of a sudden see-see (ph.) rattle started going around. I was watching it. It stood up right in front of me, but the pit was right in front of me. All of sudden it went right in there. I looked at that old man and he smiled. The next thing the eagle claw started going around, same thing, over there and it went right in here (indicating). It just went right in. I looked down and there was blood coming down out of my chest here; blood. I tried to stop that blood and that’s when I woke up. I was sitting up in bed with my hand like this (indicating), and I looked around. But I’ve had many many visions. And my grandmother’s name in Sioux, translated to English, her name is “She Who Wears a Shawl”. That was the one who came. I believe the grandfathers have told me there’s a pipe coming to me. I already have a pipe. I already have all that stuff, but there’s another pipe coming. Q. Your altar? A. Yeah. Thank you for being here, my friend. Q. Can I ask you something? Do you think this helped you? Do you think today telling your story has helped you? A. Yes. But I do know --- I’m one of those guys who will go through an experience and look back at it and I’ll think about it. Q. Because I want to know that we’re doing the right thing. A. I believe you are. I believe you are because in here I’ve touched something that had to be touched. I’ve avoided that all these years. It’s easy to act normal. Right? Nothing to it. It’s when you begin to see that truth and that honesty come, is when it’s powerful. Thank you. I really believe you’re doing a good job. Keep it up. Right. Q. I think we’ll hire you to be our spokesperson! (Laughter) --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 30:09
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Part 2 – 19:04

Richard Kistabish

St. Marc's Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay. I’ll get you to say and spell your first name and your last name so we can work on the audio level. RICHARD KISTABISH: Richard Kistabish. R-i-c-h-a-r-d K-i-s-t-a-b-i-s-h. Can I say the last part of my story first? Q. Yes. A. I’m from Pikogan. I’m a member of the Abitibiwinni First Nation. It’s funny that I do this in English. Q. That’s okay. A. It’s all right. Q. All right, Richard. A. After I finished my school I was looking for a job. Indian Affairs offered me this job called Liaison Officer of Education for all the Algonquin people around the Abitibi area. One of my duties was to fill up this form called IA352. These forms are the official documents that each parent must sign in order to have their kids go to Residential School. This happened in 1972 during the spring and summer time. During the summer months of that period I went to visit this community called Gitsikagik (ph.) Grand Lake Victoria. This community has no Reservation, no infrastructure, nothing. They don’t have land to have a Reserve for them. They are still nomads. They are still practicing the traditional way of life. One day it happened that I meet the chief of that community. Do I have to say his name? Q. No. A. His name, anyway, is Sam. He was an old man. I guess he was an Elder in that community at the same time. Anyway, he was the leader, the chief. He saw me a couple of times before I had this conversation with him. One day it was raining. It was really a bad weather day when I arrived at their camp, at their place. He asked me to get in his tent. I sat there on the floor with him and his wife was serving me the traditional tea. They had a big pot on the fire. He asked me some questions, but the lady there finds this man so offensive because we should make him eat first and then he’ll talk later. So that’s what happened. So I eat and after that I started to talk. He asked me what I’m doing and all these questions. At the end I showed him the document; IA352. That was the most important document for me because from that document there was a statement made by the parents that they gave up all their responsibility. They gave this responsibility to the Queen, to anyone actually, where their kids would go. He asked me to translate all the lines of that document. It’s 8 ½ by 14 on both sides. They have all those little characters that were in this formula. So I took the whole day just to translate every word in that document, both sides of the document. As I translated the wordings I realized at that time the wording that I use in my own language was so inappropriate or meaningless sometimes, or too powerful at the same time to be aware of what I was actually doing. I was taking away the kids by having those parents signing this document. He made me realize that after questioning some of the wordings in there. He asked me why I was doing this. So I told him that it is part of my job. I’m being paid to do this job. That’s how I have my work. It’s that. He asked me why. That was the first time that I tried to make sense of this word called “work”. I was not able to grab the meaning of that word in my own language. At the same time I realized that I’m going to be like the guys at the Residential School, the old thing, to take away their kids. They took me when I was young, when I was 6 years old. It brought me back to that situation and I was starting to realize a little bit what I’m doing. During that period of questioning and trying to answer the questions of this man I took some time off in order to think about it. We made some comments about my work there, but also about me being in school the first year. He asked me how was it and how I felt when I was in Residential School. So the whole thing, my whole day made me realize, I started to get conscious about the way I am, the way I feel or the way I’m supposed to be, I guess. It was a big moment for me to be, I guess, starting to be aware of what I was doing. So at the end of the day --- When I arrived there it was about 9 o’clock in the morning. When I left it was ten at night. I didn’t realize the time during that period. I know at the end of the day when I left I told the chief that I was not doing this thing any more and I’m going to bring back all those forms to the office. I went to the office the next morning and I gave back all the forms to Indian Affairs and I left. So that’s the starting point of my healing journey. I guess I could say that, yeah, because that day was the day of --- I didn’t have any awareness, I didn’t have any soul maybe as a Native person. I turned back and I started trying to understand what it was I was doing there. Then I was starting to be interested in what was going on, what happened, in that Residential School. So that’s the day I always remember because it was the time for me that I turned around and I started not a new life but a new way of thinking, a new way of asking myself questions before doing things. Q. So what was it like when you started to recall your journey? What was the first thing you remembered? A. Lost. I was lost. Losing things. Losing stuff that I was not able at that time to point out exactly what I’m losing. There was one thing I always remembered and it was that when we arrived on the first day at this Residential School, I was telling to myself there was a mistake somewhere that happened. Mom and dad couldn’t make that kind of mistake, they can’t make that mistake. They must be fooling around or they must have been cheated, or something. So I was expecting them to get me one of these days, like tomorrow or the day after. But they never showed up. Until on my birthday, October 19th, I was lucky at that time because it was on Sunday. My parents were allowed to come and to visit me for a short period. It was really short. It looks like it was 5 minutes maybe. But the whole family came down with a taxi. As soon as I saw them I told them, “Just give me 2 minutes, I’m going to go get my stuff and I’m going with you, going back with you.” That’s the most painful experience of my life on that day, on my birthday. Wow. I was stopped by the Priest not to go beyond the door to get where my stuff was. I turned around and I said, “That’s okay, I’ll leave all my things here and I’ll go back with my parents and my brothers and sisters.” It didn’t happen like that at all. It was iee, iee --- It was very bad for me because when it was time for them to leave, when I turned around, I decided to go with them. I walked with them and I was holding my mom’s hand and my father was walking in front of us. I guess they knew at that time it was impossible. There was something that was going to happen there. I have repeated this story many times when I was in counseling. My mom went in the taxi and all my sisters and brothers were in that car. My dad was sitting in front. My mom was behind. I tried to get in between my mom and my sisters but I just can’t so I was trying to push my mom to move and to give me a small space for me. But it didn’t happen. So they just closed the door. Then I realized that there’s another mistake that happened. Why are they doing this? I noticed that around the car the Priests, the Oblates, they call them le frere, they were around the taxi. The more I talk about this, the more I see clearly the picture of what was prepared for me. I guess they knew at that time I was going to try to leave with the family. So they closed the door and the window was open because my mom was starting to cry at the same time and she wanted to kiss me goodbye. I grabbed --- You know when the door is like that (indicating), a space there. So I grabbed it with my hand like this (indicating) and I hold it. The taxi is starting to roll. I was running at the beginning but at the end I was being dragged in the dust. I made it up to the gate like that. Finally everybody was coming, all the Priests and the Nuns were coming and they tried to separate my arm in order for me to let the taxi go and I was exhausted after a few minutes of fights there. So they left. That was the separation, I guess, lost. Q. What was your mom doing during that time? A. I didn’t see her. To make things worse, the taxi was black. Wow. I never saw her after for a long period of time. I was classified at that time as the big baby kid. I made a scene. I was fighting. I was shouting, crying, fighting and kicking, kicking the tires of the taxi. It was a big fight. I fought really hard not to be left there. This feeling was awful at that time because I thought I was the lucky one who will be home pretty soon, of all the 200 kids there that day watching me make this big scene, this big fight. It was so hard and so painful at the same time. It was a big loss. I don’t remember the days after this in my mind. I’m trying to figure out what happened because --- --- A short pause Q. How old were you when you first went in? Do you remember? A. Six. Q. And how old were you when you left? A. Sixteen. Q. Sixteen. When you were in school there did you remember anyone of authority who might have been nice to you, like gave you a hug and told you it was going to be all right? A. No. Q. Never? A. Never. Q. What about the other kids? Do you have a friend that you remember? A. It seemed that we were kind of scared or afraid. I don’t know exactly what that was about, about friendship. We knew each other, most of us, but we never had a chance to do things together before going in that school. Between the ages of 1 to 6 there’s not much of a relationship that was being developed between us because of the way we were living. We were nomads. We were traveling by canoe so we were on the trap line most of the time. During the summer months we were camped beside the church. Q. Did you have the opportunity to go home during the summer time? A. Yeah. Q. So when you got to go home did you develop a resistance, a resilience almost to become stronger to leave your mom and dad again? Did it make you stronger? A. When I had a chance to go home after this trauma that I had with my mom and dad and my sisters and brothers saw me, they were witnesses of the thing that happened, when I go home I didn’t feel the home. I didn’t. I went there because it was the only place that I could go, I guess. The sense of the joy of returning home was great when I was in that school. But when I arrived all this joy and dreams that I had to be home again was not there. It was gone. It was as if I just had time off at Residential School, just as if I had another space to be around for awhile until I get back to school. I had a really hard time to say that I’m going to be here for the rest of my life, to stay in the family. I knew it was over at that time. It was no use for me to have some dream of being family again and being with my brothers and sisters again for a long time because I’m going to be away again. So I didn’t have that feeling to be connected again with my family. It was a strange sense of life to be like that. You are in your family and you don’t feel the family side, the family sense. I had a really hard time to cope with the situation. I knew at that time it was going to be like that for a long time. Q. What about your brothers and sisters? Were they in school, too? A. They went. They went to school. Two years after me my younger sister came with me. But I didn’t see her the whole year. Q. Why is that? A. We were separated; girls on the one side and boys on the other. Q. Did you look for her? A. Of course I looked for her. But we were not allowed to communicate. I remember one time --- I don’t know why they did this but there were lots of people that had sisters in that Residential School. One time only, I remember this, we were allowed to speak to our sisters in that school. It was done in the corridor, in the hall. One side is the boys and the other side would be the girls and we were trying to find a spot to be able to communicate but with a person walking right in the middle of the alley. That’s the only time I met my sister and I was not even able to talk to her, just to look at her. And she doesn’t want to look at me. --- End of Part 1 Q. So before you went into school your sister that you got to see in the corridor, before you went to school were you and her pretty close? A. Before I went to school, yes. Q. She was your younger sister? A. She was my younger sister, yeah. Q. So you must have completely adored her? A. At that time, yes. And my brothers too, Monnnie (ph.) and Jojo (ph.). We are ten in the family. Q. Wow. So when you got out of school and when she got out, was that same feeling still there? A. No. Q. Where did it go? A. I think the separation, to be apart like that, was a fact we assumed would be there for the rest of our lives, I guess. We are just starting to try to connect over the past few years now, but it’s so difficult. It’s not hard but it’s so unnatural, I could say. It’s not part of us any more. It’s not there. We know we are brothers and sisters but that’s about it. We don’t communicate with each other. We don’t know what is going on in the life of the other ones. We know we have kids, but that’s about it. We don’t have that kind of warm relationship. I lost 2 of my sisters not long ago, about ten years ago. Two of them died because of alcohol abuse. Q. Did you ever have the opportunity to get that relationship bonded again before they left? A. Yeah, we had an opportunity to develop that. But every time that we tried to organize something to reconnect again as brothers and sisters, we always had the booze and the dope that gets involved in those things. It kind of freezes our feelings, I guess, about the relationship that we’re supposed to have. Even after some of us went for treatment and healing journey stuff, it is not there. It’s not there. The relationship that we’re supposed to have as brothers and sisters is not there. It’s as if this thing is not reachable again. There was so much destruction that happened. I guess it’s too much bad things that happened to each one of us that we cannot express our feelings towards each other. Q. Did this affect you as a father with your own children? A. Yeah, I think so. I’ve got 2 bunch. One with my first was my older kid, she’s thirty. I just found out yesterday that she was thirty! And my boy is twenty-five. My family relationships with my wife was not good at all. After 3 kids I decided to leave. And then I was not able to have a family, the normal family. So that was really bad for them, for my kids, for me to be like that, for me to leave them just like that. I’m trying to reconnect now and we have much more of a good relationship now because of the healing process that I went through. I’m trying to recuperate the years that have been missing with them, and also trying to build some kind of relationship with my kids, trying to be a father again, trying to be a good father again. It’s really hard. Sometimes they blame me for the things I have done and they are right to blame me. I guess I have started to accept the consequences of this thing that happened to me and to them also. It is hard. Q. Is there another memory you would like to share with us, something that might have happened at school? Is there anything else, whether it’s good or bad that kind of stands out? A. Poison. Medication or drugs, whatever. One time 3 or 4 years after the opening of this Residential School, everybody, all the kids in that Residential School were sick; 200 people sick in bed. One of the things that heals us from that sickness is the one that spoke French words will heal first, or will heal faster. It happens like that. Then when the people heard about this new medication, when you speak French you’re going to heal, you will be no more sick. Then you can go out there again. We were lying in our beds for days, weeks. And then we started to speak French and a miracle happened. We were alive again. That’s why I always have that impression that we have been drugged. We’ve been experimenting with some stuff for those. For myself I lost 3 days of my life at that particular period. I went to the Infirmary, the nursing place. It’s not the same spot as where we sleep. It’s another place. I know I went there for 3 days and I don’t remember anything about the 3 days. It’s a black thing. I know this because some of my friends told me that I was away for 3 days and they asked me if I was sent away, if I went away to another place. But I don’t know if I went to another place, but I know when I lost consciousness I was in that room, and when I wake up I was in that room, but it was 3 days later that I wake up. So I don’t know what happened during that period of time. But there was nobody who was sick any more when I came down after I woke up. Q. But everyone was speaking French? A. Everyone was speaking French. Most of them were speaking at least one sentence of French after that. Q. Wow. A. It was amazing. We were starting to be model students. I was good. I was really good at that time because I finished first. I was first in class and I was a model at that time. I knew how to speak French. It was up to Grade 7 at that time you could go, but after that when you wanted to go to Grade 8 you have to go downtown, in Amos. But still you have to live at the Residential School. So we traveled those fifteen miles daily. And we finished first, always first class in that school. When I came out of Residential School after ten years I was allowed to live with my parents and continue to go to school. Still then I didn’t have to work hard to get those notes to be first in class. This thing to be first in class made the White students really mad at me. I’m better than them, an Indian guy. It was good. That was the good thing that I had from Residential School, the only good thing I guess. But I think it was a matter of survival also to have good grades and not to be bothered by those people. Just do your thing. If you get first you’re not going to be punished. I was trying to survive. Q. We hear stories of different types of abuses. You talked about the emotional abuse and the mental abuse being away from your family. What about the other abuses? Did you see anything? A. Yeah. The beatings. Sexual abuse, too. Oh yeah. I was a witness of those abuses, especially the beating and the humiliation. Some of my friends pee’d their bed during the night. So they have to walk around all day with their blankets on them, the whole day. Beatings happened really often, daily. Some of them are always the same ones who got beat up. I know that most of the people that I know and I saw them get beat by the Priests, all those people are dead today. They are not alive, and they were the same age as me and younger. They didn’t make it. Sexual abuse was daily, too. Nightly, I should say. That was terrible seeing those young boys going in that room. We were always questioning: What are they doing in that room? Q. Did anyone ever talk about it? A. To me; no. No. Q. But when the boys came out they were sad? A. They were crying. They were crying. There was nothing we can do to help them, I guess. There was also this guy --- His skin was so dark. He was a good hockey player, not better than me, but he was a good hockey player. We were chosen to go to the first Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in Quebec City. You know that big thing in 1959. I was ten or eleven at that time. There was a team from --- This is a good story. There was a team from Amos. That’s a city about fifteen miles from that place that was looking for another 3 Indians to play together and to be part of that team in that city, Amos. So I was one of them, and Marcel and Matthieu. Marcel was the one who had really dark skin, really dark. He looks like a Black guy. After being officially chosen and officially that we were going to Quebec City during that period of time, the Priest decided they had to change the skin colour of Marcel because he was too dark. So what they did, he plants the guy once a week in water with Javex. Every time that we take our shower this guy was always missing. We didn’t know why he was missing and suddenly we find out that he was up to his neck in the water with Javex, trying to turning him white. That was terrible. This guy got crazy after a while. Q. Marcel did? A. Marcel was his name. He believed that he was a White man when he left. He said the colour of my skin is no more a problem because I’m White now. He believed that for a long period of time that he was a White guy. He was a good hockey player but he didn’t make it. I guess the guy today is dead. I never heard of him after that. Q. Wow. That’s crazy. A. They made him believe that he’s White. Q. But you don’t know if he is alive today? A. No, I don’t know that. Q. Poor Marcel. They just made him stand in Javex? A. They put it in the water in the bathtub. Nights like that in that bathtub. Q. Just to play hockey? A. Just to play hockey with us, with the White guys. (Laughter) We were playing against Guy Lafleur at that time. Guy Lafleur was 9. Q. Okay. So we’ll wrap this up. Just one more quick question. If you could sum up your experience what Residential School meant to you in a sentence, what would it be? A. Lost, I guess. Losing. Q. Okay. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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George Francis

Shubenacadie Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay. If we can just start by you telling us your name and spelling it for us, for the camera, please. GEORGE FRANCIS: My name is George Francis. I’m from Eskasoni. Q. Eskasoni? A. I was taken away in 1951. Q. How old were you then? A. About eleven years old, about ten years old. I was born in 1940. Q. You were taken away. Can you talk about what you remember about that first day when you were taken away? A. I was taken away. We went down. We travelled by train for about ten hours to get to Residential School, Shubenacadie. We were all happy that we were going somewhere. But when they told us you got to take your clothes off and change into their clothes, eh, what they had for us. They had for us RCMP shirts and RCMP pants and RCMP boots. The boots were all right on the sole when I put them on the first year. But at the end of the year the soles went out on me. Q. Did they give you new boots? A. They gave me another pair about 2 months later. Q. Do you remember anything else about that first day? A. The first day. We went to school wearing all these “Johnny” clothes. People, my children, call them “Johnny” clothes now. I wouldn’t buy them “Johnny” clothes; no way. I bought them the best clothes they ever had. But in Residential School you don’t get anything best. Q. Can you tell us about a typical day, what time you would wake up in the morning? A. We woke up in the morning at 5 o’clock. We heard the sound of a stick on top of the drawer. The drawer was about --- Everybody’s boxes were all lined up, and when the Sister went like that (indicating) on top of the drawer with a stick, it means we had to get up. We took a shower. There were twenty-five of us in the showers. There were twenty-five stalls. We were timed. They tell me, “wash your neck, clean your neck with a scrubbing brush.” “Clean your hands with a scrubbing brush.” But they never told me “clean your face with the scrubbing brush”. I wouldn’t have done it anyway. They gave me a face cloth to wipe my face and I washed my hair. There were large combs to comb my hair. About forty-five minutes later we were ready to go to school for 8 o’clock, the first day of school. I was a little humiliated by these clothes I was wearing. The Sister over there slapped me and everybody laughed. On another occasion everybody was suspended, everybody has to stay during dinner, the dinner hour, and later that day had to stay until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Q. What about breakfast. What did you have? A. Breakfast, We had porridge every morning, three hundred and sixty-five days, we had porridge. No eggs. But we had bread. We would get 2 pieces of bread. If somebody takes your bread from you walking by you are out of 1 bread, so I kept that bread. I can’t dare to fight because the other boys told me that if you fight for bread you won’t get nothing for a week, no bread for a week. Q. Did you go to chapel in the morning, or anything like that? A. Yeah. We went to chapel every morning. We said the rosary then down we go to school. About 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock, after supper, we go to the chapel again and say the rosary in English. Q. Did you speak your language before you went to Residential School? A. Yes, I did. But I was prohibited from using my language. They wanted to understand what I was saying. I hardly spoke English. I had broken English. While I was there, every now and then, they would bang me on the head and bang my hands and the Sister told me, “okay, put your hand out.” I put my hand out. She hit me with a stick. And then a couple of months later I was so frustrated I didn’t even see my sister. Q. You didn’t see your sister from your first day you went there. You couldn’t see her? A. I couldn’t see her. And my uncle visited us, Uncle Roger Gould (sp?) from Eskasoni. He took some pictures. I don’t know if he took some pictures of us. He was told to get outta here. He was told it was an invasion of privacy. Q. Do you know why he came to take pictures? A. He knew I was there. You know, he’s my greatest uncle. I love my uncles. He said, “When I come again in the spring time I’ll bring your mom and dad.” He was talking to me about it. He was prohibited. I suffered the consequences for that. Q. What happened? A. I stayed in the washroom with soap in my mouth because we were talking Mi’kmaw. One of the boys from Memberton said, “I wouldn’t do that.” “Throw the dam soap away.” So I became a radical over there, untrainable. I loved what they were teaching. I loved math. And history, I couldn’t get it, you know, because they were treating us different from what it says in the history books. “Nuns are kind”, and all that. Nuns were not kind in the Residential School. Q. Can you tell us some of your experiences at Residential School? A. I ran away in the spring time. I ran away. When I ran away when I reached --- Near Stewiacke, about a mile or a half a mile from Stewiacke, I didn’t know what distance it was. I was treated not as the other boys were, eh. I was in the soap room for 4 days, no lights. But I was given food twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Q. What’s the soap room? A. The soap room is where all the soap used to be, eh. In a couple of years it would be gone. Q. Is that where you were put when you ran away, for your punishment? A. Yeah. That was my punishment. Q. Why did you run away? A. Because I was tortured by the boys, not by my own guys, my own friends, but they know how to intimidate a person. There was a guy named Nelson Paul (sp?) who used to beat me up when I got out of school and we were on the playground, playing rugby. He used to punch me in the mouth and punch me in the face. My friend told me, “George, don’t take that, fight back.” I fought back and I beat him. But I didn’t beat him to death. I maybe beat him until he said, “Okay, I give up.” Q. What would the Nuns do if they saw you fighting? A. They would have beaten us with a stick. The stick was about a half inch square and about 3 feet long. Everybody was scared of it, even the small children. Being in Residential School was no fun. I thought it was going to be fun. At Christmas time they didn’t give us anything. What my mom sent to us was not even shown. My mom told me that she sent a lot of candies over. I started rebelling the second year. The second year came after the first year was over and we went home. The second year we came in, we went back to Shubenacadie Residential School and we were playing rugby and everybody was tackling me, just like they were tackling a guy over in the bar. I fought back. In the second year I was sent to see the Priest. He said, “You’re fooling around in school, in class.” I said, “I never fool around in class, I try to learn.” He said, “You’re not learning, you’re fooling around.” “That’s what the Sister said.” And me and Paul Isaac (sp?) were punished for all that. Paul Isaac (sp?) was from Bearhead (ph.) Chapel Island (ph.) And my other friend, Noah, said, “George, just be cool about it, try to take everything in stride.” If you get out of hand, I don’t know what to tell you. Q. How were you punished? A. I was punished with the stick. I hated that dam stick. This one Nun she gave me ten straps on my buttocks. I wouldn’t take it any more. She only gave me 9 of them. I took that stick from her and broke it. I was sent to the Infirmary. The Infirmary had two doors; one nice door for the Infirmary and the other one is inside, it’s like a cell door. You’re not going to get out. There were bars on the window and bars on the door inside, locked from the inside, eh. And the Sister had the key. And I had to pay all these things which I didn’t do. My work was alright. And my association with the other boys was alright, except one, Nelson Paul (sp?) I always got into fights with him. That stopped the second year because I beat him up. I didn’t go on trying to kill him or anything, so I just let it go. I tried to finish my second year. We were playing rugby, eh. I was talking Chibooga (ph.) I was talking to Eugene Paul (sp?). He was from Eskasoni. I told him, “Chibooga (ph.)”. I’ll go. I didn’t know the Sister was right in the doorway and she heard me. She said, “George Francis, come in.” I got strapped again. I didn’t say that inside. It was prohibited inside. But I didn’t know it was even prohibited outside. Q. Did you have brothers and sisters at the school? A. I had 1 sister; Shirley. Q. Did you ever get to see Shirley? A. No. Q. Did you miss her? A. I missed her. After that, a couple of years later, she went to Boston. She got married to Gilbert Julian (ph.) And they had a house in Eskasoni. I visited them every day. Q. What’s your worst memory of Residential School? Maybe you can tell us your worst memory and then maybe if you have a best memory. A. Worst memory is the Priest fighting me, eh. The Sister, when I threw that stick in half, they dragged me to the Priest and he told me, “George, tonight we’re going to box.” I was waiting for it until about 8 o’clock, after he beat up Frenchy, Frenchy Bernard (sp?) He was a small guy. He beat him up, you know. His face was all red in blood. And Noah told me, “Okay, he was putting on my gloves, eh, he wasn’t waiting, the Priest wasn’t waiting for if I had gloves on or anything. And there were 2 fellas tightening my hands and Noah told me, “Okay George, pretend that you fall, just pretend, don’t fall right to the floor, but pretend that you tripped and smack him right in the balls.” That’s what he told me. And I did that. The Priest fell right on the bench, the hardwood bench. It was about that wide and about that high (indicating). He had blood all over him. There was blood all over the floor, and after about fifteen minutes I had to wipe the blood off. That was near the --- That was around I would say about March, potato season. So he never bothered me again. But he says, “I’m keeping an eye on you.” He never bothered me. I was a farm boy by then. Q. Did you learn farming at Residential School? A. Yes. Q. Can you talk about that a little bit? A. We went at 5 o’clock in the morning to milk the cows and put those suction things on them. There were about two hundred and fifty cows. The milk went right into the tanks outside. I worked there for about 3 months. Then I got into a fight. Bill Watts (sp?) came over and threw me on the ground. He threw me about – I wasn’t big then – it must have been about from here to the corner over there (indicating), right under the hay wagon. There were bundles of hay. I watched him walk back across the road and he brought a hay rake. You know them hay rakes that are made of wood? They are about 4 ½ feet wide. He hit me on the top of my head, right over here (indicating), on the side. All the boys were watching: Eugene Paul and Noah Christmas and the other boys. And Eugene said, “George, are you all right?” I couldn’t see. I was blacked out for a couple of seconds. I knew something was wrong because I had never had that before. A couple of years later, about 2 years later, I started getting epileptic fits. That was the second year later after going to school, from Residential School I got out on June 29th and that was my second year, that was the last year. I would get out and I was alright. I was glad to get out. Q. What year did you get out? A. 1952. I stayed from 1951 to 1952. But each summer I go home, eh. They gave us no clothes. I don’t know whose clothes it was. Q. You had worked on the dairy farm. Was there any other farming at the School? A. There was a --- You know, when you slice a potato you look for one eye over here and the other eye over there, you split it in half. That’s what we were doing. I know that. It’s something I seen my father do. Q. So there was a potato farm as well? A. Yeah. And we had our carrots and turnips. They had everything what we need to eat. Q. So what was it like going home after that year at Residential School? A. My father said, “George ---“ I told my father about my experiences in Residential School. He said, “I’m going to Brad McCain (ph.)” We’re going there tomorrow. That was going to be Monday. We went there on Monday morning. We got to Brad McCain (ph.) and my father was mad, mad as hell. I never had scars before, on the head, anyway. About 1953 I started getting epileptic seizures. That was before. 1952. In the summer me and my sister were going to go to a baseball game is Eskasoni. She always told me, “George, hurry up.” That’s when I told her, “you go.” My feet were moving, not by me, I wasn’t moving them, but they were moving. So I said, “There’s something wrong.” I was scared. Geez, I was frightened. When they took me to the doctor the doctor prescribed pills, Dilantin (ph.). He gave me 3 Dilantin (ph.) “Take these”, he said. That was in Sidney. They called it the Marine Hospital. I fell at the Bingo Hall, right on the steps. So the cops took me in and told me that I was drunk. So I called up Louie Adegny (ph.) who was the Chief and the Hospital Director (ph.) at the same time. He said, “you’re drunk?” “You weren’t drinking last night.” “You weren’t drinking this morning.” So he came over and got me out. He had a lawyer with him. Then he told the cops that if they ever touched me again there would be consequences. “He’s got epilepsy.” Everybody falls with epilepsy. I’ve been suffering with epilepsy for numbers of years. Q. And the epilepsy is the result of being hit? --- Transcriber’s Note. Recording abruptly ends at this point but continues on the next track. A. The only good memory I have is when they tore it down. Q. When did that happen? A. A couple of years back. They tore it down. Q. Did you go there the day they tore it down? A. No. I didn’t want to. Q. So you were there 1 year? A. Two years. Q. Two years. 1951 and 1952. A. Yeah. Q. So how old were you in 1952? A. I was twelve years old. Q. And why didn’t you go back? A. My father talked to the Indian Agent, Brad McCain. He had a talk with him and he was mad. When I got that first epileptic fit, holy gawd, they took me to the hospital and took me for check-ups everywhere, even to Halifax over here. So I’ve been having epilepsy for a number of years, just because of a Priest. I’ll never forget it. But maybe I will, after talking about it like this now, maybe I’ll forget about it. Q. When we talk about healing, are there any other experiences that happened to you at Residential School that you want to share with us? A. No. Q. Okay. A. Nothing ever bad happened to me, but I heard a lot of kids having problems, eh, small little kids, big boys were after them kids. And they got caught, about fourteen of them. Q. So what about your healing. Do you go to any healing events or anything. What do you do? A. I go to every healing event there is. I even talked to the Priest one time in Eskasoni. His name was Father Holly (ph.). I used to talk to a lot of them. But there was another Priest who was a little aggressive. I told him, “you know, he told me that I should be working with him, eh, helping him.” I told him that I was working in the Residential School and nobody gave a dam about me. So why should I help you? You are a different Priest, but you know. But he’s still a Priest. He’s just bossing people around. I’m not your boss. Q. What would you say to that Priest, the one who hit you on the head, if you saw him today? A. Today, I’d probably choke him to death, see how it feels, as he choked me. He hit me with the stick and the strap. That only happened about --- The first month I went to school, and it happened again the second year when I went to school again. At the end of the year when she asked me questions about education, I knew them all. Still they said that I was cheating. I had nothing to write on. Because I was studying. I didn’t want to get into any more trouble. Q. What about after Residential School. What did you do? A. After Residential School, I worked as a pulp cutter. I was cutting pulp. I worked for Douglas Denny (sp?) in Eskasoni. We were cutting pulp. I was about nineteen years old. Q. Were you twelve when you left Residential School? A. Yes. Q. What did you do from when you were twelve to nineteen? A. I went to Eskasoni School. They took me back. Q. Was that a day school? A. The Indian day school. Q. Did you like that better than Residential School? A. Yeah. It was better. We had more freedom. At recess time you can have conversations in Mi’kmaw with people. Q. Do you have children. Are you married now? A. I was married in 1976. We had two boys and two girls. In 1972 my wife went away. She says she was going to get time off for one of the girls, Carla. And she was going over to her grandmother’s place. It’s only about a hundred and fifty feet from us. She never came back. She never came back. I never looked for her. But I heard that she was in Toronto. But still I never looked for her. Q. What about your daughters. Do you see them still? A. Yes, I still see them. I have a good relationship with our daughters. Q. Can you talk to them about your experiences at Residential School? A. Yeah, I talk with them. They know all about it. Everything there was to know. My memory is a little off, but when I was young my memory was accurate. Q. Did your daughters have to go to Residential School? A. No way. I wouldn’t let them. I would die first before letting them. I would kill for them. I would have killed for them. Just imagine me having fourteen guns in my living room. I like to hunt; rabbit, deer, but not moose. Q. Before we end are there any final things you would like to say? A. I wish they never build another Residential School ever. People like me who suffered --- Another thing I say to my children, bring that to me, they’ll do it. They love me that much. One rebelled against her mother. She lived up here, a couple of years ago, ten years ago. She beat up her mother. She was drunk and she beat her up so dam bad, her face was swollen and she had a broken jaw and black eyes. I didn’t believe it. But I told myself that I had to see to believe it. So I went to where my wife was. She was laying on the floor. Not on the floor, she was laying on the bed. I told her to look at me. She looks at me. “Who did this to you?” Myra (ph.) “Okay”, I told her. Myra is not going to see you any more. I heard about this, this morning about 6 o’clock. I heard about it. The Mounties came in and said that your daughter beat up her mother. I didn’t give a dam. That’s what they thought. But I did give a dam. I told Myra “never touch your mom”. You got only one mother in this world and one father, remember that. Don’t ever try that trick again. Try to feel sorry for yourself. She said, “Dad, I was sorry because of you.” “I was mad.” She was drunk. Q. Do you have any grandchildren? A. Grandchldren? I’ve got one in Eskasoni. She’s probably in my house right now; Patty (ph.) And Funk’s baby, Thomas, Brandon. And there’s a little girl. I just forgot her name! Q. Does it make you happy to think they never have to go to Residential School? A. Yeah. I’m happy. Q. Thank you very much for coming today. We really appreciate it. A. Yeah. Residential School really deteriorated my mind. When I get outta here and go home, I’ll be in peace again, and think about what I missed in this conversation. What I missed I’ll write it down and send it to you. Or I’ll give it to Laurie and she can bring it over to you. Q. That would be good. The other thing you can do is if there are other things you remember, there are openings in the audio interviews. You can go and have another audio interview after as well, if there are other things you want to say after. But if you write them down, that would be great. You can send them and we’ll get them. A. Writing them down is a perfect expression, writing them down. Q. Yes. A. So I’ll know what I’m saying and what I’m going to say in a couple of seconds, I’ll know, because I’m going to write them down. Q. Okay. A. It’s better to write them down than say it again. Sometimes, like before, a lot of information came into my head and some things I didn’t want to say, some things I forgot to say, and you know --- Q. Are there any final things right now that you remember? A. I was sorry I never saw my parents visit me, or my uncle Rod who came to visit me. He came from Eskasoni to Residential School just to be kicked out. He told me that Priest over there, what’s his name, I told him I don’t hurt a Priest now, but he got tangled up, mixed up somewhere. I’ll get it. Don’t worry. Q. That wasn’t important. Well, thank you for coming today. A. It’s not important anyway. Q. No. And you did a great job. You shared a lot of things with us. A. His name was Father Mackie (sp?) Q. Okay. A. Father Mackie. That was the guy that wanted to box me. I had a couple of coaches, two coaches; Paul Isaac from Chapel Island, and Noel Christmas. Noel Christmas and Paul Isaac told me, “Take him in the balls.” So I did, and I did it hard. I did just what they told me. That was the end of my experience in the Residential School. Q. That’s good. A. I told my father about it and he freaked out, eh. “You hit a Priest!” You’ll go to hell for that. And I told him, “Well, if we did go we’ll probably be together in hell!” (Laughter) He wasn’t laughing. Today’s Priests wouldn’t do it. Fight children. It was illegal in the nineteen fifties. Because I worked in the jail cell (ph.) in Eskasoni. And when the Commissioner came down I asked him about it. Was it illegal in 1950 to fight under-age kids? He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Why in the hell didn’t you visit those Residential School in Shubenacadie on a monthly basis?” They were beaten. They were beaten by sticks. We were treated more like animals instead of people. I wish he could hear me today. He’s probably waiting for me. Q. Thank you very much. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 33:06
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Part 2 – 22:21

Verna Miller

St. George’s Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: If you could start by saying your name and spelling it for us, please. VERNA MILLER: My traditional name is Bebehla (ph.) which means “frog” in our language. One of the many orthographies used for that is P-e-y slurpy “L”-a. (Laughter) That’s the best way I can say it. My English name is Verna Lorraine Miller. My maiden name was Walkem; W-a-l-k-e-m. Q. Where are you from? A. I’m from Cook’s Ferry Band in Spences Bridge, BC. Q. Cook’s Ferry? A. Cook’s Ferry. Two words. Or as the old people used to say: Cook’s Shbelle (ph.) (Laughter) Spences Bridge is a really tiny little town in the Interior of BC. It’s about an hour and a half south of Kamloops on Highway #1. Q. Good. And what school did you attend? A. I went to St. George’s Indian Residential School, about 3 miles out of Lytton. Q. Was that one Anglican? A. Yes. Q. What years were you there? A. From 1954 to 1966. Q. How old were you when you started? A. I actually went there when I was 7. I had already done Grade 1 via horseback in Spences Bridge, but it was too much for my grandparents. They were my major caregivers. And of course pressure from the Indian Agent had me shipped off to St. George’s, where I failed one Grade actually. Q. Do you remember your first day? A. Yes, surprisingly enough. I was lucky enough to have 2 older cousins who were already there and they sort of helped me through the process. But I remember putting on the dress, little pinafores they gave us when we got there. I was a bit concerned because it felt like paper. What they had done is starched the bejesus out of these dresses so you had to peel them apart in order to put them on. But they were made for little girls. Q. You had said that the Indian Agent --- Did the Indian Agent come and get you from your home, or how did that happen? A. No. I think because of previous experiences, all of my father’s siblings had gone, except for the youngest brother so the process was already there. And because my grandfather at the time was chief I guess there was pressure there, too, to make sure we were sent away to school. Education was actually really important to my grandfather but I don’t think they understood the impact of what the Residential School was doing to us until probably in my lifetime anyway I got to understand more about the relationship that I did not have with my father and why that was the way it was. Q. You were there for quite a few years? A. Yes. Q. Can you describe a typical day and maybe just go through when you were very young and what that was like, and if you remember the first night and being so afraid going to bed, and stuff. And just maybe how that went over the years. Q. For me it was pretty rote. We got up at a certain time every morning. We got dressed. We brushed our hair and did our teeth. We went down and had breakfast and came up. We went to prayers every bloody morning. We played for a little while and then it was off to school. Probably the most traumatic thing for me was bed wetting. I was a bed wetter up until I was about thirteen years old. A lot of that stuff was really nasty, like the insults, putting me in a position so that people could make fun of me. I would get up in the morning and there would be a puddle on my mattress so I would be made to turn my mattress over. I had to go down and take my sheets to the Laundry Room, wash them by hand and hang them up on the clothesline. Of course everybody knew so I got razzed by the other kids. That was one of the things they did to us. They taught us to be nasty to each other, to be insulting. They had absolutely no understanding of why I was wetting my bed. I’ve since found out it’s hereditary because my younger son did it as well, but I sure as hell didn’t do to him what they did to me. I was having none of that. That was probably the most horrible memory of growing up in a dormitory. I pee’d my bed. The other nasty part of it was --- I mean, look at me. I’ve got freckles. So I got a lot of insults from both sides. The half breed. You’re not a real Indian. And the converse of that, “you’re a dirty little Indian”, sort of getting it from both sides. But it just makes you tougher and meaner. (Laughter) But as a little girl you’re trying to figure out what is going on here, all these contradictions that are sort of jamming themselves into your head. It can screw a person up. But I think what saved me was my grandparents because they were very loving and very supportive, whereas my aunts and uncles didn’t quite have that. In retrospect, they had already been traumatized by the Residential School experience. And of course back then we didn’t understand what we know now. Q. How would you describe your Residential experience as a whole? A. I don’t know if I could do it in one adjective. Q. And of course elaborate. A. In retrospect having gone through that experience and then having had some worldly experience since then and the learning that I’ve gone through, the different life experiences that I’ve had since, the thing that I am most --- I don’t know if anger is the right word because it goes beyond anger. The fact that both my grandparents had so much knowledge and I spoke the language before I went to the Residential School --- Actually, when I went to Grade 1 I didn’t speak English. I am still really angry about the loss of my culture, the loss of my language and the loss of our social structures more than anything. The loss of our knowledge. Well, I wouldn’t say the loss but the diminution of our knowledge base because my grandmother, both my grandparents, were somehow connected to what we call Shoohonamem (ph.), which I guess an English term would be medicine person. But it went beyond that because they both had tremendous knowledge in the use of plants for medicinal, spiritual, artistic, technological --- You name it. They had an encyclopedia of knowledge that I might even find one word compared to the vocabulary they had when it came to issues around our indigenous knowledge. Q. Would they teach you these things when you lived with them before you went to school? A. Before I went into school, yes. I was learning little bit by little bit. But once I got there that was it. Then my grandmother started to become quite ill so when I was at home I was looking after her and trying to help her with stuff. It’s interesting because there’s sort of this gap that I have in my head after I went to Residential School. She still played a major role in my life but there’s lots of gaps in there. The summers that I spent and the Christmas holidays that I spent at home, there’s just little pieces of memory that I have of her. Q. Do you remember how it felt to go home the first time, the first summer after your first year at school? A. I was really confused. I was really confused because I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t spend all my time with my grandparents. But on the other hand I could understand in my tiny little mind. My grandmother was starting to get sick quite often so she couldn’t look after me and the rest of my relatives either didn’t have the patience or were in circumstances where they couldn’t look after me. My mother died when I was a baby so I don’t remember her at all and that’s the reason I was raised by my grandparents. My father was hopeless, plus he was starting another family of his own. We’ve always had a really superficial relationship. He’s either really kind to me or out and out nasty. In retrospect I’m starting to understand why. It took me a long time to forgive him. Even after he died there was still a lot of carry-over of the bitterness that I held towards him. It wasn’t until, oh, let’s see. He died in ’97. I started work at our Healing Society in 2004, and right outside of Lytton is a place they call the airport. And as you come up the hill and you go across there’s a steep hill. It’s a gravel pit now but there’s a steep hill. That was the point-to-point place and my father was always a really excellent rider and he always won that race. It’s a really dangerous race because you’re coming almost at a ninety degree angle. It’s certainly more than forty-five degrees coming down this hill. Because he was such a good horseman he was winning these races quite often. That’s the first time it clicked for me after all this time, my God, I forgave him. There are still some underlying issues but I’m starting to understand more and more about why my father was the way he was. He was confused, too. Getting back to what we discussed before. Oh, I’m having a menopause moment here. (Laughter) I have to go back and try to think what it was I was going to say. One of the other issues that I had --- Oh, I’ve lost it. It might come back to me later on. Q. You were talking about your father. A. Yeah, there was something. I was talking about him. A thought came to my mind and I couldn’t remember what it was, but it was something critical about what we missed. Oh, it was about religion. My grandparents were very spiritual people. I think they were trying to get a grasp of these Judeo-Christian principles that weren’t quite jiving with our spiritual life. I think that’s another battle I have today. I made a conscious decision that I was no longer a Christian, that there were other alternatives but I would not insult Christianity the way Christianity insulted our spiritual lives by calling us heathens. So I jokingly tell people I’m a born again heathen whether they like it or not. They can take whatever interpretation they want from that. But I still have strong issues with the religious institutions, whether they be Catholic, Protestant or whatever. I have real issues with the control factor and the guilt. It took me a long time to understand why I was walking around with a lot of guilt. Q. Do you remember specific moments when you were in the school, because you came in only speaking your own language, of how they treated you when you would speak your language or try to practice any of the culture or anything like that? A. We couldn’t even do that. Not so much me, but I remember it happening to other kids. I had my 2 older cousins and by then I had learned some English so I was able to get by. But some of the things that they would say to the other kids, just insulting and not --- Sometimes they didn’t know, too, that what we know today there are sometimes people who can’t learn the same way as other people. I count myself as a very tactile learner. I have to see it and I have to do it in order to understand it. I’m not an abstract learner. I have to see and do and be right there in the moment. I remember we had this young girl come in. She was quite a bit younger than me. She couldn’t speak. She just didn’t speak. She didn’t have the ability to speak. It took them a long time to realize that she didn’t speak. She had a physiological problem where she couldn’t speak. So they finally sent her away to a school where they had speech pathology. We never saw her again. But things like that. The whole issue of control is what really got to me. I was in trouble a lot in the Residential School because I challenge. I talked back. I got strapped. I got slapped. I got lambasted. You name it, I got it. I would swear. I would say shit, and the next thing you know I would be having the yardstick across my ass for saying shit. Q. Are there any specific memories of those times that clearly come to mind? A. Yes. I remember I was down at the bottom of the field and I forget what I was doing. We were playing or something and I got really upset about something and I said, “Oh shit.” Immediately one of the girls ran up to the supervisor and told on me. They hauled me into the office and took down my underpants and whacked me with a strap. I remember that. Another time I swore. I can’t remember the exact circumstances but I did swear and I got the yardstick across the back of my hands. There were 2 other times when I specifically remember other kids getting beaten. One was in Grade 3. A schoolmate of mine had done something to displease Miss Beatty (sp?). Let me talk about Dr. Shapiro when I get finished with this. Remind me because my memory is awful. I won’t give the name but this boy had done something to really displease Miss Beatty. She brought him to the front of the class and there was a long bench facing the blackboard. She made him take down his pants in front of everybody in the class and she smacked him with a yardstick. And of course he wouldn’t cry because our men are told not to cry. You don’t show your emotions. That’s why they’re so fucked up now. Anyway, that’s one thing that just freaked me right out. But the worst thing I ever saw happen was there was a girl of about fifteen or sixteen. At that time the Hives (sp?) were there, Canon and missus, and his daughter Jean Purvis (sp?) and her husband Ron Purvis. I’m giving names. I don’t give a shit any more. (Laughter) So sue me. They’re all dead I think. This wonderfully beautiful young woman was working in the Kitchen. We all had our chance to work in the Kitchen so we stole food or we got pissed on vanilla, whatever the case may be. I didn’t get to that point but I used to steal food. Well, this one day this girl, this friend of mine a little older than me, had to bring up a pan of cookies. The pan was about this big (indicating) and about that high. She had to take these freshly baked cookies that we never had access to up the stairs and go over to the Residences. The Residences were where the principal and his wife and his family lived. I’ll just call her Annie but that’s not her real name. She took those cookies over and of course on the way she filched a couple. She got there, handed over the cookies, came back and I guess the mother and daughter were talking later and found out that a couple of cookies went missing. Well, we were all lined up before lunch on this particular Saturday or Sunday, I can’t remember. It was probably Saturday. They made this big speech in front of everybody of how Annie had stolen these cookies and that they were going to punish her. So they took Annie out of line and of course Annie is walking like this (indicating) with her head hanging down. They took her over to the boys’ side and told the boys what she had done. This is a beautiful young lady who had never done anything wrong in her life, wrong in the context of she wouldn’t hurt anybody deliberately. Remember, she’s fifteen or sixteen years old. They took down her pants, lifted up her dress, took down her pants and strapped her in front of all the boys and she had her period! That just blew it for me. That’s when I went on a tear. That’s when I actually started to understand what these people were doing to us. That’s when my cheekiness and my rebelliousness really started to build up tempo. Before that I was just being a kid. The logic and the reasoning wasn’t quite there at the time, but when they did this to Annie that tore it for me. Q. How old were you then? A. I must have been about eleven or twelve, just coming into puberty, so that was the sort of thing that was going on then. Then it started to click for me. What in the hell are these people doing to us? Why do they do things like that? That was what it was all about, getting us scrapping with each other. And they still do it today whether they realize it or not. I’m pretty sure they do. I’m talking in general, the non-Native people, pitting us against each other. They did it in Residential School so it carries on into our politics and our daily lives. It’s still happening. And then to try and understand and show a little humanity towards each other, it’s not happening, not in the big picture. There are small pockets of people who are really working hard on their healing to try and dismember the past from that context. Q. You were going to talk about Dr. Shapiro. A. Dr. Shapiro. I was in Grade 4, my first year in Grade 4. He was the worst nightmare I ever had. Because I’m fair and my grandmother, my mother’s mother was from Oklahoma originally, she used to write me these letters. She used to call me princess Vernie. Well of course when your mail came in they opened it. So I would get these letters and somehow it got back to Dr. Shapiro that this is what was coming in my letters. I was being referred to as “My little princess Vernie”. That’s what my grandmother called me. I don’t know what it was, but he just had it in for me from the first day I stepped into Grade 4 until I left. I failed. I failed because of him. He would insult me. He would berate me. Q. Do you remember anything specific? A. I remember doing a spelling test. I’m pretty good at spelling. It’s probably one of my stronger points. For some reason I couldn’t get anything right that day. He just addled my brain. I remember him saying to me, “Well, little princess Vernie, you failed again”, just picking at me like that. It was sort of ongoing. I couldn’t do anything right in any subject I did and he put me right in the front of the class. I think he was there for the last half of my Grade 4. There was another teacher for the first half of my Grade 4 and then I think he was there for the last half. I can’t remember the exact details. But it got so bad that one day I left the class with a migraine. This is a young girl with a migraine headache. I went to the Infirmary and they could hear me howling all over the school because I was in such bloody pain. When I got to the Infirmary the Matron at the time, I think it was Miss Chabling (sp?) was her name, she said, “What is all this racket about?” And I couldn’t even talk I was in such frigging pain that I couldn’t even talk. They gave me some medication. I went to my dorm. They put me in bed and that’s when I don’t remember anything after that. All I remember is that I failed horribly. Of course when I got home I got berated for failing. But the next year made up for it because I had Mrs. West and she was just a treasure. She really helped me rebuild my confidence in myself. She was probably the exception to the rule because she treated every single one of us with respect, unlike anybody else. I had Miss Hodgins (sp?) in Grade 2. She was another really good teacher. But in particular Mrs. West I think stood out more because I had been through such a traumatic year in my first year of Grade 4. So she really helped me to start to build myself up again. Q. I rarely hear about a good teacher, so here’s a new question. Did she ever do anything to make you feel good about your culture or anything like that? Or was it just in the teaching? She made you feel good inside. A. It was just in the way that she taught us. She was fresh out of England. But I think what blew me away more than anything is that she respected us as individuals. I never heard her make a negative comment about us culturally. I don’t remember anyway. But maybe it was because the year before was so dam traumatic for me. In fact it was so bad Dr. Shapiro had my classmates calling me half breed. Some of them were half breeds, or one of their parents was half breed. It was horrible. It was the most horrible experience I had ever had. I can talk about it now without emotion because I hope I’m past that. But forgiveness? In the shit house as far as I’m concerned. It’s just not there for me. I can never forgive that kind of lack of professionalism for one thing. How dare an adult treat a child like that? You just don’t do things like that. I don’t know where the hell he was coming from because what I knew of him is that his wife and family lost their lives in the concentration camps during the Second World War, so it wasn’t computing with me. Why is this man so horrible to me, in particular me? It was strange how it was just me. Whether I reminded him of a lost child or something, I never knew. I could never understand that pure nastiness out of an individual who had been through hell himself, or purportedly had been through hell. And then to treat a child like that it just wasn’t computing with me. I couldn’t understand it. Q. So if you could see him today, what would you say to him? A. You miserable son of a bitch! (Laughter) No. I would ask him why. Why were you so awful to me? He’s probably dead now. But why was it me? I don’t mean to sound selfish. Why was it just about me? But as a little kid you’re trying to figure these things out. What is going on? Why is it just me? Today it wouldn’t happen. I would have him in an arm lock. (Laughter) And then a bunch of noogies on top! (Laughter) It just blows my mind why he would do that. The other thing that bothered me, and this was in Grade 5 now. I had Mr. Fidel (sp?) who I think is still alive. We were reading a story in our English Literature book and this particular story was about the Shuswap People being really ferocious and they killed and they were awful and all this nastiness. I just put this look on my face and I was really upset and my body language was just right out there. Mr. Fidel started to tease me about it. What’s the matter, Verna, you don’t like what you’re reading? I said, “No.” And he said, “Well why?” “This is a true story.” I said, “I don’t see it.” I just don’t like this. So he started to make fun of me and then of course the rest of the class started to make fun of me because I took offence to the way this story was written. I don’t remember the exact words but I just knew that I was really really insulted and that’s not what I wanted to see or hear in a book of literature. Q. Do you think because you were strong that you received more ridicule to sort of bring you down? A. Yes. I was cheeky. I was a brat. At least that’s what they told me. In retrospect --- There are still some of my schoolmates who give me a hard time about it. But I thought, no, that’s not what it’s about. In retrospect when I look back I had a tremendous sense of justice. And when I saw that was out of alignment I wasn’t afraid to challenge, dam the consequences, because I was in trouble a lot. When I got into my high school years of course you know teenage angst and playing the drama queen and the whole thing, but it went beyond that sometimes. I even got to the point where I attempted suicide at one point because it was just beyond my ability to sort out what was going on because I didn’t understand what was happening to me. You’re coming into puberty, you’re trying to understand what is going on with your body and nobody is there to tell you or nobody is there to empathize with you or help you understand because they didn’t know either. Sex education was this film we watched and we thought, oh yeah, okay, this happens to a woman’s body. This happens to a man’s body. Whoopy ding. But nobody said this is how you get pregnant. I guess because we’re more sophisticated today too when it comes to those issues, but there was nobody there to help you figure out what was going on with you. Q. So even getting your period and stuff, because that would happen to a lot of girls. And you weren’t going home at night so they wouldn’t tell you anything about that? A. It was always hush-hush. I remember coming down the stairs and of course being bold as brass I yelled at the Matron, “Hey Mrs. Smith I need some supplies”, meaning I wanted some more Kotex pads. She said, “Shh, don’t be yelling that stuff up and down the stairs.” And I said, “Doesn’t everybody have it?”, in my innocent thirteen years old, “doesn’t everybody get it?” (Laughter) It was very hush-hush. I think the first time it happened to me I had a little bit of coaching. I kind of knew what to expect because my aunt sort of started to give me a heads up on what was coming, but it was very clinical and it was like being --- Oh, she was just really straight forward and cut and dried. There was nothing fancy about it. So when it did happen I went to see the Matron and she sort of coached me a little bit on how to look after myself. But I didn’t realize we weren’t supposed to yell across the room that you were out of supplies. (Laughter) Q. You said you felt suicidal. Was it around that time? How old were you? A. No. It was a little later than that. I was about fifteen. Q. Can you talk about that at all? Was that sort of your lowest, when you felt you hit the bottom? Is that when it happened? A. I don’t know if that was one particular incident where I felt --- I felt many lows because I was so dam rebellious. I forget. You know what, I can’t even remember the circumstances behind it. But all I kept thinking about was why would I even want to live. Nobody cares about me, you know me. My grandmother had already passed away. She passed away when I was thirteen, going on fourteen I think. So that was pretty traumatic for me because she was my main line of support. I think I was having a row with our supervisor and she wouldn’t let me do something and I was really upset about it because I really wanted to do it. I don’t know whether it was going to town or what it was, but for some reason she wouldn’t let me. And I got into a big row with her and then the Matron got involved. They both yelled at me and I’m bold as brass so I’m yelling back. Finally I just stomped off and I went into the locker room, and at the other end were these windows and there was a whole bunch of books there. I was so angry and so upset I went over there and I just reamed off all the books because I’m physically strong. I went over there and I just grabbed the books and I flung them across the room. I stood up on the windowsill and I said, “What are you going to do about it?” I was right --- --- End of Part 1 A. Anyway, I was standing on the windowsill and they were yelling at me, “Verna Walkem, you get down off that windowsill right now.” And I said, “Make me.” “If you come near me I’m going to smash this window and jump.” And of course we were on the third or fourth floor, I think, third floor. My friends were there and they were getting really worried because they saw that I had reached my limit and they sort of knew what it was. I was known for having a really hot temper. They saw that. They just said, “Leave her alone, we’ll look after her.” So they went off in a huff and the girls finally got me quieted down and pulled me off the window. After that I just fell apart. It was too much for me and I didn’t understand what was going on, so I just fell apart. It took a long time for the girls to console me and get me back into a place where I didn’t want to commit suicide. But it was rampant. It wasn’t just me. It was rampant. I had a friend of mine OD on medication right in the Residential School. She was my best friend. Q. Did she find the medication in the Infirmary? A. She was in the Infirmary and she got into the medicine cupboard and she OD’d. I had to go with her to the hospital. The principal drove us down and I had to go with her. It scared the shit out of me and this was after I had made my attempt. She had made 2 attempts. The boys --- About 2 or 3 other girls, younger and older than me. But it was rampant. The scary part of it is in the community of Lytton when I was going to school, Lytton had the highest rate of suicide per capita of anywhere in Canada. It’s still going on. We had 4 suicides in 3 months last fall, 4 of them that died. There were 2 other attempts. One was a guy and one was a woman. Thankfully they were able to pull out of that. But it’s frightening when despair brings you to that point where why bother. What the hell is there to live for? I’m more frightened now of our men and our young boys being in that position because I think the school did more damage to our men. Women, we’re out there. We’re scrapping and we’re doing the best we can to see if we can bring some peace, especially at the grassroots level. We know that’s where stuff happens. Screw the politics. The politics are so dysfunctional. But I know that at the grassroots level we’re getting stuff done. Our women are starting to understand why education is so important at a higher level because we’re advocates. We’re the ones who are actually the leaders in our community from a traditional perspective, but our men are still behind. Everything is in here (indicating) and when they do blow it’s suicide, violence, murder, sexual rape, sexual assault, anything like that. That’s scary. That’s where that crap is happening right now. It’s our men and I’m really scared for our men because we need our warriors back. We need our men back. We need them back in the place of honour that they were before the Residential School system. It wasn’t the patriarchal paradigm where the man is dominant over the woman. It was a partnership. Women knew what their responsibilities were to make the family unit work. Men knew what their responsibilities were and they worked together as partners. And it’s not there any more. That scares the hell out of me. Q. What about your healing? How have things been since Residential School? What happened right after and what brought you here today? A. I married my high school sweetheart right out of high school and we moved away. He was in the Navy at the time and we moved away. I went on with my life. I had my family. I tried my best to be a good mother. In retrospect there were probably some things that I didn’t know about motherhood because I wasn’t mothered. I was supervised. I was herded around like a little duckling and then a sheep. I have an amazing mother-in-law who helped me quite a bit with understanding how to raise children. And I read books. I still wasn’t the best mom. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t understand about motherhood and my responsibility as a mother. For example, how to get my kids through school because nobody was there to help me get through school. I got through by the skin of my teeth and I barely graduated from high school. Somehow my kids survived me. I think I’ve inadvertently passed on some of my issues to my older son, without even knowing it. My younger son seems to have inherited more from his father’s side than my side, which is a good thing because he’s pretty together. He knows his own mind and he knows what he wants to do in life. As far as healing, a conscious effort for healing didn’t really happen until 1991. My kids had already left home. We had moved back to BC. We were living back east at that point. It was in 1991 I think, I had heard about the Indian Residential School Conference that was taking place in Vancouver and Sharlene Bouleau (sp?) was the one who had organized this in ’91. So I thought I would go. I was asked by my Band, “Would you go?” And I said, “Sure, I would love to go.” “I know what it’s all about.” I went. It was very cathartic for me. I didn’t realize how much garbage I was packing around but I had managed to hide it. I managed to hide a lot of stuff. It was really cathartic for me because then I started to understand some of my reactions to different situations in life. That was really cathartic for me. I cried like a baby. I didn’t realize I was packing all this stuff around with me. The only bad part of that is after the fact I’m thinking, “What do I do now?” And then gradually I started to seek a bit of counseling and do a lot of reading, a lot of introspection on knowledge that I had gained, discussions that I had with other people that I had gone through the system with. But I think the most incredible thing for me was in April 2004 I got hired on as the Project Facilitator for the Inklingkat (ph.) Health and Healing Society, and we are funded by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. When I got to get into the job more and more I was torn between “wow”, their success. People are finding their way. They are understanding. They are healing. And I think that helped me heal too because I’ve always been a very empathetic person. I started to gain more empathy and understanding for my own healing journey within the issues I was dealing with. And I guess even before that I started to realize I had been calling myself a victim and then I said, “No, I’m not a victim.” Okay “survivor” is all right and then I started to think, “Well, I’m past that, too.” I attended. I’ve gotten through most of that stuff. I’m not going to relive the past. I’m not going to let the past affect my emotional future. Because I’ve got too much to fight for right now and I’m not going to let that crap drag me down. I’m pretty passionate. I’m really passionate about our People getting past that, getting past the victimization, getting past the “survivor”, being able to say, “listen I went.” “It did this to me.” “It screwed me up.” “It did all kinds of things to me.” But you know what, I’m not going to let them win. I’m not going to let them win by continuing to be a victim, by continuing to call myself a survivor. Because now I’m going to fight and I’m fighting mad. I’m never ever going to let --- I’m going to make sure with everything in my power that I can do that I will never ever let something like that happen again. It’s not in my future. It’s not in any of our futures to let something like that happen. I’ve been associated with some really incredibly intelligent people that have helped me see past some of the stuff that went on and really look at we’re not going to get anywhere until we get over that stuff. And it gives me great hope because I see the people in our community who are healing, who are understanding that, yes, they don’t have to live in the past, that they can make their future. I can take the knowledge that I remember from my grandparents and I can make a new future for myself. God knows we can’t go back. We would regress if we went back, so what we have to do is take what we have now and move it forward and keep moving forward and not let non-Native people get in our way. I know we don’t have a lot of control at the government level. But that doesn’t mean we lie down and die. We get our dam dukes up and we duke it out with them until we get what we want. I’ve always said that this is my passion in life. I will do everything I can to make sure I get the best that I can for our People, based on what they want, not what I want. I know what I want. But whatever our People want, those of us who can, need to put our dukes up and get out there and fight for it. Because the issues aren’t going to go away. And when I look at my own community I know there’s still a lot of work to be done. A lot of work to be done. But even the one or 2 or 3 successes we have are better than nothing. And that’s where I see hope. I mean there’s always hope and that’s where I see the hope. I still have a lot of fears. I’m still really worried about the people that may not make it. The anger, in particular, we’ve got so much anger. To be able to gain enough knowledge to get past that anger. The other part of it too is a lot of our People are afraid of change. It’s more comfortable to be staying in that place of anger and nastiness and lack of growth than it is to take that chance. Because we were never allowed to take a chance. We were never allowed to be responsible. We were never allowed to be out there, to have a mind, to speak our mind without getting into trouble. We were never allowed to question, just for the sake of questioning to learn more. It was very rote. It was poor education, very poor education. And just not having the social skills to survive because when I first got married and moved away, I had no clue, absolutely no clue about how to run a household because I was raised in an institution. I was making porridge for 200 people every morning. I was doing 200 sheets of laundry once a week. I was cleaning long halls. When I got married I couldn’t make porridge for 2. It was like porridge for 400! (Laughter) It took a lot of adjustment for me to figure out how I could cook for 2 people. There were a lot of skills I didn’t have and it was by sheer dumb luck that I managed to get through somehow, get through life. I had a very supportive mother-in-law. I had a very understanding husband because most of his friends were from our community. He never grew up with any sort of racist commentary. I never heard a racist comment come out of him, even to this day. Some of his friends were maybe a little, but most of his friends were First Nations anyway so it didn’t really matter because he’s not First Nations himself. But when I think back now I guess the biggest pill of bitterness I have to swallow is the loss of our knowledge. Not so much the loss, but the loss of opportunity to move that knowledge from the previous generation to my generation and to the next generation. I try not to carry a lot of bitterness around. I don’t think it’s healthy. But I have my moments when I still feel angry that there’s a lot of lost opportunity with my grandparents, the knowledge that they had that we could have carried on into today. But the fight isn’t over. Maybe it will never be over, but I don’t care. I’m going to be out there duking it out to my dying day. (Laughter) Q. Do you have any final things you would like to say before we wrap up? A. Now I’m going to get emotional because I always do. My grandparents were amazing people. If it hadn’t have been for them I don’t think I would have survived. They didn’t really understand what was going on in the Residential School system. But in their own way they were supportive and they were amazing. It was a huge loss for me when my grandmother died because she was my major support system. She got me through anything, through puberty, the whole thing. I really missed the fact that she wasn’t there to watch me grow up and to be there as my support mechanism because a lot of my angst and the problems I got into she would have been able to help me get through them and maybe I wouldn’t have been so angry. I don’t know. But they were amazing people and I really really miss them. I remember my grandfather saying one time when he came to pick me up from the Residential School. This was after my grandmother had died. I must have been about fourteen or fifteen. We were sitting in this place in Lytton where there were a whole bunch of logs where people came to sit. This acquaintance of his came up to him and started talking. They were speaking our language. This fellow was saying, “I’m taking my kids out of that school when they’re sixteen because they don’t need to go to school after that.” And my grandfather said, “My girls are going to school til they graduate.” In our family the women were put on these pedestals. We were put on pedestals and God forbid if we ever did anything whereby that pedestal would be kicked out from underneath us. So I grew up in a family of really strong determined punchy women. It was take no prisoners. That was the kind of attitude I grew up with and it got me into trouble. One time I was trying to help another student in Grade 11 or Grade 12 and I was trying to help a Grade 7 student with some work. Something happened and we started giggling. This teacher came over and she told me to stop it and I said, “Why, I’m trying to help?” Before I could even get the rest of the sentence out she hauled off and slapped me across the face. My automatic reaction was that I turned around and I whacked her across the gut. It was automatic. I didn’t even think. Well, I got hauled on the carpet. At that point the principal was going to send me home. I said, “No, I’m not going.” “If you send me home I’ll get a licking when I get home.” Because by then my grandmother is gone. My grandfather was quiet. But my father would have beat the crap out of me. And of course everybody else in the family would have come down on me. So I told him if he put me on the bus I’m stopping the bus and I’m getting out in the middle of the highway and I don’t care where it is and you’ll never see me again. It sounds kind of contrary, but I was scared to go home. I was scared to be shipped home because I knew the beating at home would be worse than the detention for the rest of the year that I would get at the school. To a certain degree they were afraid of my physical size so they didn’t often push me, but they sure knew how to get to me up here (indicating). The mental abuse I think affected me more personally than the physical abuse, because I got it. I got the strappings. I got the smacking with the yardstick and the slaps across the head, the slaps across the face, everything. But I think maybe they knew they could only push me so far and that would be it. I don’t know. That’s just my perspective. It just makes me so angry that the Compensation package does not acknowledge emotional and cultural abuse, any of those things. Because that’s where it is. How the hell can you not prove it? The evidence is so blatant, especially in our more remote communities. I remember talking to an associate of mine who said she flew into a community that was absolutely stunningly beautiful until she got into the village. She said that there isn’t a child in that village over the age of fifteen who has not been sexually abused. She said, “The day I was leaving I was waiting for my float plane to come in and take me out and here was another float plane offloading the booze, and God knows what else.” It’s that that scares me. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation apparently is not getting any more money. It just angers me so much to know that the government will continue to do this to us. They’ll throw us the dog scraps, watch us scrap over it and when it’s all gone they will just leave us hanging. That scares the hell out of me because I don’t know where I’m going to go after this. I’m fighting like a son of a bitch right now to try to find out what to do about it. But there’s only me. I’m not good at advocacy. I’m good at debating, but I’m not very good at advocacy. It’s times like that I feel a bit powerless. I don’t like the politics we’re in because it’s equally as dysfunctional. I don’t know. Like I say, on the one hand I have hope and on the other hand I’m scared spitless. Q. Thank you so much. This was an amazing interview. It was incredible. A. Thank you. Q. You said you weren’t good at advocacy but we’ll just give you a copy of this and send it out. You’re incredible. A. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 29:15
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Part 2 – 25:28

Percy Ballantyne

Birtle Indian Residential School

--- Transcriber’s Note: Speaker is not identified by the Interviewer on the recording. THE INTERVIEWER: Tell me what school you went to. PERCY BALLANTYNE: I went to Birtle Indian Residential School. I am not too sure exactly the years. Q. You don’t remember how old you were? A. I was just a young kid. Q. About six? A. No. Actually, I was in my early teens; thirteen. Q. Do you remember what your first day was like? There were a lot of Dakota People there. A. Yes. My first day was like --- Well, let’s go back to that first morning when I woke up at Residential School. I will never forget that. I had just come from a place, my environment, where it was nice and safe with family around. The family unit is around. The mom is around. The dad is around. Brothers and sisters are around. You sit outside your place and you are surrounded with the animals that are there, natural animals in the wild, the birds and you hear the birds singing, and that. The next day all of a sudden I wake up in this strange place and I looked around, ‘oh, where am I?’ I panicked. I remember that feeling coming into my throat. I wanted to cry out. All of a sudden it dawned on me, here I am somewhere else. My mom is not around. My brothers and sisters are not around. My grandparents are not around. It was terrifying when I look around and see all these kids around you. I heard the strangest sound coming from outside. It’s not a sound I was used to, the animals that are out there, the birds that are out there. It was different sounds, eh. I heard different types of birds like chickens clucking and cows mooing and pigs squealing. I mean, it’s a different environment. It’s a cultural shock. Wow, where am I? My first instinct was I want to get out of here. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here at all and it’s not the place for me. I looked around and there’s all these kids around me. The first thing I noticed was that kid that looked at me straight in the eye. Wow. This kid’s spirit is not in the right place, this kid’s spirit, you know, because when you look at somebody straight in the eye you could tell. If you went to the jails or anything like that, if you look at the brothers and sisters out there in the eye you can tell their spirit is hurt. But it’s so sad at that age, at my age now when I think back, when I reverse, if I looked at you if you’re a prisoner I could tell that your spirit is hurt. Back then, when I look back now looking at those children that’s what really hurts me today, little kids, having the spirit of a prisoner. It stays with me. It never goes away. And that feeling I had that morning of wanting to cry, as I’m sitting here it comes back, you know. I guess that tells me I have a lot more cleaning up to do. But I’ve come a long ways, I’ve come a long ways from when I was taken away from home. My background, as I indicated earlier, I come from a loving family. I had my Kookum, I had my Mishum and my uncles and my aunties, my mom, my dad, my sisters, my brothers. That’s the environment that I know. I come from the community of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids to me at that time before we were disturbed from our little nest, our little safe nest there, I envisioned, I remember Grand Rapids as a nice calm lake, a nice calm lake, no wind blowing, not a ripple on the lake in the water, not even the leaves are moving. Everything is calm. I’m describing my family. That’s the way it was, eh. Then one day somebody happened to throw a stone in the middle of the lake and created, bang, created that wave, that ripple, and we can still see the rippling effects today of that disturbance we had from Day One. Those were very terrifying moments when you see people coming to your place telling you that you’re going to leave your family, pretty soon you’re going to have to leave your family. That’s just the way I guess our future was written for us. Q. Do you think we were meant to go through all this? A. I don’t believe that anybody had to go through what we had to go through, but in a way too we say that God works in mysterious ways. No, what we went through was horrifying. We found the root of the problems that exist today in our contemporary society. I keep referring back to that nice calm lake and somebody threw a rock and started those rippling effects. Well today it’s still there. We see all kinds of social problems out there. We’re not the only ones that were affected by that issue of Residential Schools. The whole world’s society is affected by it. Nobody is excluded from the mistakes that past governments made. In our way we have natural laws. I don’t like to use the word “Indian” because we’re not from India. We’re indigenous to this country where we are. I always tell the young people that it was God the Creator who put you here. Nobody else put you here. I don’t mean to sound biased or racist or anything like that to tell the rest of society that Columbus put them here. God the Creator put you here and this is your land, this is your country. Whatever happened to them they have to try to find that forgiveness so we can begin a new day, begin a new walk in life. Q. Did you have a lot of friends in school? A. I had a lot of friends. I made a lot of friends. I’m easy to get along with. I make friends fast, but at the same time I had enemies too, eh. I have a lot of friends out there (indicating). As a matter of fact, even though it’s watered down I learned the Ashinabe (ph.) language. I can speak it fluently because I grew up with the Ashinabe kids out there. I couldn’t speak Cree. I grew up with the chiefs that are out there. I grew up with them. We used to run, like five-thirty or six o’clock in the morning to do our exercise and runs and that. So, yes, I have a lot of friends from school. But there’s the other side to it, too, eh, what happened with administration if you ran into trouble with the administration. The administration had their own bullies, too, eh, so at the same time I had to fight for my survival out there. I’m just a young boy from the north. Q. What was that like? A. Well, it was terrifying at first when you’re surrounded by a bunch of strangers out there and their purpose is to try to intimidate you. I’m not easily intimidated by anybody so I always went for it. I went for it. I didn’t care how big or how small, you know. If you’re out there to pick on a young kid you gotta deal with me. They know about it, those people I’m talking about. But it wasn’t that we were bad. It was basically just survival, just trying to survive out there. I still have friends today from that era. We get along. We talk about it, you know, the bad times and the good times we had out there. Q. What was the food like? A. Well, from being up north you’re used to ducks, geese, traditional food, moose meat, muskrat, you name it. We were used to that. And then when you go down there you have to change. Everything changes. Even your diet changes. Everything can change. Your survival instincts change. The food itself, well, I had to get used to it. I had to get used to it. Q. What was the common food? A. Porridge in the morning. Porridge in the morning, toast --- I don’t remember much about it. The only thing I remember about the Dining Room was the screams sometimes when you misbehave and that. That’s just where you got it, in the Dining Room. Q. In front of everybody? A. In front of everybody. Yeah, that’s in front of everybody. Yeah, you got it. It was very embarrassing and humiliating for some poor children out there. But so vivid in my mind is I never laughed at anybody. As a matter of fact when I heard those screams it got me angry. I wanted to go and protect those kids, eh. It’s a natural instinct for you to protect. When that happened to my little brother I went nuts. I broke a law. Let’s put it that way, just to back up my brother. I’m just going a little bit ahead here, eh. I went to school with my brother. He passed away last year, not even a year ago. He passed on and I went to school with him out there. Q. You used to watch his back a lot? A. Yes. Very much. I protected him. Q. You probably weren’t as lonely, then. You missed your grandparents and your mom and dad but you had your brother there. A. I had a responsibility now when my brother came there. Actually, he didn’t even know that I was there. I didn’t even know that he was coming there. One day I was in the Study Hall and the principal came and got me. He says, “Ballantyne, go out to the hallway.” I thought I had done something wrong. The only time you went to the hallway was if you had to stand in the hallway. He says, “Go to the hall.” And I stood out there and I seen this little boy come walking down the hallway. He looked up at me and I just --- That’s my brother. I just went running up to him. “Hey”, I says. I grabbed him. I hugged him. My little brother. The happiness, the expression on his face, I still remember that expression on his face. Hey, I’m not alone. My brother is here. So I just embraced him, you know. I just took him under my wing and that. He was skiing there for a while at the time I was there. We were good athletes, too. That’s one thing about Residential School. We were very athletic: sports, recreation and stuff like that. I wouldn’t like to say it was totally 100% bad because you did meet good friends there, you know, that lasted a lifetime. You got to know people and you got to meet other people from outside, people that came to visit the other kids there. I met some parents out there that I met later on with my friends. I would like to forget --- This person was speaking and --- I would like to go on with life and put the hurts aside, just keep on moving ahead because it can’t go on like this. It just can’t go on like this. There is a process of reconciliation with Canada, First Nations and that’s a pretty big word. How could you reconcile with somebody that hurt you? How could you go up to them and say “I forgive you” after you have been through the windmill a hundred times, a thousand times over? But this culture, culturally speaking, we are a very kind People. I want people to understand that, to know that, who we really are, you know, not the way they perceive us to be. Because for too long we’ve been told what to do, how to act, when to say things, when to speak up, who you should be, you know. The time is here now to tell the truth, to really tell the truth and to tell society who we really are. I’m not an Indian. I never will be an Indian. As a matter of fact it’s just like calling a Black man that bad word. The Black People don’t like to be called that word. And it’s beginning to be like that with us People. Don’t call me an Indian. I’m not an Indian first of all, and number one, I’m a (speaking Native language) --- -- means a person who speaks Cree. (Speaking native language) We’re the Cree People. (Speaking Native language) We’re the People from the north in the medicine wheel. We sit in the north. That’s who we are. That’s the real identity part of us (speaking Native language). That’s who we are. Q. Did you ever feel ashamed of being that? A. I could never remember being ashamed of the way I was raised. Ever since I was a little boy my grandma and my mom were very good teachers, and my grandpa told me to never never ever deny who I was. “This is the way the Creator made you. That’s who you are”, he says. “I’ve got a message for you, young man,” he told me. “My Elders, before you were born”, he says “the Creator already decided who you are going to be.” “In the spirit world”, he told me, “that they already picked you. The Creator only wanted the strongest spirits there is to come down and live in this world as who we are -- let’s use the term “Indian” -- to be Indian because he knew that’s the hardest road to travel, to walk in this world. I tell the young people to be proud of who you are, you know, you’re strong. You’re a very strong person. You’re a special person. So the Creator made you that way. He wanted you here for a purpose to get that message for him, to really tell them who you really are, to tell society who you really are not the way people expect you to be. No, I was never ashamed to be because my mom told me in very strong words she told me, and my grandparents. If you deny who you are maybe God the Creator will deny you. He’s not going to believe you if you tell him I’m English and French, and that, when in fact you’re Cree. He’s going to deny you. That really stuck in my mind. Wow. So from then on I always always was proud of who I was, the way my Elders, my grandparents, my mom, those people around me taught me about my identity. They didn’t solely put me here in North America but they connected me to God in the spirit the way he made me, the way he wanted me to live, to walk in this world as a Cree. That’s who I am. I’m very proud of who I am. Q. Did you ever find yourself struggling with that in Residential School? A. In Cree? Being Cree? Like I said, I’m not biased or anything like that but yes, I did. The way administration works sometimes when you get into trouble with them, sometimes the Northern children were abused from the orders of administration and it was the Southern kids that done that. This is where that rift --- Q. You were singled out? A. We were singled out, yeah. But when you put your foot forward and you say “you’re not taking me, c’mon, let’s go, let’s go, let’s get it over with, if you beat me, well, that’s fine.” “If I beat you leave me alone.” So that’s the way it was. No, I never did that, struggle with anything like that. Just keep on walking in life, like I was conditioned already with love, with care, with wise teachings from my Elders in the community. Those are the ones that really carried me through in life to be able to make the right choices in life, the right decisions. Yeah, you make mistakes along the way. But I guess part of colonization is to control. We were controlled and conditioned, changed to act in a certain way. That’s what the Residential Schools --- They perceived them as political laboratories where they done their political experiments to change --- To change an eagle to act like a crow, that type of thing. It didn’t work. That political experiment was zilch. It just went haywire. It did not work and it will never work. You can never change an eagle to act like a crow. Q. Did you have to leave your brother there? A. I had to leave my brother there. I was going to leave that towards the end. When I was out there I tried running away. I took these two young Dene boys under my wing. They were --- I’ll use the name. They were the Toms (ph.) from Tadoule Lake. They were the twins, twin boys. But they were really --- Like kids were picking on them and they started crying and stuff. Q. They were Dene? A. Dene. They called them raw meat eaters and stuff like that, eh. That was very very hard on their part. They did survive. One of them passed away. I just seen one last week here in Thompson. He was really happy to see me. Ballantyne, Ballantyne! I said, “Yeah.” “Remember me?” I said, “How could I forget you?” “See my nose?” “That’s because of you.” (Laughter) Other than that there was abuse there. Q. Physical abuse? A. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I don’t like to hear children cry. My heart just melts. To hear people crying does something to me. Q. You heard a lot of crying? A. Yeah. Q. Did you see a lot of things? A. Well, when you see things and you are exposed to things it sticks in your mind. At the back of your mind you know what is right and what is wrong and you know what you see out there is wrong. But you are told not to say nothing or else, you know, this is what is going to happen. There was threats if you say something. Some kids never went home for breaks. Those types of things, that kind of abuse. Q. Did you get to go home? A. I got to go home. Yeah. But I ran away, too, a couple of times. Q. You got caught? A. I got caught. Fortunately I got caught. Thank God I got caught, me and those two Dene boys we got caught. Otherwise we would have become a statistic. Three more kids ran away from school and they froze to death. We just about froze. Q. What happened? A. Well, we ran away and we just hopped on a train and the train stopped and we hopped out and we just started walking we didn’t know where. We didn’t know where we were. All we could see was just fields and fields. No trees. It was cold. At least we were saying if we were out up north somewhere we could make a fire. But there were no trees out there. Q. Were you wearing winter clothes? A. Just very skimpy jackets. I wore my slippers. That’s how desperate we were to get out from there. I wanted to try to get my brother to come with us but at the same time I wanted to leave him behind because I knew it was going to be a hard journey if we made it. My plan was to tell my mom and dad what was happening there. Q. Did you ever tell them? A. I told them. But that generation of parents was scared of authorities. They were scared of Indian Agents. They were scared of police. They were even scared of Ministers, and that. They had a lot of power and authority over our lives, every aspect of our lives, that’s what they had. Q. Did your parents try to keep you home? A. I don’t know. That’s something I’m dealing with today. There’s a gap there. Like you feel abandoned, you know, that issue still. But I made peace with my mother before she passed away. I made peace with my dad before he passed away, too. I was one of those kids that was conditioned to stand up for who you are, the first born of the family, so I always had to stand up for what I believe in, the way I was raised in the faith, and that. Q. How many brothers and sisters do you have? A. There’s fifteen of us. Q. Did they all go? A. Save one. Fourteen went. The baby didn’t go, the baby of the family. My mom didn’t want to let him go, her baby. Q. Where did the other kids go? A. They went to Dauphin. I don’t know --- My family, I just lost touch with my family after that. I took off after that. Towards the conclusion of my school years as I stated earlier my brother, the late Wesley Ballantyne was a very small boy and I didn’t know and he didn’t tell me that he was getting beaten up by the supervisors, a male supervisor. Q. All the time? A. A male supervisor, a Mister and Mrs. I won’t give the name because of something pending out there. But he was getting beaten up and then one day we were in the Study Room and I heard a commotion and I heard a familiar voice crying out for help. There’s my brother. I got there and he was doing something to him and I lost it. Q. Were they beating him? A. More than that. Q. More than one of them? A. More than beating. Like I said, I don’t want to say anything because it’s going to come out. But I lost it. Q. They were sexually abusing him? A. All kinds of abuse, yeah. Q. How old was he at the time? A. He must have been about twelve years old, I guess. Q. Oh, he was still a baby. What did you do? A. Like I said, I lost it. That instinct to defend. I grabbed a knife. I didn’t hurt anybody. It was more like to scare them off. Kids still talk about that today at Birtle. They knew I wasn’t there to hurt anybody. I took a knife to them. I didn’t stab anybody. I didn’t hurt anybody. It was just to scare them off. That was my intent. That was my intent. But I guess I had had it up to here (indicating) by that time because whenever I got into trouble I had to whitewash the pig sty. That was my punishment, and to wash the stairways, three flights of stairways with a toothbrush. Q. Just one second. We’re going to change the tape. --- End of Part 1 Q. All right. Keep going. Talk about what you want to talk about. Okay? Because you have to know that you will leave it here. A. My school mates out there, a lot of them have passed on and it really hurts today to know that they died that way. Me knowing what they carried around, even throughout the years if we met each other on the streets of Winnipeg, that brotherhood was there. But knowing they died like that, those kids were really abused. One guy from Way-Way, the other guy was from Portage, that area. Those guys were really --- I don’t know if I should say it. Maybe it will make --- But psychologically it affects you, it affects you, being exposed to abuse. Like it really blows your mind away to be put into the care of people, your parents expecting that you are going to be well taken care of and here’s these things happening to children. Good lord, man. We’ve been here for millennium after millennium, thousands and thousands of years we’ve been here. And then in 1492 people come over here and that’s only half a millennium and they’ve done a lot to us. Crime. A crime has been committed against our people and why is that allowed? Why is that being allowed to let those things happen to little Indian children? If White society ever knew what happened, the truth of what really happened in there, and if they could place themselves in the shoes of our parents and exchange their children for us, let them sit where we were, I wonder how society would be like. What kind of uproar would happen? Here we are trying to get the truth out there. We’re meeting obstacles left and right. When is the hurt going to stop? Because right now people are hurting right now. Right now I’m working with Manitoba Keewatin (something). I’m the Regional Coordinator --- I have clients out there, too, Residential School survivors. We talk a lot. We have Healing Circles, Talking Circles, and that. To go into the world of an Elder, to go into the world of an Elder, that Elder is taking you back to when they were that high (indicating), you know, it’s an honour to be invited to go on that journey, although it’s hard. It tears me apart, just tears me apart. But at the same time it makes me strong as a warrior. I would die for these people if it came down to it. I would be the first one there for our People. People know that about me that I will protect them because I don’t want anybody to go through those types of things that we went through. To be ripped apart from the embrace of your mom, the loving embrace of your mother, from your dad, from your whole family, you know, that’s a crime itself. We’ve been robbed of our life. There’s no other word for it. We’ve been robbed of our childhood, robbed of our innocence, robbed of our whole life itself. And on top of that, robbed of our country, lands and resources. When is it going to end? Our problems today are attributed to the treatment and the management of lives of our People. We have been mismanaged. I don’t know who gave them that authority to come out here and manage lives. We sure as heck didn’t. But the way you manage lives that’s the way you are actually laying the foundations of your future. This is not our future. This is not our society. This is White society. This is not First Nations society. This is not our life. That’s not our life. Gang life is not our life. Wife-beating is not our life. All kinds of things that are happening, that’s not us. That’s not our life, you know. We know who we are. We know that our cultural values system is connected to God the Creator and the cultural values system are the ones that we live daily as to love, as to care, as to be honest, to cooperate, all those things, that is the direct wisdom and laws straight from the Creator for us. Also our medicine wheels and the teachings of our medicine wheels. It is told that every nation in every four corners of the world have their medicine wheel and they abandoned them for the sake of whatever. I’ve been told that our people are the only ones that kept the teachings of the medicine wheel. And we have the answers. We have the answers to these problems, the woes that’s out there, the problems that are out there. I’ve also been told that the lighting of the seven-generation fire is here already and that Indian people are the ones that are going to lead in that area. Whatever word, whatever term you want to use, whether it to be healing or to bring people together, I’ve been told that our People are going to be the ones that are going to start that circle and start holding hands, regardless of what we went through. Q. Our time is now. A. Our time is now. Yeah. Q. Going back to Residential School, do you remember how old you were when you left? A. Well, I have a history. I have a history. I didn’t go directly. I was part of the 60’s school. Okay? Q. So you went from there to…? A. To Residential School. Yeah. Yeah. I was away from my parents for a long time. I lost touch with them. Q. How old were you? A. I was probably about twelve years old, I guess, eleven or twelve, around that area. Maybe twelve or thirteen. Like, that’s just something that flew by. It’s something I don’t want to remember. It hurts too much. I want to forget about it. But I was just a young boy. Q. How old were you when you were adopted out? A. About eleven or twelve years old. Q. And how old were you when you went to Residential School? A. About in my teens; thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. Q. So you were away first and then you went to Residential School? A. Yeah. Q. Oh. Wow. If there were a list of terrible things you can do to a person you have managed to strike all of them on that list. That’s terrible. So where were you raised? A. I was raised at Kamarno, Manitoba, close by Toulon Residential School. As a matter of fact I did hear about Toulon Residential School a few times in the foster home because by that time I was very hard to manage already. I was so lonely. I wanted to come home so I ran away. That’s how I ended up in Residential School. I got picked up again. I made it to my Reserve but they shipped me to a Residential School. That’s another --- That’s one horrific story. I have nothing good to say about Residential Schools. Q. Do you remember the family that you lived with? A. Yeah. In the foster home. Yes, I remember them. Q. Were they good to you? A. Yes, they were good to me. They were very good to me, my foster mother and my foster dad. Except my foster little sister used to make faces at me right across the table, you know. (Laughter) She would wrinkle up her nose as if I smelled, or something like that. So I used to tell on her, and that. Then my parents would send her up to her room and I would stay downstairs the rest of the day. Q. Do you see them still? A. Yes, I did see them. My foster parents are gone now. Q. What about the sister? A. The sisters are still alive. Q. Do you still talk to them? A. Oh, I talk to them once in a while. I still keep in touch. They’re just like --- They may be White but they are like my brothers and my sisters. I still keep in touch with them. There’s that deep respect for one another. It’s not going to go away. Q. You love them? A. Of course. That’s the only love I met when I needed somebody to understand me as a child. My foster parents were there. They understood me better. They bought me a horse. They bought me this. They bought me that. I grew up with that horse. It was just like a dog. I trained it like a dog. When I whistled it would come running. When I talked to it it done things for me. The abilities that we have as People, it’s amazing. You can do anything. Q. What was your horse’s name? A. King. I called him “king”. I don’t know why. I should have called him “chief” instead. (Laughter) Q. Well, it was a bit confusing. How old were you when you left that place? A. It’s in my early teens. I would say about twelve or thirteen. I can’t remember much. Q. How long were you with them? A. I don’t know. It was just a phase. See, my background --- That’s when hydro came to Grand Rapids. All of a sudden, bang --- Q. Is that when they built Highway 6 and all this terrible stuff started happening? A. Yes. Yeah. Q. People had access to alcohol? A. Yes, alcohol. All of a sudden our parents were abusers. They were drinkers. Except my mom, she never drank up to that point. She never did. But my dad, he changed overnight from a loving father to an abuser, overnight. Q. Did they go to Residential School? A. My grandma did. Q. Your grandma did? A. My grandma and my auntie did, but my dad didn’t. Q. And your mom? A. My mom didn’t. Q. No. A. No. But my dad --- Like after that my dad joined the RCMP and became one of the first Band Cops and then he went to Regina. Q. So did my dad. A. He went to Regina and he turned abusive overnight. I lost my dad. I lost my dad that time. Wow. When he come back from Regina he was never the same again. Where’s my dad? Where’s my daddy? I want my dad. He was a different guy. He turned like that. I don’t know. It’s really confusing when you see your daddy turn. It sends very bad messages to you, confusing messages, to live in that state of abuse. And then from there when you go to an institution you see that abuse it just conditions you, you know. With the choices I made in my life, boy, I have to admit I was abusive too, once upon a time. But I learned along the way that’s not right. I abused myself. I abused everybody. I lived out on the streets. Q. You were physically abusive? A. Yeah, physically. I fight a lot and drink a lot and stuff like that. It was quite the war against the world, you know. But had we been managed properly Canada would be one of the smartest countries in the world because Indian People are smart, very smart people. The reason I know this as a mentor living up north and that, there’s a different lifestyle, disparities between north and south. There’s economic disparities. Up north you have to learn the ways of the animals. You have to hunt, fish or trap so you have to know the behaviours of the little animals. If you are going to go moose hunting you have to study the moose, the behaviour patterns and everything about them, what they eat, you know, how they live out there. So when you go hunting you have to out think and out smart that moose, so it takes a lot of intelligence to out smart a very intelligent animal. Even wolves, like the wolves out there, they represent the community. They represent government. They represent every aspect of that life out there. Q. Do you hunt still? A. Not lately. I haven’t. I gave that up quite some time ago Q. But you’re running? A. I’m running. I still run quite a bit. When I was up in the Yukon in the eighties I hunted quite a bit up there. There’s a lot of moose out there. I just love to run. Let’s put it that way. Running and recreation --- I have a boy out there. His name is Marlin Ballantyne. I have a Society. We’re called the Lance L-a-n-c-e Runners Society. This is my healing, too, part of my healing. And also to get the young people together, to get the young people to capture their energy, to capture that energy and to use it positively. As long as you get them to see the picture and tell them, “Hey, listen, this is what you’re here for. The run for this year is for Residential School effects and affects”. We done that in 2005. We ran from Gilliam to the Legislative Building in Manitoba and we ran to Ottawa. It was the young people that made it happen. If it hadn’t been for them it would have never happened. When they ran to Ottawa and we told them the message, I told them the Lance Runners are the messengers of peace, love, hope, understanding, messengers of our People to society that we’re not those savages, we’re not barbaric, we’re not as they taught us in school curriculums. You go out there and be an ambassador of the Cree People, of our People. Q. Are you running again this year? A. We’re doing a run from Moosonee, the Cree Nation of Ontario, to Grand Rapids. We’re hosting the Cree Nation Gathering this year at (something) Cree Nation. Q. Over time --- A. Yeah. I started those runs. Back in 1996 was the first Unity Run we organized involving other Cree Nations and Communities from across the country. Other than that the original ones were from Grand Rapids Cree Nation. I only had ten runners, ten young boys. We ran over here for two summers in a row. Nobody noticed us. We weren’t looking for that. We weren’t looking for a pat on the back or anything like that. It was just something for the young kids to do and they just loved it. They just loved to run. There’s something about running that is freedom, the wind and just being out there, you and the land. We ran over here and in 1996 we were joined by Alberta and then it escalated from there. It grew. So we’re national but we’re fragmented. We need one major group, one right across Canada. So we will get there eventually. Q. Where do you train your boys? A. It’s entirely up to them. We are just in the community, just what these boys are. They are both young boys. Q. Are you still actively running as well? A. Yes. I live up in Thompson. I haven’t started training yet! But I’m going to. I do a lot of walking. Q. How old are you now? A. I’m fifty-four years old. Q. Great. Is there anything else you would like to add? A. Just in conclusion about my brother who ran into the abuse and then something come over me and I felt that was the right thing to do and I went after them. I was just defending him, eh. But then after that I ran away. I ran down the hill but I knew the police were coming. Here is my chance to escape. I’ll go to the police. I waited for the police down the hill. Before I had put that knife right on the ground, that’s where I left it, and the police came by and asked my name and I told him right there. As soon as I pointed at that knife he kicked me right here (indicating) and arrested me. They took me to Brandon, Brandon Jail. I was just a young boy and I stayed there for one month. My mom and dad didn’t even know where I was. Just one day I appeared at their door at three o’clock in the morning. I had to hitch hike back to Grand Rapids. That’s the neglect that the system put on us. Jail, that’s another area. I just don’t like that justice system out there. There’s no such thing as justice. The only thing justice about it, they discriminate against “just us”. That’s about it. Q. Justice or “just us”? A. Yeah. Justice --- Before you can know what “just us” is you have to know that the injustices are. That’s about all I have to say. I don’t have a lot to say on that neglect, a few things out there because of court proceedings, I guess. Q. Are you in court now? A. Not yet. Not yet. But I may be called as a witness. Those young boys I’m talking about, I don’t want to say it. It has to do with animals. I will leave it at that. Q. That’s sad. A. It is. Q. They were making animals do something to the boys? A. Vice versa. One of them is a darn good artist, a very terrific artist. And if he ever needs me he contacted me already, I’m going to go there for him. And the other guy he already passed away. You know, these are such tremendous individual human beings. They are so intelligent. They are so smart. And yet you wouldn’t tell if you were looking at them. You can’t tell. Once you start taking them apart, man, this guy is this and that, that guy is this and that. You wouldn’t even think these guys survived what they went through. You would think they are whole people, real smart people. That’s the sad part. If only we could be whole holistically; mind, body and spirit, connected together as a braid, the way we braid our hair, eh. I think those days are coming soon. Q. Oh yeah. A. The fire has been lit already and we’re here. We’re working, throwing in a log here to make it brighter, as it has been foretold. Those things are happening. That’s why you’re here. That’s why I’m here and all our People that are out there. We’re on that healing journey. Like I said earlier, I would like to leave this behind and start a new life because a new generation is coming out there. We’re getting older. I’m getting older and my kids are going to have children and a new generation is coming up. I don’t want to leave them this legacy. I want them to see who I am today, so that my children and my grandchildren in the future will say my grandpa went through an uneven journey and he survived Residential Schools. He survived what was thrown at him. I want them to remember that story that I told about the Creator making them who they are, as spirits, and he only picked the strongest spirits in heaven to come down as Indians and to walk this world as Indians. He’s going to welcome us that way if we maintain our pride, our dignity, our language and everything. I know these things. I’m also a sun dancer. I believe in that. I believe in a lot of things that come to me in a dream. The Unity Run came to me in a dream. The Creator used geese and wolves on that Unity Run. A lot of people claim it’s theirs today. No. You don’t steal another man’s medicine bag and expect it to work. It’s happening. That journey is beginning, that healing journey. I say that to the young people. I send my voice into the future with you, the message you are going to carry from this generation is we’re not going to allow that to happen again. That’s my voice. That’s your voice, your grandparents’ voice. The ones that didn’t make it home, that’s their voice. I say, “Carry it into the future. Run. Run with it. Tell them.” Thank you. Q. M’gwich. A. Yes. --- End of Interview

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Part 2 – 32:04

Blanche Hill-Easton

Mohawk Institute

THE INTERVIEWER: Okay, could you tell us your name and spell it for us, please. BLANCHE HILL-EASTON: My name is Blanche Hill-Easton; B-l-a-n-c-h-e H-i-l-l-E-a-s-t-o-n. Q. And where are you from? A. I’m from Six Nations. Q. What school did you attend? A. Mohawk Institute. Q. What years were you there? A. It would be part of 1943 to 1945 or ’46. I can’t remember because they were in between. Q. Okay. How old were you when you went? A. I was ten. Q. Ten? A. Um-hmm. Q. Do you remember your first day? A. I remember walking up the steps with my mother taking me and going inside and seeing the hallway. There were rooms on either side. After my mother left I really don’t remember too much of that day. I was just kind of in awe of everything, you know, wondering what was going to happen. Specifically that’s the only part I remember. I remember walking up the steps. The girls’ side was on one side. Where we were going up it would be on the right hand side, and the boys were on the left hand side. But you didn’t see the boys. The girls’ playground was right there so they were all kind of standing back behind in the playground. I was a shy person. Q. Did you have brothers or sisters there? A. No. I had a sister who came later, another year she came. Q. Did you know what to expect when you were going? A. No, none whatsoever. All I know is they said it was the Mohawk Institute and that it was the school for us. That’s all I knew so I just figured that’s where we had to go to school. Q. Had you been to school at all before? A. Yes, I had. I had lived on the Reserve with my grandmother and my mother worked in Simcoe, which is where I’m still living now, only because there was no work on the Reserve. After my grandmother died my mother didn’t live down there because all the work was in Simcoe. So when I came out of the Mohawk Institute I went to live with her. I never did go back to the Reserve because at that time my uncle lived in our house and unfortunately he sold it, so we didn’t have a home to go back to. Q. Do you remember what life was like before Residential School? Did you live a traditional lifestyle? A. Yes, I did. I lived with my grandmother and we were very traditional. Actually, my mother and my grandmother had the house built. They got the place on what would now be Seneca Road. They didn’t have names for the road at that time. For the first year of my life that we lived there we didn’t have a house. We lived in a tent for the whole winter. Then when they started building the house, we lived in a log house. They built a log house the next spring, as soon as everything melted, the snow and everything and they put up a house. I remember a little wee bit of being in this tent because I was quite young and I was crying and I think there was sort of a high chair that I was in. That’s as far as I can remember back at that point. Q. Did you speak your language? A. Yes. I couldn’t speak English. I didn’t learn how to speak English until after I was 4 years old, before I learned a little bit. Then I went to school. There were 3 schools. We came out and one was this way and one was that way, and they were each a Concession past, and we were back closer to the start of this other Concession. So I was told that I could have my choice, whichever school I wanted to go to. So we would go out and I started off at the one at sixty-nine corners. Then because I was given a choice, I thought I would try the other one. Then I went to the other one until we had a house down there and this boy lived there, and I loved going to No. 3 School which was on the left side, but this boy would always come out and try to beat me up, so I got scared of him and I couldn’t do anything because he was quite strong. So I went back to the other school. Q. Those were day schools? A. Yeah, those were day schools. Q. So what happened that your grandmother decided to send you to Mohawk Boarding School? A. My grandmother died. She died just before I was 9 years old. So then I had to leave and go live with my mother in Simcoe. I went to school there at the South School for one year, but it was really a shock for me to be off the Reserve. Q. Did your mother go to Residential School as well? A. No, no she didn’t. Q. Can you tell us about a typical day at Residential School, what time you would wake up, what you would eat, the schooling you would receive, just sort of take us through a day. A. At the Mohawk Institute? Q. Yes. A. Yeah. Well, we always had to line up. We went to bed. We had a dormitory that was 2 storeys. The top dormitory was not used the first year I was there. There probably weren’t enough girls there. We all got up by a bell, or whatever, or maybe the monitors I think maybe got us up. We got up. We always had to make our beds and everything. Then we came down. Then we would have to get washed. So we dressed as we got up with our clothes there. We lined up for breakfast and went out to the kitchen. From there we were assigned jobs that we had to do. I don’t remember whether I went to school the first 3 hours or whether I went to school after. I don’t know. But we had jobs to do. One of my jobs when I was there we had to go in the boys’ dormitory and scrub the floors and change the sheets. A lot of the boys had wet the bed and it was very smelly over there. It wasn’t like our side! And we had to do all the cleaning and scrub the floors. I don’t remember but it seemed to me every day we had to scrub the floor. I don’t understand that, now that I’m thinking about it, why did we have to scrub the floor every day, but that’s what we had to do. And then when we finished that it would be noon hour and we would go for our dinner. I don’t remember very much, but the only time I remember us getting any meat was on Sunday. We got 2 slices of bologna. That was the meat that we had, and it was cold. We used to take it into a pipe --- We would hide it inside here (indicating) because we had a dress with a smock over top of it, and a belt. So we would hide the bologna down here because there was a pipe in the other part that we could set this bologna on and heat it up. It tasted good. I still like it that way. What we got for breakfast? We had oatmeal. They called it mush. I can understand that but I don’t know how they made it in the morning or made it the night before, but when you put your spoon in there it had strings coming down. I don’t like that to this day. When I cook my oatmeal it has to be with boiling water and it has to not be mushy like that. I still like oatmeal, but I can’t eat it if it has gone funny like that, you know. Then we had 2 slices of bread and it had honey put onto it the night before and it would sit there. That was our breakfast with some milk, watered down milk. One time we got some milk and it was in these big pitchers sitting on the table. I had poured the milk into my porridge and I think we had a glass, too that we could pour it into, or cups or something. I think they were maybe those white cups, granite cups, or something like that you poured it in. It looked awfully blue, more blue than usually with the water put into the milk, it kind of turns bluish colour. Q. Was it skim milk powdered milk? A. No. They didn’t have such things at that time. So anyway I went to drink it and it kind of smelled funny. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but there was another pitcher sitting there too. But what this pitcher was was something that they were scrubbing around the edges and they had poison in it, maybe for the bugs or something, and we just about ate that with our cereal and everything. That I remember very clearly about that. But that’s all we had for breakfast, and that’s all we ever had. Q. Every day? A. Every day. Q. What about for lunch? A. For lunch what they would do is they would cook the potatoes and then they would throw them on this table which had metal on the top of it, they would empty these great big buckets of potatoes on there and we would have to peel them. So by the time we got it and when we went to eat, all of our food was cold. The potatoes were cold. They had little potatoes like this (indicating). For supper I guess it was the same thing over again. Q. And never enough? A. No, never enough. Q. You were always hungry. A. Yeah. I was a chubby little kid, but I wasn’t chubby when I was in there. In fact, I wouldn’t mind being that way now. But no, we never had enough. Q. So what about your education. Did you only go to school half a day then? A. We went to school 3 hours a day; either it would be in the morning or in the afternoon. They would change around every so often. They would change around. I don’t know whether they changed around once a month with what our chores was. I used to like to sew, even when I was really little. I asked to be in the Sewing Room. That was the place I liked the best. I didn’t get that privilege until the second year I was in there. Then I had the privilege of working in the Sewing Room most of the time. Q. What would you sew? Did they sell anything you guys were working on? A. No. What we had to do was mend the clothing that we had and mend the boys’ clothing and do things like that. A lot of it was mostly mending. I don’t remember making, unless it was the older ones that were making the uniforms that we wore. We would have that. Q. Was Mohawk Institute a Catholic or Anglican school? A. Anglican. Q. I couldn’t remember that. So how would you describe your experience at Residential School? Are there any things you can talk about today that happened to you there? A. Yeah, I can talk about all of them. I was never really a person that rebelled against anything, so I was quite surprised and quite devastated when this Sewing Room teacher I got to really know her and she was from Simcoe, so I kind of felt like we had something in common because that’s where I was from. She seemed to be very nice. But I don’t think she had any children. My mother didn’t come to see me and I was very lonesome because I didn’t have any brothers and sisters in there. So I guess we all kind of get lonesome, so one day I don’t know whether I wasn’t feeling well and I started crying when I was in the Sewing Room and she asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to tell her what was wrong. I didn’t know. I had no idea that maybe I was crying because I was lonesome, I didn’t know. I just started to cry. Finally she got very upset with me and she tried to pull me out of there. She grabbed a hold of me and the harder she tried to pull me and tried to make me tell her what was the matter I couldn’t tell her. I didn’t know myself what was the matter. Q. You were just a child. A. Yeah. Then she got very upset and she got her strap out and started to strap me with it, and then I cried louder. Then it just upset her more and she started hitting me with the strap and shoved me in the closet and pulled my hair. So she made me stay in the closet for the rest of the day until the session was over with. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to her and I just didn’t have that feeling for her any more. I thought all she needed to do was put her arms around me and say, “Don’t feel bad”, but they didn’t do those things. Q. No hugs ever? A. Never, never. As a matter of fact, they knew how to tell you what to do but there was never any kindness. The only person that was a little bit kind was my teacher on the other side, and her name was Mrs. Fry (sp?), but still she was quite strict too. But she was a little bit more softer type of person, you know. I liked her. She was nice. Although when I was in school there, when I came out I was only in Grade 4. Q. How old were you when you came out? A. I was fourteen. Q. You didn’t get a good education there then? A. No, I did not get a good education, no. I used to love to draw and I still draw and paint and everything. This Mrs. Fry had accused me of tracing what I had drew and I felt so bad, but there was no way I could convince her that I had drew it, you know. So they take their own, I guess. They don’t look at the people. Some of us had gifts that could have been developed. Q. They never acknowledged that? A. No. We never had anything. We went to school and we learned whatever there was to learn. A typical day when we went to school we started off we were all given some kind of oil --- Q. Cod liver oil? A. Cod liver oil, yeah. But we all had it off the same spoon. But we didn’t know any difference. Now when I think about it --- And we had a nurse when we were sick, but she didn’t pay attention. I know I was very sick at one time. I used to come, before we came back from the school room and before we had to go for lunch I would lay down in this one room that wasn’t used and I put my coat down and I had such a headache and a fever, and everything, but when I went to the nurse she wouldn’t pay no attention. She was more concerned that the girls didn’t whistle. She said it wasn’t ladylike to whistle. But we all tried to whistle. Q. It’s part of growing up. A. Yeah. Q. So there wasn’t good medical care either? A. No, there was no medical care. We never had tooth brushes. We never had anything to brush our teeth with. We had a bath maybe --- I guess we had a bath once a week, or something. We didn’t have anything like that. When my sister came the second year that I was there, we had monitors that were supposed to look after them because she was only 6 years old. They were supposed to help them bathe and stuff like that. Well, what she had was underneath her arms her skin had started to grow together and I couldn’t figure out what it was because I started looking after her after that and managed to keep scrubbing and scrubbing, but I don’t know what it is, like when your skin grows together like that because you haven’t been bathed or something. Q. Wow. So you were looking after her? A. I looked after her after that because there wasn’t anybody looking after her. Q. I’ve heard a lot about children looking after children in schools, trying to survive. A. Um-hmm. And that’s just how it was. We didn’t have anything, we didn’t have anything else like that. Q. Are there other experiences you can remember and share with us. A. Just when I was very very sick that time and I just laid on the floor. The first year that I was there they took us, Mr. Snell (sp?) was the principal for the first year, and it was his last year. They loaded 4 of us up in a station wagon and took us to Oshwegan to the hospital and we had our tonsils out. I don’t know whether we needed to or whether it was just certain people that had it done and who determined it, I don’t know, because there was never a doctor there. There was only this Mrs. Smith that was the nurse. Q. Had you had a sore throat or anything? A. I don’t know. I don’t know, maybe I did. But anyway, after it was over with they loaded us all back up in there and we just laid in there. I don’t remember the rest after that, whether we were so sick, I don’t know. I know they put us up in that second dormitory where there wasn’t anybody there and it was kind of scary because we were just there by ourselves and we weren’t among the rest of them, so I don’t know how long we were there. Q. So no doctor ever visited there saying you needed your tonsils out? A. No. There was never a doctor there, unless when they took us maybe the doctor there determined whether we had it. But he never came to the school. Q. He ended up taking all 4 of the children; right? A. Yeah. We never had anything like that. And we never had our playground --- On that side, it had a fence around it, except coming up this way (indicating) and it had steps going up because we would have to come that way --- We went to the Junior part which was on the boys’ side to go to school. But we had a fence going all the way around. We had one swing that was on the tree next to the fence, and right over the fence was still the Mohawk Institute property and Mr. Burkett (sp?) grew apples. He was the farm person who looked after everything. They grew apples there but we never once got an apple. You don’t dare go across there. If you went across and got an apple out of there you got beaten quite bad. Q. Did that ever happen to you? A. No, because I didn’t go. Q. But you remember other students going to get an apple? A. Yes. And they were beautiful apples and we never got one, not even at Christmas time. I think someone said oranges and maybe some candy, someone had sent it in for us, and that’s all we had. I never went home at Christmas time either. I stayed there the whole year. Q. So what did they do for Christmas? A. They put on a little play in the Dining Room in a corner. They sort of had a little bit of a platform that was built up a little bit. We put a play on about Jesus and Mary and stuff like that. Q. Did you get any presents at Christmas? A. No. Q. Did that make you sad? A. I don’t think I knew too much about what presents were, except with my grandmother we never had much money and we used to go to the hall and we’d sing and they would have little presents that they would give out. We were always very poor so we never really had too much anyway. So I didn’t really know much difference about things like that. Q. What about speaking your language at the school? Were you allowed to do that? A. No, we were not allowed to. Q. Did you ever try? A. I didn’t even know any of the girls who knew how to speak the language, so I didn’t do it. Q. Can you still speak your language today? A. Yes, I went back and retrieved it. So I speak and I write to some point now. That was my daughter’s doing because my daughter wanted me to teach her Mohawk. So I started and I found out I couldn’t. I could understand it, I never lost that part. But to do it, to say it and everything, but I can now. I brought it all back again. Q. Did you go home in the summer? A. I did, yeah. Q. And what was that like to go home and see your mother after not seeing her for such a long time? A. It was kind of awkward, but that’s the way it was. My mother worked and my step dad worked and I had to look after my sister. Then I would clean the house and do the cleaning. Of course I did that at the school so I always did that anyway. I remember I had to clean the linoleum and I scrubbed it so hard with everything trying to get it clean that I washed the pattern off of it. I would have money to be able to go to the show so my sister and I would go to the show. Q. Was it hard to go back to school in the fall again after you had come home? A. Not really, no. I don’t know. I just never --- It was just something we had to do so I guess I didn’t think too much about it. But some of the kids when I went to live there, because we were living in Simcoe, some of the kids were very mean with us. They knew we were Native and they were very --- They used to gang up on us and I would have to lock the door and I would be afraid to go downstairs because we lived in the upstairs part and I would be afraid to go out. So really maybe it was kind of a relief to go back, I don’t know. Q. When you were there and you were feeling lonely did you ever try to run away? A. No, but a lot of them did. There were a lot of them that ran away. No, I never thought about running away because some of them got brought back and they got beaten so bad. Some of them I never saw them again, so I don’t know where they went. Q. Did you ever see anyone beaten at the school? A. Yeah. Q. Can you talk about that a little bit? A. Yeah. Maybe not as much as --- But I know in the hallway there, there was a hallway and the stairs went upstairs and the stairs went downstairs, and then it went into the Senior room and then into the other room was where the Sewing Room teacher lived, and in the main hallway was where the other teachers lived. And then the floor above that was where the principal and his family lived. A lot of that is where we had to clean and everything. Those floors in that part were beautiful. But I never saw the boys being beaten, just the girls, you know. It was either in that room. But if they were just beaten, they would start off with a strapping and if they pulled their hand away they got it worse than that. But to really be beaten up, I don’t know. They took them to a different room for that sort of thing. We had one girl there who was an epileptic, which I never knew what epilepsy was or anything, and she had an attack at the table. It frightened all of us but nobody told us what this was all about, so we were kind of afraid of her after that. I don’t know whether someone did something to her or what happened, anyway, but I know she got a beating over it. But we didn’t know any different. I didn’t know. I had no idea what this was, so we --- Now I think it was so bad because everybody shunned her and everything, you know. I had asked what happened and they didn’t even have a word for it, so I don’t know. They just said there was something funny about her. Q. Do you remember seeing her after she was beaten? Did you see any bruises? A. No. But I had bruises on me. But we couldn’t see. Well, we had mirrors up, but we never had mirrors where we could see ourselves or anything like that. And we were always pretty well covered up. When anything happened like that they didn’t talk about it. Nobody talked about it. It was just something you kind of turned away and hoped that something like that didn’t happen to you. No one talked about it. Q. What is your worst memory? We’re almost out of tape but we can put another one in if you want to take a minute. --- A Short Pause --- End of Part 1 Q. We’ll just start again. Can you tell me about your number? A. My number was ten, and we got a change of clothes once a week. I have no idea --- I think we wore the same underclothes, everything was just once. Q. What about problems with bugs or mice or anything like that in the dorms? A. No, not that I know of anyway. Q. Well, you cleaned them every day! A. No. What I remember so vividly was that we were not allowed to have anything to drink after a certain time. A lot of us really were thirsty. We used to have to try to get water out of the toilet, otherwise especially in the summer time when it was so hot and everything. I know it’s gross now when you think about it, but that’s what we did. We didn’t have a choice. Q. Were you ever allowed to talk to the boys? A. Those who had brothers that were there, they were allowed to talk to them. Other than that we didn’t, unless we went over to play baseball or something like that. I think some of the Senior girls maybe snuck their time out in the back talking to the boys. You could see them when they were coming from the field taking the cows and everything, if you went up close. But I never had any real reason to. If you see the boys --- We all went to school together, but we came in a different way and they went out a different way. And the same way at lunch time or eating time, they had a certain door they went out of and we went out into another part. So we didn’t really get to know any of the boys. We knew who they were, yeah. Some of them we admired or if somebody had something different, or something that way, but never really to be able to talk to them or to be in a group with them outside of school hours. Q. So what’s your worst memory of Residential School? A. I guess maybe just when I was beaten like that. And when I was so sick that I had to lay on the floor and we still had to do our work. We still had to go to school. I had a boil on my knee at one time and it was really really bad, but we still had to continue whatever you were doing. We walked to church, which I don’t know how far that was, but it was over a mile anyway, I think, and we always had to kneel in church, and it was very very hard to kneel when my knee as so bad. I think we were always cold. We had the one swing and we had a teeter-totter. I think they’ve got a different name for them now. That’s all we had. That was what our plaything was. And then this group, Girl Guide group came from Brantford and they came and we got uniforms. I was in Brownies at first and then I was in Guides the next year. It was the nicest time we ever had because they took us on walks and they would come once a week and it was really nice. We would go down Burkitt’s Lane and there were stones around there and we would have a campfire and we’d sing songs. That’s the first time we ever had anything like that. I think once a year we went to the show. We all had to march in from there and go into the show. That was once a year that we did that. And then when it was VJ Day, or VE Day that came, we all marched to the Armories and I guess we were celebrating that the war was over with. But then the next one was VJ Day, which must have been the Japanese, or something, but we didn’t really --- We were so young. I don’t know. I just know they said that the war was over with and we would get to go down and march through town and stuff like that. But other than that, we never had anything. We had a radio in the Senior room, and that’s all we had. The older girls kind of monitored that and we would listen to these stories like the Squeaking Door and stuff like that. And then they would tell stories on the radio. So that was our entertainment. We had no entertainment. Q. What about play time? Did they give you any play time? A. The play time, yeah, we had recess and we had that. We had play time. I would like to tell you about our living conditions. We were in the basement. We had no chairs, no chairs to sit on. There was a bench across the one side which held some of your clothes and we had lockers. It was a basement. The door was on this side (indicating), going to the east side and it was like a big barn door. It had great big cracks in it. The snow would come in. And if the window got broken the water and the snow came in there, so whatever heat there was --- Sometimes the wet would come in all on the floor, you know, when it came through the door. Q. This is where you slept? A. No. This is the Playroom. This is where we lived. And we were not allowed to go in our dormitory except at night when we went to bed. This is where we played on a cement floor and everything. We had no other entertainment, unless you went up into the Senior room and you could go up there and listen to the radio for a bit. But not everybody was allowed up there. The Senior girls probably were. There was a piano there and one of the girls knew how to play piano, so once in a while she would play the piano to entertain us. We had nothing else. That was it. That was just it. Going to school, doing your chores and cleaning and everything. Q. And the loneliness? A. Yeah. I worked in the Laundry Room and I worked in the kitchen after I graduated from scrubbing the floors and doing that, but we would still have to rotate and take our time with everything. Most of it was waiting on the Staff and on the principal and his wife and their family. The next year when Mr. Zimmerman was there, they had 2 children, or 1 or 2, I don’t know. I know they had 1, but I think they had a second one, too. So they had to babysit and cater to them and change them and stuff like that. But I wasn’t quite old enough to do all that stuff. Q. Do you remember if the Staff ate better than you? A. I’m sure they did because they had a great big Dining Room table and they had all kinds of good china and stuff like that. But I didn’t work in that part. They had the Senior girls doing their cooking and stuff like that. They didn’t take the food from the kitchen that we had. Q. Did they ever talk about what the Staff was eating? A. No. I never heard. Q. You never heard? A. And I never asked. Q. Do you think your experiences at Residential School affected your whole life? A. I don’t know. I think it has later because I lost what I had. My grandmother was very traditional and my learning that I got from my grandmother was really different. My grandmother was very loving and we always did things together. Q. Did your experience at Residential School --- Did you ever feel that what your grandmother had taught you before, what you knew, those traditions, when you were there did you ever feel that those were wrong. Did you start to have conflicting feelings? A. I think they had that but I think I just kept everything inside and I never --- I just thought this was a new experience and I don’t have no choice for it. I felt that way. Q. Could you keep the spirit alive inside you? A. Yeah, I did. That spirit was always inside of me because what I had with my grandmother was just the most wonderful thing. We used to work and pick strawberries because it was nothing to work. We used to work at all these different places. There were always groups around because we lived in shanties off of these places like apple orchards, or pick strawberries at different places around in Simcoe. They had shanties for us, but we were always working and I was little with my grandmother. They always had in the evenings songs and different things so we always had this. We had this thing. And then sometimes my grandmother and I would sleep outside and she would tell me about the stars and all the different things. So I always had this part. So really when I was in the school it was such a contrast, but to me that was still here. And when I came out I always had --- I didn’t dwell on the experiences that we had. My mother never came to see us and I guess she was under the impression that was the school for us and that’s what it was there for. And because she had to work all the time, so she just figured that was the place for me. But my experiences at home were not that great, either, because I never got along very good with my mother. So it was just as well that I was there, I guess. I don’t know. You do what you have to do. I was always this way that, except with my grandmother, with my mother I was always brought up or just like the teachers say, you pay attention and listen but you don’t talk back. That was one of the hardest things for me to be able to open up and speak up about anything. Usually I just held it in. I still have that tendency today. I have to think about it before I can speak up and wondering whether I’m speaking out of turn, you know, or whether I’m speaking right or not. I think that part has really affected me. It has affected me that way because in there you weren’t yourself. You couldn’t be yourself. The experience of just crying and then being beaten, and not being able to express yourself. I think that really stifles you. Q. You said earlier that you did a beautiful drawing and your teacher accused you of tracing. Are you still an artist today? A. Yes, to some extent. But I haven’t picked it up for a long time. Actually, I’m a designer and a sewing teacher as well. Now that I’ve retired --- With my education I have really had to go back and get it. When I came out of school and being only in Grade 4, I had to fudge my way. I told them I was in Grade 5 because I was so much older than the rest of them, so when I came out to go to school --- I got one year of high school. It was hard to go back. Now in this day and age people can go back to school. You couldn’t at that time, or it wasn’t heard of or anything. I felt so out of place that I ended up quitting and just working in a restaurant and everything. But as time went on I still juggled sewing and everything and doing other things and taking in laundry for other people who used to come down from camps in the summer time. Then I was quite young when I had my first child. In fact, I was only sixteen. So it was kind of a struggle after that. I worked in a factory. Q. How many children do you have? A. I have 9. Q. Wow. Are you able to talk to them about your experiences at Residential School? A. No. I never talk to them about it, and they never ask me. So I’ve kind of kept it. It’s just been recent that I’ve talked about it. In fact they never knew anything. I just kind of kept it to myself. People used to ask me when I went to school, “where was I?” I said that I was in boarding school because it was so --- I don’t know. It was kind of degrading to tell them where I was. At least it was to me. I didn’t want to say where I was. Q. What about healing now? How is your healing journey working for you? A. I think just thinking about everything that happened and I’ve been to a lot of Jan’s classes and Geronimo’s classes and stuff like that, but I’ve never really had a support person to talk to. So I’ve always figured I was strong enough to try to overcome all those different things. But there are still times that people really --- You know, as I get older I guess because you struggle by yourself all the time and I struggled with my children. My first marriage was a disaster. It was a very abusive relationship. But then it wasn’t any different than what I seen all the time with the drinking and everything, you know, so I guess I just didn’t know how bad it was until I couldn’t take it any more and I just thought there’s got to be something better in life than this. So I raised my children on my own. I never got any help. I remarried the second time and my husband now is a very good supporter and he adopted the children into his name and he has claimed the children. But he’s not Native. But I don’t have an abusive relationship. He thinks the world of me and he supports me with everything I do. I’ve really had to come a long way and you sort of do it. Because I think I’m a very proud person, I don’t run to anybody and cry on their shoulders or anything. I never accepted Welfare and I worked 3 jobs, struggling with my children to make a hundred dollars a week to be able to support them. So when I met my husband and he made out my tax for the year, I had fifteen months accumulated of time to go in because I had worked 3 different jobs trying to make a go of everything. I refused to take any Welfare and I know there were people on Mothers’ Allowance, but I didn’t know what they were because my grandmother always said “we’re not welfare people.” She didn’t bring us up that way. The children that I had, it’s not a nice thing to say, but if I had known there was contraceptives not to have so many children, but at my time they didn’t have that. But my grandmother always brought me up and my mother did too that we never give our children away. We bring them up ourselves and everything. So I would never give my children out. I remember one time going and asking if I could have some help and this man told me, “Well, why don’t you just give your younger children up?” I was so shocked that he would say this, you know. Then he wanted to know why. And I told him about the abusive relationship we had. And he says, “Well, you outta be glad that someone married you”, looking at me as a Native person, like I should be glad that someone married me. So I just got up and I walked out of there. I never asked for help again. Q. Did any of your children have to go to Residential School? A. No. Q. How did you feel about that, not having to send them? A. I would never send them anyway. No. Q. Do they ask you any questions now? I know you said you haven’t really had a chance to talk about it. A. No. They don’t ask me questions and I don’t like to force myself onto them about things because they don’t seem to be interested. I don’t know. How do you go about telling them this is what happened? I don’t know. I can’t do that. I don’t know whether I’m right or wrong. I don’t know. I can’t bring them up. All I can tell them is the nice things I had with my grandmother and how my grandmother brought me up, up to the point of the things I learned. But I think because we live on the outside that they’re not interested, not all of them. But I can tell you that I have grand children that are very interested. But they still don’t ask everything, and my youngest daughter who is very much Native. But the rest of them seem to have their own life and leading their own life and they don’t, even with all the things that are going on today, they kind of stay away from it and they don’t want to get involved. So how can I push things on them? I talk to my grandchildren. I talk to them about different things and about all the things that are happening. And they know I’m not pleased with the way the world is treating us at this point, you know. I tried to show them all the history of our People right from the beginning and everything. But you can only teach them what they want to know or if they are interested to keep their attention to that. I don’t know how to do any more than what I’m doing. Q. You’re doing great; everything you should. A. But I’ve always told them to be proud of who they are because that is something I’m always very proud of who I am. Q. That’s great. A. That’s something nobody can take away from me. Q. I’m glad your grandmother gave you that in those years before. You have been able to hold onto it and never let it go. A. She did. I think that was one of the reasons why I could cope with what happened, and I could cope later in life when I came out. And it wasn’t very nice. And the men that you met, they think a Native girl is only for one thing and I had to really fight for who I am and fight that. What I am, I’ll give when I want to, not because you want it, you know. I’ve tried to teach my children that, too. I says, “if you haven’t learned anything else that your body and you are you.” You don’t give it to anybody unless this is what you want to do. So I said just because people might drag you down and think that they can take advantage of us, that’s not what it’s all about. Q. Thank you very much for coming today and sharing with us. We really appreciate it. A. Well, I wish they had more because as I say, I became a woman, I guess is what you say when I was there, and I had no teachings. They didn’t have anything. It was devastating. Q. Did you know what was happening? A. No. Q. So you were just afraid? A. I was just afraid and I didn’t know how to use any of these things that they had. When the teacher came down she just said, “Okay.” She opened up this door and she said that these are rags that you use. I had to go to one of the Senior girls to ask them what it was. How do I do this or how do I do that, or anything, you know. Q. They didn’t prepare you in any way? A. No. There was none of that. Nothing like that was ever done. They never told us how. It should have been the nurse’s place to do that. And it wasn’t even a nurse that came and gave me this. It was the teacher that was on our side, this Mrs. Fry that was there. She was the one that came out and did that. Our clothes were terrible. My feet now bother me and we had shoes that never fit, or anything like that. We had no toothbrushes. They would go through our hair but I don’t remember anybody having lice or anything. They would go through our hair when we first came in because we never had it afterwards. We were even finger printed at one point. Q. Do you remember why? A. I don’t know why. But these officials came in and we had to be finger printed. They asked us all kinds of questions and everything. They wanted to know --- It was funny. They wanted to know who I am. But because I had curly hair I remembered when I was younger they would always say to mother, which is not very good to say, they said, “Oh, was there a nigger in the woodpile?” So they would say that. And you know what it’s like when kids are asking and they’re asking you and they say who you are, I says, “Well, I think I’m part nigger!” That’s terrible, you know. When I told my mother that she says, “Oh gee, what did you say that for?” I says, “Well, I thought that’s what we were because I had curly hair.” Then she explained to me that people just made that comment. I didn’t know. It’s just like my daughter. She used to always think she was Canadian Tire because of that. People get that. They are talking about Canadian Tire so she said she was Canadian Tire. So you can tell how these things happened. Q. Thank you very much for coming today. It was an honour to meet you, and for speaking out. But I know it’s hard for you. But it’s good for you to come. How did it feel? A. Well, it’s nice to be able to say what has happened because otherwise nobody knows. No one knows. And I never really --- People sort of lose interest. And the outside people in our surroundings and where I live, they don’t really want to know. There might be the odd one. I just talked to the incoming mayors now and asked them what do they know about Native people and how do they feel about it since they’re going to be right close to us on Six Nations and everything. They don’t know anything. They don’t know anything about our history. I’m trying to talk to them. And when I said something about our language, they said, “Well, everybody doesn’t speak the language any more.” But I said, “It wasn’t taken away from you.” You had the choice. They don’t understand us. Q. And that’s what these interviews are important for because they are for everybody to learn. There’s lots of people who don’t even know about Residential Schools. A. No, they don’t. Q. They don’t know what it is. I mention it to people and they say, “What’s that?” A. Yeah. Q. So it’s so important for people like you to come out and share your experiences so that people can know what happened and that people will understand and this won’t happen again. It’s to protect the young ones; right? A. Yeah. I think there were an awful lot of things that went on in there. I know some girls --- I know one girl in there, her father was Mr. Snell (sp?), and she was a friend of my mothers, her mother was a friend. So I knew these things happened. I knew when I went in there that that was her father. I knew it. I knew some of the girls that got pregnant while I was there and left the school. So I can’t prove it but I know for a fact that this one girl, that he’s her father. That is proof there. They knew that. There were a lot of things. I guess I’m just thankful that didn’t happen to me. There must have been other people to choose from, that it didn’t happen. I didn’t have that part of it. I have a daughter who is deaf. She had to go to the school in Belleville, and then when they built the school in Milton, she went to school there. Do you know they got compensated for being in school and probably I doubt if they ever went through anything like we went through because I’ve talked to my daughter, and just because they were being cross with them at times, they had that. But they were never sexually assaulted, at least not the girls. I’ve asked my daughter and she said, “No, they hadn’t.” But they were compensated. I think they got $40,000 from the Belleville School, and those who went to the Milton School they got another $40,000. They were compensated just because they didn’t treat them quite as well as they should have, but nothing compared to what we were treated like. Q. Yeah, and how many thousands. It’s unbelievable. So I think we’re really done. So thank you again. One thing I want to share with you. My mom had the same experience that you first mentioned. She’s an artist and she drew a beautiful picture when she was about 6 years old and her teacher just yelled at her and said, “You traced it.” It was the same thing. A. Is that right? Oh my. Q. But she is to this day a beautiful artist, a sculptor, and still working as a sculptor and doing really well. So hopefully you’ll start to draw again and paint, because it’s in here. Right? A. Yeah. I know I should. Q. Like you said, not finding your gifts at the school. They never celebrated gifts in Residential Schools. A. No, never. They didn’t find any of those things. Even I tell you the one girl who could play the piano. She could have taught if they would have been just a little more --- She could have taught somebody else to be able to do those things. And to just even have a choir. We didn’t have that. We didn’t have anything. I don’t know whether they had those things afterwards. I never went back until they had a reunion, which was about fifteen years ago when I went back. Then they had another one, but this one was about 3 years ago, they had --- I don’t know whether you would call that one a reunion, just kind of a visitation because they didn’t show us all the rooms at that time. Q. And Mohawk is still standing. Is it hard to go by there? If you ever drive by, is it hard? A. No, not really. No. Q. I know for some people it is hard to drive by and even look in that direction. A. No. I’ve never been that kind of a person, I don’t think, anyway. I’ve sort of accepted what life gives you and you try to make the best of it and you move through it. Q. Okay. Thanks. We’re done. You did great. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 31:24
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Part 2 – 7:57

Brenda Bignell Arnault

Mohawk Institute

INGRID BRENDA ANNE BIGNELL: …my first name is Ingrid and my second name is Brenda. My third name is Anne Bignell. I married a Shoeloose (ph.) and then I married an Arnault (ph.). My last name is A-r-n-a-u-l-t. Q. What school did you go to? A. Dauphin, MacKay Indian Residential School from when I was seven, probably 1959 --- Q. 1959? A. I was born in ’52, so I’m fifty-nine. So 1959 to 1967. ’66 or ’67. Q. Okay. What was the name of the school again? A. Dauphin. Q. Dauphin? A. MacKay Indian Residential School. Q. MacKay… Is that M-c-K-a-y? A. M-c-K-a-y. Q. Okay. How old were you when you started? A. I think I was seven. I did Grade 1 here at The Pas Indian Day School, and then I went to Dauphin and I was there until I passed Grade 9. I was an honour student and exempted from exams, so I came home and started Grade 10 in The Pas, at NBCI here in 1967 I think it was. Q. Do you remember what life was like before you went to school? A. Before I went to school I was a really happy little girl. I remember being a tease and always teasing and laughing and chasing after butterflies and people and dogs, you know, just being a happy little girl. Me and my cousin Norma, she was the only cousin that I had that was close to my age, so me and Norma became really really good friends besides being first cousins. We became best friends. One of the things that I remember about --- The only memory that I have prior to boarding school is chasing after two ladies, two girls that I used to tease because they had really long legs and I was just a little girl. But they looked like their legs just ran forever. Right? I would chase after them; Marg Wilson and Irene Wilson. I chased after them and I would tease them and do things to them. I guess one day they caught up with me and they tied me to a tree outside my grandpa’s house and they left me tied up to that tree for quite a while, yelling, hollering and ranting and raving because they caught up to me. It was a big joke in our community that they caught up to me and tied me up to a tree and left me there for the community to chuckle at because, you know, here’s Brenda the tease, right, always teasing, and they caught up to her. So that’s my fondest memory. That’s the fondest memory I have of the kind of person that I was prior to boarding school. Q. Did you have brothers and sisters as well? A. Yeah. --- Speaker overcome with emotion A. Yeah, I have. There were nine of us at one time. There are six of us left. My oldest --- I’m third generation Residential School, I have to say. My grandfather, the late Chief Cornelius Bignell, he went to an Industrial School. They called them industrial schools then. So grandpa went and then his children went to Elkhorn and then we went to Dauphin. Some of them went to PA. What was the question? Q. Just if you had siblings. Did your grandparents ever talk about their experiences? A. Never. Not even my mom. My mom says “I don’t want to talk about it.” Q. What about your first day of school. Do you remember that? A. My first day I remember getting off the bus and I remember leaving here. I remember leaving here and all lining up at the Indian Agent’s Office, because we weren’t allowed off the Reserve yet. Right. That didn’t happen until 1961. We weren’t allowed off the Reserve but we were all taken across the river and were lined up outside the Indian Agent’s Office. I remember the little white picket fence and the sterile environment of the Indian Agent’s home and all of that. I’ll never forget it. And then travelling to Dauphin and my first day there getting off the bus I could see how institutional everything was, this massive four-storey building and there were already people there, people who had gone there before me. But when our bus pulled up I think some people from The Pas were there. I think they might have tried to make us comfortable. I don’t know. I don’t have any recollection of that other than seeing how big the institution was. Then I remember crying constantly. The bed rails back then on the little tiny Army cots were thin, but my hands were small, eh. I hung onto both of them. --- Speaker overcome with emotion I wouldn’t leave that bed. I didn’t want to go anywhere for about a month. I just about starved to death. They couldn’t pull me off the bed to go and eat or do anything. I hated that place from that day. I ran away from boarding school. I stole the Minister’s car to get away from there. I hated the food. I hated starving. That’s the worst part, besides the second thing of being there was not having your family, not having anybody to hug you and tell you they loved you. You come from a loving family to a sterile environment --- --- Speaker overcome with emotion I guess they finally took me off the bed somehow. I don’t know how they did that. I think I was really really really sick because I wouldn’t eat. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to do anything. I just died on that bed. There was one little girl that seemed to --- I don’t know. This one girl anyway she just kept fighting with me and fighting with me and I think if it wasn’t for that girl who continued to fight with me on a daily basis for that first year I was there, I don’t think I would have pulled through. I think that girl developed me as a person. I think she did. She fought me. I had to fight for my life. I had to defend my cousin, Norma. My brothers were there but I never saw my brothers. And the food. The food, eating macaroni every day and they put maybe one or two tomatoes in there to feed four hundred or five hundred kids. We learned how to steal. We didn’t know how to steal before but the government taught us how to steal. Q. So you could have food. A. To eat. They taught us how to lie. They taught us how to steal and they taught us how to be bad people. Thanks to that I have to pray for forgiveness now because I did that as a child, and to be a part of life, I guess. I don’t know. To survive. I don’t know. But I did. I stole. I stole from people to be full, to have food in my stomach. --- Speaker overcome with emotion It’s not who I am. It’s what they turned us into be. Now the jails are full of our People because the government taught us how to do all this stuff. There was one lady there by the name of Miss Rasmussen (ph.). Miss Rasmussen was a Laplander. She came from over the ocean. I don’t know if she was first generation Canadian or an immigrant. I have a feeling she was an immigrant. It was shortly after the war that we had a lot of people coming into Canada. We knew she was a Laplander. She let us know that. My baby sister --- They made cabbage soup. Who the hell eats cabbage soup when you’re a little kid? Most vegetables --- Most kids will not eat vegetables. They forced vegetables down our throat. And my sister Edna, she puked up that bowl of cabbage soup into her bowl and Miss Rasmussen made her eat it twice! Can you believe that? I mean, how ignorant can some people be, torturing little people like that? My sister is not normal today. All we suffered and we are not normal today because of what happened back then. I’m not normal! I suffer. I suffer on a daily basis because of how we were raised and the things that happened to us, the dysfunctions we carry to this very day. I tried to be normal. I went to school. I went into Social Work. I tried to finish two four-year degree programs in two years. I ended up getting sick. We have such an intelligent race of people that speak two, three and four languages, eh. I speak two myself; English and Cree and I have a bit of French, thanks to my upgrading. That’s what I have. But then there’s also Plains Cree that I’m familiar with and can speak. When you go to university the majority of professors will tell you that anybody that speaks a single language and is in university is intelligent. Anybody that goes to university and speaks two languages is super intelligent. They’re brainy. They’re smart. Our People are there and we are still considered dumb, stupid and ignorant. We are not that. We are not that kind of people, the way society projects us to be. My grandfather spoke six languages. He interacted with Native people from across this country; my grandfather. He was an Industrial School-educated Indian. That man, along with Mr. Loft, (ph.) they formed the very first Indian organization in this country to pull our people together, to start talking about who we are as a Nation. My grandfather started that with Mr. Loft way back after World War I, and we’re still trying to gather as a People to try and make sense of where we’re at in life. It’s impossible because we are projected as a lost race, a people that have nothing. Well, it’s not true. And Miss Rasmussen, when she did that to my sister, I was only thirteen at the time, I swore I was going to get my family out of there, my sisters and my three younger brothers and sisters. Seven of us went there; seven of us brothers and sisters. My oldest brother died when he was just a young man. He died on my birthday as a matter of fact. And I know how messed up he was. I know what happened to him in boarding school. And when I spoke at the World Human Rights Assembly, the 60th Anniversary of the World Human Rights, Phil Fontaine asks, “Do we have to celebrate?” I get up. “No, we don’t.” “No, we don’t, as long as we as a nation of People that are suffering, that is never going to happen.” We have nothing to celebrate, not until this Residential School stuff is over and done with. That’s when we can begin to celebrate. That’s when we can start to tell the whole world this is where we’re at now. This is how far we’ve come in life. But when Miss Rasmussen did that to my sister, to my baby sister, me and my sister don’t even get along now because I couldn’t come home for forty-three years. The government did that to me. These are my People and I just came home to them seven years ago! Now I’m having a hard time fitting in here. Where do I belong? Who am I? That’s what I ask myself on a daily basis. What do I do with my life? Where do I fit in? Where do I belong? With my health where I’m at now. Had we been eating our foods all along --- One out of four Canadian Indians have cancer. One in four! What is the Canadian Government going to do about that? Or is it one in six? I’m not too sure of my stats, but it’s pretty dam high anyway. Every single one of us First Nations People all have a lumber company sitting right next to our Reserve. Every single First Nation community they all have a lumber mill, a promise of jobs and good health and bull shit that happens after that. Q. When that happened to your sister, did you try to run away then? A. No. Yeah, I’m not even sure of when that happened. When my sister ran away I had a helluva time because her older sister – I have two younger sisters that I’m completely detached from, completely detached from. But the older one came and found me and she said, “Brenda, you have to get us out of here. Phone mom. Phone mom and tell her to come and get us.” She said, “Edna had to eat her bowl of puke three times.” Well, I was just reeling from that information so I didn’t go talk to Miss Rasmussen. I didn’t talk to anybody superior in our school. I phoned my mom. I don’t know how I phoned my mom. I phoned my mom. My mom went to Rick Johnson, the Indian Agent at the time. She sat and she cried in his office for a week and a half until she got everybody out of boarding school. Q. Wow. A. They took us without asking. They did things. How dare they do that to a whole flipping Nation of people. Q. So your mom was able to get all of you out of school? A. After crying for a while week and a half and not wanting to leave. She would go there at eight o’clock in the morning and she would sit there right until they threw her out of there. That’s what they did to my mom. She wanted her children home so bad. I can imagine that every one of them wanted to have their children at home. In warfare what’s the strategy: divide and conquer. Right? That’s the strategy. They did that effectively to our communities, to our families, to our brothers and sisters, to my grandparents and all their children. I’m third generation. How functional do you think this community is when we’re so fractured from one another and so detached. We’re all conditioned to be alone. Carry your own shit. Don’t carry it and don’t give it to anybody else. That’s what we’re conditioned to. Now this Residential School legacy has finally come out and now we can talk about who we are and where we want to go and what we want to do with our lives and how can we make our communities better. That’s what we want. Right? That’s what we want. But to muddle through all of that needs a lot of help. I need a lot of help yet. I’m conditioned to being alone. I’m conditioned to not sharing my life with anybody. I’ve only come home seven years ago and only because my mom is dying. That’s the only reason why I came home. Otherwise I would not be here with my People at all. It took a lot for me to come. I can’t even take a job with my community because I feel that every single person in this community doesn’t like me. That’s how I feel. Because I’m Bill C-31. I’m a Band transferee. I’m labeled by this Band so I feel like I don’t have a home. I feel like I don’t belong here. I don’t know if I’ll ever belong here. I don’t know if I’ll ever be accepted by my People but I’m here and I’m struggling. Q. When you were at school would you go home in the summer or would you have to stay? A. I was with my boarding school friends just the other day, coming back from Winnipeg, and I just started crying. My friends asked me, “What are you crying about now?” I told them. I had another flashback to boarding school. I don’t know how often but I remember being in Dauphin MacKay School during Christmas. I feel like I was the only one there. There were four hundred or five hundred students there and I’m the only one there in this great big massive Play Room and I’m by myself, completely by myself. --- Speaker overcome with emotion I just think to myself, where’s my family, where’s my family? I’ll never forget that feeling of being alone; ever. It’s so easy for me to go back there all the time. It’s easy when I feel pain from somewhere. It’s nothing for me to go and isolate myself and be alone and push people away. But it hurts. It hurts. I don’t want to be by myself. I don’t want to live my life that way. I really don’t. You think about boarding school and how painful it was and you don’t want to do that to your children. You don’t want to isolate them. You want to love them. You want to hug them every day. Q. Do you have children? A. I have two beautiful daughters and a son that I’m totally disconnected from. I gave him away as a child. That’s another thing that hurts me, but at least it was a decision that I made, not one that somebody else made for me. I made that decision. I can live with it. I can’t live with what other people did to me. I can’t live with that. That’s what I carry. Q. How is the relationship with your daughters? A. Relationships with my daughters. I don’t know who you are, but I’m going to say something. Okay? I was raised without my family. I was raised in White homes. After boarding school when I was eleven or twelve years old, they didn’t even tell my mom and dad that they were going to take me out of the Residential School and make me live with a White family. They didn’t tell my mom and dad nothing. They just took me from there and they placed me in with White people, complete strangers. I’m sitting there having breakfast with them. Pardon me. They’re not even calling me down for breakfast. After they eat together as a family and they are eating their breakfast and I can hear them telling each other how their day was going to go, what their plans were for the day, I’m upstairs crying. Then they knock on my door, “Brenda, breakfast is ready.” So I go down there and sit at the table and eat my cold cereal, sometimes with a slice of bread, because I’m just sick to my stomach that they didn’t even call me down to eat with them. I’m supposed to be with this family? Those feelings are just as fresh as yesterday, just as fresh as yesterday. I don’t know what it’s going to take for me to deal with them. But because they were a family, right, I didn’t have a family. I didn’t have a family. I was ostracized from my own. I hadn’t seen my family for seven or eight years. So I started to have my family. My daughters are about fourteen and fifteen years old. One of my daughters came up to hug me and I flinched. I asked her, “What are you doing?” And she goes, “Holy, mom, I can’t even hug you”. It broke her heart. My daughter had something to tell me but because I was so distant, I was so distant from my own children, that I couldn’t hear them, I couldn’t see them. And that comes from not knowing how to be in a family, in a community. That’s where that comes from. When you isolate yourself not only do you isolate yourself, you isolate yourself from your whole entire being. So my daughters, they felt that. What I have to share with you is very very painful. My second husband fathered two of my grandchildren. Because why? I was totally unaware of Indian medicine, totally unaware of culture, totally unaware of tradition, totally unaware of how people interact with one another, how adults and children. I had no idea of how to interact. Me and my friends never interacted with other people. We interacted with one another and we stayed away from adults because we never had adults in our lives. We raised ourselves to be the people that we are. We energized one another. That’s what we did. Probably because we were all above-average students we energized ourselves. We found a way to keep on living and struggling in that world. In the meantime, we have watched our children become very dysfunctional because of us, because of us, because of me, my girlfriend and how she interacts with her family, her children. We had no knowledge. No teachers. Right? So we do the best we can in our ignorance and in our blindness. That’s what we did. That’s how we raised our children and my children have been raised without love. Sure, I’ve given them everything that they wanted in life. But am I capable of hugging? Am I capable of giving them a kiss any time I feel like it? It’s more like I’m shunning them. I’m going to be afraid of how they’re going to react to me if I do that. I’m at a loss. I don’t know when I’ll be myself. Q. Have you participated in any healing at all? A. When you dislike yourself a lot, when you’ve never been part of anything in your life, it’s hard to partake in anything. First and foremost, if I’m going to be taken to anything where I can get some counseling and some help, somebody has to take me by the hand. They literally have to take me by the hand if I’m going to participate in anything. I have to be taken there because I feel like my People don’t like me. So why should I go? Somebody has to force me and I’m fine. This is just one person. Can you imagine all these people who went to boarding school, 360 of us here from The Pas, 360 of us that are dysfunctional. Three hundred and sixty families that are dysfunctional, and that’s second and third generation Residential School people. The whole entire community of Opaskwayak, OCN, is dysfunctional because of our Residential School days right from the first generation, right from the late 1800’s. So I spare no one in my community. I spare no one from that, even though I was chastised by a Minister of this community telling me, “Oh, I’m so sick and tired of hearing about all you Residential School people.” Can you believe that? This is a Minister in our community that said this to me. Q. That’s awful. A. That’s awful. And because I felt her pain I didn’t react the way she was reacting to me and I told her, “You know what, you’re one of those people that have been impacted by the Residential School system, even though you never left for Residential School, you were impacted by it. You’re quite right to have your feelings.” I carried it. I took it. I didn’t react the same way she did, a Minister. She was condemning me in front of everybody. I turned around and had a totally different attitude towards her, a totally different attitude. And I thought to myself, thank God for my upgrading. Thank God for my education, you know, because I didn’t have to react the same way she did. I didn’t retaliate in anger or frustration or anything. I reacted in gentleness. This is my story. This is my story and this is my pain that I carry. The dysfunctions of not being able to raise my daughters with my family, with my mom and dad, I have nothing to offer my children. I have nothing to offer them and they know it. I tell them all the time. I feel worthless as a human being. I feel good about the knowledge I have. I feel good about my communications. I feel good about that. They’re mine, you know. That’s what Dauphin MacKay Indian Residential School gave me. That’s all they gave me. That’s all I can acknowledge. That’s all I can recognize. Other than that, as far as my dysfunctions in my family and where we’re at in life we’ll take that to our graves. Q. Can you talk to your daughters about your experiences there? A. I probably could to some degree. Q. Do you think it would help at all? A. You know, people that did go to Residential School --- If you’re conditioned to being a loving person then you will feel compassion and love for those of us that went there. But my daughters --- I was married a second time. Their biological father passed away when they were just little girls. I married again a second time. My girls are pretty tough. They are pretty conditioned so I have no idea. I don’t know my daughters well enough for me to say what they are capable of achieving. I do know that my daughters love me. That I know. I have no question in my mind about how they feel about me. But what they feel about my life as an individual, I’m unsure, totally unsure. Q. Does it help coming to something like this? A. Always because I’m always learning off of the other women, and especially off of women who are older than me, like my mom. My mom does not talk about her life. My mom teaches me what not to be like. We have a lot of teachers like that: what not to do. Usually people that teach you what not to do are people who are living a very negative lifestyle. So mom teaches me what not to do and what not to be like. I appreciate that. I understand that her life was hard. Mom comes from a family of nine brothers. She’s the only daughter. So mom’s life was really tough. She went to Elkhorn Residential School. Mom and I will never be best friends. Mom is here right now. Mom and I will never --- She despises me and I despise her. I love her and she loves me. But there’s nothing in between. Out of honour, out of respect, we were raised that way. Do this. Do that. Whether you like it or not, you do have to comply with your family’s wishes because you have nowhere else to go so you comply. So mom and I have been battling for all my life, all my life, me blaming her for never being there and her probably hating me because I will never conform to her wishes. Once that battle was there when I was seven years old it has never ended, but we’re still together. That’s a good thing. I know I’ll miss my mom when she goes. I know I’ll miss fighting with her because that’s what we have. I’ll have to put fighting aside once my mom goes and just learn how to love from there on. But in the meantime mom will continue to teach me what not to do and I can’t ask for a better teacher. Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with us? A. Well, I would like to say when the Indian Agent came and got my brothers, my two sisters and one brother, and Patrick, John, Clark and I stayed behind. But the three younger ones went. The three younger ones were only there for seven months, I think, something like seven or eight months. That’s when I begged mom to come and get them. She came and got them. And then from there I was already living in a White home, several White homes as a matter of fact by then. That’s the one thing that I just want to stress is how painful it was for my brothers and sisters. My one brother died on my birthday after boarding school. And when I went and spoke at the 60th Anniversary of the World Human Rights Assembly that was because of my brother. I said that because of my brother. I miss him so much. And my dad. My dad was a World War II veteran. His brothers and sisters went to Elkhorn School. Q. We’re just going to change tape. --- End of Part 1 …like all that stuff. We were raised not to do those things. And then you get to boarding school and you have to do all of them. Q. Just to survive. A. Just to survive, yeah. You know how much it hurts me to have to lie? And from that time on to not feel like you’re a good person because you had to lie for yourself. You had to steal for yourself. And the government just raised a whole pile of thieves and liars. That’s what they did to us. That’s just not right. And we’re supposed to tell our children “don’t lie”, “don’t steal”, and in the meantime we’re telling them stories of when we had to lie and when we had to steal so our children tell lies themselves. And now my grandchildren are doing the same thing. We were raised as a Nation of people to never tell a lie because if you tell a lie it’s only going to come back and hurt you. So now the government has all these people who know how to lie and steal, from good people to negative people. Somehow we as a Nation of people have to pull ourselves back together again so that we can be those good people, prior to European influence. Q. Do you think that is happening? Are you seeing a change in people? A. I can’t judge. I isolate myself. I can’t judge my People. I don’t go to funerals. I don’t go to weddings. I don’t go to community functions because they didn’t want me here. I had to fight for my Treaty Number with this Band. Chief Gordon Lathlin wrote me a letter when I was eighteen years old. “Get off the Reserve”. Well, get off the Reserve. You know how hard it is to leave your people and to be told by one of your leaders to get off the Reserve. This man was the chief after my grandfather was the chief. My grandfather was saying, “Yes, all of you people that are not wanted by your people, I will take you in.” I have documents. I have done my grandfather’s research. He brought people into this community, people that were destitute, people that were suffering, people that had no place to go. My grandfather brought them in. The next Chief, Gordon Lathlin, he comes in and he’s telling people to get off the Reserve. You don’t belong here. Get off. Get off. Go away. That’s the next chief that did that to me. That man broke my spirit, Chief Gordon Lathlin. And I will say it publicly one of these days that that man fractured and broke me as a human being when that man did that to me, he was not a chief. He was no longer a chief in my opinion. He was just a regular human being that had no respect for his people. One day I will tell that story when I’m old enough and when I’m brave enough I will share that story with my People in this community how much they have hurt me. So from the time I was eighteen up until 1995, I’m the only person in this community that ever had to get voted in as a Band Member. Everybody else --- There’s Sid Mckay that had his Membership within a month. Within a month he had his Membership. There’s other people that had theirs within a year. I had to wait seven years. I had to get voted in, and I’m the granddaughter of a chief! So when I’m asked how do you get along in this community now, all of that history, I have that history. I look at the people that made those decisions and they are ten and twenty years older than me now, I look at them and I think to myself how can you live inside your skin knowing that you intentionally, intentionally hurt another human being. I could not live with myself if I had to do that to another human being. I could not. I would apologize profusely to that individual. I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I said this. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I would have done everything to help that person become a whole person again after I hurt them. That never happened to me. I had to get voted in. I had to talk to sixty-five people, sixty-five homes in this community, in order for me to get voted back in. Do I feel welcome here?—No. Do I feel loved here?—No. Is this my home?—Yes. Are these my people?—Yes. That’s what I do. I will not work for OCN. I volunteer for OCN. All that garbage that they did to me from the time I was eighteen years old stays with me. I can’t shake it. Individuals I can be nice to, I can be good to. But as a community I began to think collectively you do a lot of damage to individuals. Collectively you can slander one person and the whole community will believe you and that person’s life is up shit creek without a paddle. There’s a lot of things. I can go on and on with the kind of things that go on because of dysfunctions and what Residential School did to us, but we only have an hour. Q. Do you think your mom would come and talk? A. My mom is disabled now. Mom had a brain stem stroke. She’s also had heart attacks and all sorts of things happen to her. She wouldn’t tell you anything anyway. Q. She wouldn’t? A. No, she wouldn’t. That’s garbage. She doesn’t want to share garbage. Q. The one thing we don’t get a lot of is people, survivors, who have also sent their children. Those stories are pretty --- A. I would love to have it if you could have a picture of both of us. I would just love that. I think there’s other family members here that went to Elkhorn. Q. And they had to send their own children, as well. A. Yeah. Q. Well, thank you very very much for coming. A. I thank you so much, too. Q. I hope it helps to get some of that out. It’s really good for us to hear the anger. We need to hear that. We need to hear that voice. A. I’ll be angry until I get all that pain out. I’ll be screaming and ranting and raving for a long time because as long as our People keep suffering, as long as our People keep ending up in jail, with diabetes, and have cancer now and all of these health problems that our People have, we didn’t get them by ourselves. We got that through interaction with our White brothers and sisters. Q. It all stems from Residential Schools; all of it. They were a terrible terrible thing. A. There are a lot of terrible things. I’m hoping with better interview questions that you can really hit on some of the issues that are hurting our people. That’s what I wish for you. You’re lucky you have me because I know what I want to say and what I have to do. But there are others who are not like me. What I try to do is try to bring in three generations of history. That’s what I try to do. And that’s going to reflect the dysfunction of OCN. And it’s just our community, eh. Can you imagine there are 633 of us like that? There’s a lot of us that are dysfunctional. Canada will not be whole until we as a Nation of people can really hold hands with our White Treaty brothers and sisters. We’re not the only ones that are Treaty. Those White signatories of Treaty days, those are Treaty people as well. It’s not just our Treaty. It’s those White boy’s Treaty, too, and those White girls. I think more people need to understand that, especially Canada. Q. Thank you very much for coming. A. Thank you very much. --- End of Interview

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Part 2 – 10:16

Riley Burns

Gordons residential school

No Transcript Available

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Part 2 – 12:24

Patricia Lewis

Shubenacadie Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Could you say and spell your name? PATRICIA LEWIS: Patricia Lewis; P-a-t-r-i-c-i-a L-e-w-i-s. Q. Okay. And where are you from? A. Eskasoni First Nation. Q. And what school did you attend? A. I attended the Residential School in Shube, Shubenacadie. I attended Indian Day School one year in Eskasoni. Q. What year was that? A. I don’t really remember. Q. Do you remember how old you were? That was a day school? A. I think I was about eleven at that time. Q. How old were you when you went to Shubenacadie? A. I believe I was 6, going on 7. The year was 1957. I remember, because that summer, that fall actually, my older sisters Maureen, Shirley and Miranda, they prepared us. They said we were going to “Resi”. And we gotta cut your hair because they are going to cut it anyway. We all had to line up and they cut our hair, below our ears. Q. Your sisters did that for you? A. They did it before we went. We had been running around all that summer, you know, with our hair long all that time. So I remember we were more or less prepared to go. Q. Did they prepare you any other way? Did they talk about what to expect? A. Not that I can really recall. All I basically remember is the hair cut. That was most significant. But I think maybe Miranda might have told us something like if you’re bad they are going to beat you with a stick, or something like that. Q. Do you remember your first day at school? A. I remember when we were on our way. We took the train. I was pretty excited, I think, about going there. I was with my sisters and brothers and I knew a lot of them that were going there. It seemed like fun on the way there. But we arrived there and I remember the first thing one of the Nuns there said when we were introduced. My older sisters there said, “This is my younger sister and younger brother.” How many of us?—One, two. No, there was just me, I think, at that time. Because I don’t think Marilyn and my other brother Russell went there then. It was me and Harriet and Annette. They had already known the other sisters there, the older one. But they didn’t really know Harriet, I think. No, they didn’t know me. I was the only one. I remember now. I was the only one. And the Nun says, “Oh, another one of you!” She says, “Oh, another one of you.” My older sister there got defensive and said, “Yeah, there’s more of us at home, too.” The Nun was pretty disgusted, it seemed. Q. How many brothers and sisters do you have? A. Well, there were originally eleven girls and 5 boys in the family. But we’re down to I think it’s 3 brothers and ten girls now. Q. Do you remember anything else about that first day? A. Well, it was pretty bad I would say. We had to line up and they stripped us. They made us take off everything. We had to stand there and they powdered us with this white powder, you know. I didn’t know what it was but we were all white anyway. We were white all over, covered in this powder. I learned later that it was DET and that we were being de-liced. We never had bugs, you know. They made us take a bath and put us in these little uniform things. Everyone ended up having a number. I don’t remember what my first number was at that time. But I remember the clothes we got, the clothes and shoes that we got, the Nuns told us we had to take care of these because these are all you’re going to get. And if you lose anything you’re going to get in trouble. Q. So what about a typical day. What time did you have to wake up and what did you eat for breakfast and that sort of thing? Can you take us through a typical day? A. Oh, a typical day, for me was pretty bad in the beginning. The Sisters wake you up either with a bell or they clap their hands real loud. Get up! Get up! It’s 6:30. I would say it was 6:30 in the morning. We would have to be up. Everyone made their beds. I was too young to do any of that. But the first thing every day was --- I was a bed wetter, so I wet the bed every day. So every day, every morning I would wake up and I would get a beating. The first day I was there, the first night I was there I was warned. I remember I was warned. If you wet the bed they are going to punish you. Well, I can’t help that. I’m only a kid. But I wet the bed that first night and when I got up the next morning I didn’t get a beating. I was warned. But the second time I got a strapping. They used a big belt. For a little kid it was a big belt. That was the start of a typical day for me, on a daily basis, the beatings. It was usually ten whacks with the belt on the butt. A lot of times I would be made to --- Before I even had breakfast, or I wouldn’t get breakfast because of it, or a late breakfast, but I would always have to bring my sheets down and hold them up in the air in the cafeteria. Q. In front of all the other students? A. In front of all the other kids, yeah. But I wasn’t the only one. So I didn’t feel too bad about it really. It was the beatings I think that were more hurtful than that. So a typical day --- It varied for me. Being so young and all, being a bed wetter, sometimes I would have to wash the sheets myself in the tub down there after I took a bath, or before I even took a bath, and hang them out outside. I had to go out. It didn’t matter what type of weather it was. They had to go outside. After the breakfast thing, holding them up in the air, and either I would get breakfast or I wouldn’t. Q. What would they say when you guys had to hold those sheets up? What would they say to the rest of the students? A. They would try to shame us. They shamed us, you know. Look at them. These are the bed wetters. These are the ones that wet their beds. And anyone here who wets their bed, this is what happens to them. This is what is going to happen to you if you wet your bed. I remember one young boy there, Lester Sylliboy, he was one of them, too, on the boys side. I believe they beat him once with the strap, right there in the cafeteria in front of everyone. Q. What about the food. What was it like? A. To me the food wasn’t so bad. They had porridge in the morning. We got our porridge. We had bread. We had juice and milk, sometimes, juice and milk. The milk was supposed to go in the porridge. If they had oatmeal --- Sometimes they had Red River Cereal with all the different kinds of stuff in there, I think that came later. But it was usually Cream of Wheat or oatmeal. They always had lumps in it. They always had lumps in them. Sundays were supposed to be special because I believe we got an egg, a boiled egg and toast then, and juice. But a lot of the girls and guys I guess they didn’t like the porridge because it had lumps in it. Me, I didn’t care. I was always one for eating anything and everything, you know. Q. Did you get enough food? A. I can’t say I starved. I went hungry a lot of times because of the punishments I went through, but I can’t say I starved. I know a lot of the girls --- You couldn’t leave anything on your plate and a lot of the girls, they didn’t like the lumps. Well, I didn’t care if I had lumps in my porridge or not. Give me your lumps. I’ll take your lumps. I ate their lumps so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Me, like I said, I didn’t care. I look back on that. It was funny. I saved a lot of lives, I think, by eating their lumps. (Laughter) Q. Taking their lumps. A. Yeah, I took their lumps. And in a lot of ways, really. Q. What about the education you received. Did you think it was a good education? A. I learned a lot. I was smart to begin with so I picked up everything. I already knew how to read and write my name and count to a hundred. I knew all my colours, even before I went there. I think I was in the kindergarten for a week, not even, and they put me in the first grade. I knew everything there and they put me in the second grade. They kept me in the second grade. So I went from zero to 2 in that first year, I believe. Q. What grade did it go up to? A. Eight at the time, Grade 8. Q. And did anyone go beyond Grade 8? Was there a high school in the area? A. Not there. Not there that I know of. Q. Was that the end of it? A. That was the end of it I believe for education. Grade 8 was it. Q. So nobody went on after that to go to high school? A. No. Grade 8 there and you were outta there. Or you just didn’t go back because of a parent wanting you back, or something going on or whatever. I don’t remember. Q. What year did you finish there? A. 1966. I was there until 1966. Q. Are there any other experiences that you can share with us today about Residential School? A. Well, we still didn’t finish the typical day for me. I was still in the morning. Q. Okay. Let’s finish it. A. After the punishment, after the sheets and all this, I would have to get ready just like the rest of them, you know, for school. We had the uniforms and we would stand in line and everyone would go to their class. And then lunch. Q. Did you have chores in the morning, too? A. Well, after the breakfast thing, they would usually assign different ones to do different things. I don’t remember doing anything really the first year I was there. There couldn’t have been too much I was doing. But after I used to sweep the stairs down, wash the stairs down, from the third floor all the way down to the basement area. I did that. I worked in the dorm, I think, one side of it. That’s doing all of the beds, under the beds, dusting and this and that. I worked in the Rec Room one other year, dusting everything, taking toys down, and that. Hallways, down the stairs, washing them, sweeping and dusting the banisters, everything. I worked on the second floor one year and the stairs leading down, that led from the kitchen area. I used to do the Dining Room and dust the hallways. I think I worked upstairs another year. And in the chapel doing all the benches and polishing and sweeping and scrubbing. Everything was done on your knees. A lot of stuff was done on your knees. I got bad knees now from that. I can’t be on my knees. Every time I get down on my knees for any reason whatsoever it hurts, you know. Q. Were the Nuns your teachers? A. Yeah. They were all our teachers. If they wanted to make a point, if they caught you doing something you’re not supposed to be doing, they had their wooden rulers and their little pointers and you would get rapped on the knuckles or rapped on the head, or poked in the chest or the throat, wherever they decided to poke you, or hit you. There was a lot of abuse there, on a daily basis. A lot of the students, not just me, suffered a lot of physical abuse and emotional abuse. Q. Can you talk about some of the emotional abuse? A. Emotional was --- I remember Sister Gilberte (sp?) used to get really pissed off at us when somebody lost a handkerchief or a sock, you know. We had inspections for underwear, dirty underwear for that matter. “If your underwear is dirty you’re going to get punished.” She called us savages an awful lot, and pagans. I never knew what that was. I never knew what a savage was and I never knew what a pagan was. I never put a lot of this stuff together until a lot later in life. That was around 1980 I started putting stuff together. Q. Were you able to practice any of your own traditions at home before you went to Residential School in the early years? A. Well myself personally I wasn’t born on the Reserve. I was born in Toronto. My mother and father were in Toronto and my mother left a few of us here and there along the way, so I was one of the ones that was born away from the Reserve. I ended up getting left there, for whatever reason, I don’t understand, but I know she had to come home to get the other kids. She left me in the care of someone. I believe they didn’t want to give me back. She had a hard time getting me back. Finally when she did get me back I was only able to be home for about a year before I got sent to the Residential School. I think it had a lot to do with the Indian Agent at the time. Big families, you know, single parents, struggling. They didn’t help much with that. I believe my mother thought she was doing the best thing for us at the time. Q. Did you speak your own traditional language at home? A. Not at first. But the year I was there I picked up a lot. I was a quick learner. Q. When you were at the school? A. Not at the school, at home, on the Reserve. I remember them saying, too, when we first got there, “anyone caught speaking that Mi’kmaq language, that savage pagan language – that’s what it was, that pagan language – will be punished. They had quite a few rules. I don’t really remember them all now. But I probably would if I thought about it. I would remember more. So we’re in school during the day and then you get lunch. It was short. Recesses. No, I don’t think we really had recesses. School went from 9 to 3. We had lunch and then we had recreation after, from 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock. Five o’clock was supper time. It was pretty regimental. So a typical day starts by getting up at 6 or 6:30 and you do your --- Anyone who is going to get punished is going to get punished then. Everybody else make your bed. Go downstairs. Wash up. Brush your teeth, wash your face and hands, comb your hair, blah, blah, blah. Stand in line. Wait for the bell, for the Nun to bring you into the cafeteria and everyone take their place. Everyone was assigned a place. Same thing at lunch time. The classroom. Go downstairs. Wash up. Stand in line. Q. A lot of standing in line? A. A lot of standing in line, yeah, a lot of standing in line. Q. So what was a typical lunch? A. They had a lot of soup and stews. They had a farm down below so they grew their own vegetables. Q. Would the children work on the farm? A. Not usually the little ones. I know one of my older brothers, he worked there on the farm. I think 2 of my brothers worked there. And as my other brothers got older, they worked there until they left, until they were old enough to leave on their own. Q. Did you ever get to see your brothers when you were at school? A. Sometimes. We would be outside. We were all separated, you know, boys’ side and girls’ side. Sometimes I would get to see my brother. We would sneak around the back. You had to sneak around an awful lot and not get caught. Some of the Nuns were quite vigilant. They had their places where they could spy, but we knew all their places where they spied and we could look up in certain areas sometimes and know that they were there. We would sneak around. There were ways. Q. What about the evenings, after dinner, how would you spend your evenings? A. It wasn’t just me. Evenings I can’t recall myself too many evenings, how I spent my evenings. How I spent my evenings was being punished for anything. It was morning, afternoon and evenings. I was isolated an awful lot there, I feel, anyway, that I was isolated an awful lot because I was a constant bed wetter. I got punished for losing a sock or a handkerchief, or having dirty underwear. Q. So that sort of punishment went on daily? A. For me, yeah. So I would be made to stand in the corner for a couple of hours, until supper time. I didn’t spend too much time outside. But every time we were outside it didn’t matter. I think everyone was thrown out every day, rain or shine, snow, blizzard, it didn’t matter. I guess they thought fresh air was good for you. It didn’t matter if it was rainy, or what kind of weather it was. The fresh air was good for you. But you didn’t see them out there! You didn’t really see them out there all the time. Q. Are there any certain experiences that sort of stand out for you that you would like to share with us? A. There’s a lot, really, that kind of stand out. Seeing others punished --- The beatings were pretty bad. They were pretty bad. These girls would be screaming, not only me, but I would see some of the younger ones and they would have this big ruler. You don’t even have anything here that compares to what --- I can’t see anything here that compares to what they had. Everything was big. To me it was big because I was so small. I was a scrawny little thing. To see little ones jumping around, trying to avoid it. You can’t avoid it, you know. It’s like doing a little dance. They whacked hard. That particular one, Sister Gilberte (sp?) was really good at it. She never missed, barely. Q. Do you remember having bruises? A. Always bruises. Always sore butt. Sore knuckles. Sore head. My ears would be sore from her pulling them. I’ve seen her lifting girls right off the floor holding them by their ears. I’ve seen her lifting them up with both hands around their necks. She used her fists an awful lot, too. She used her fists. If she had anything in her hand --- It would hurt her if she used her fists, you know, so she usually tried to have something in her hand all the time. She was the meanest one there. There were other means ones, but she was the one that haunts me even still, to this day. Q. What was the worst thing she ever did to you? A. She tried to drown me, I guess. I remember one of my bed wetting sessions, she dragged me downstairs by my ear. She was sick of it. She was going to do something about it. She dragged me all the way downstairs by my ear. She turned the hot water on in that tub and stripped me and put me in there. And of course all the others were following down because it was the morning routine. You have to go down anyway, and brush your teeth, wash your face and hands, comb your hair and get ready for breakfast. So the others weren’t too far behind. She was quick. By the time they got down I was already in the tub. I was thrashing around and I was turning all red. She put me under. I remember choking thinking I’m going to die and nobody is going to help me. Nobody helped me before. Right? And I went down again. She pulled me up in time. But it was hot and I was already all red. I was red all over and she was hollering and screaming “I’m sick and tired of you wetting the bed.” “Why do you keep wetting the bed?” “There’s nothing wrong with you.” “God is going to punish you.” “You’re nothing but a little savage.” “That’s why you are wetting the bed because you’re just one of those little savages, blah, blah, blah.” She’s going on and on and on. Of course I was screaming and hollering and crying, struggling because I couldn’t really defend myself. I was in a helpless situation and in a helpless position. I remember going down again. I don’t know if it was for the third time, but I didn’t think I was coming up. Q. Really? A. I didn’t think I was coming up. I believe one of the other Nuns grabbed her. I know I got pulled out. I don’t know if it was one of the other Nuns, or a Nun and a couple of the older girls there that rescued me from her. But I believe I would have died if there had not been that intervention that time. I seen it happen to a few other girls. It’s kind of hard to understand how they could be so cruel like that. There were a select few that really got it pretty bad. I know I was one of them. But there were a few others that got more or less the same treatment. The same thing happened to me again when I was older, but she used cold water. I struggled this time. I was a lot bigger and a lot older. Q. Did she try to hold you under the water again? A. Yeah. But I was bigger then. I was bigger then so she couldn’t do what she did to me the first time. I had to be saved the first time. The second time I was a little older and I saved myself. I think maybe the Creator saved me, too. I think that had a lot to do with that. Q. She would do this to other children as well? A. Yeah, on occasion, when her temper flared, when she had reached her limit of what she could tolerate, or when she was just in the mood apparently. I don’t know. Q. What about going home in the summer. What was that like? Did you miss your family and was it hard to go back every year to school? A. It was hard to go back home even. Some years I didn’t get to go because, well, I think my mother wasn’t around. I think my mother had gone somewhere. I think the first year I went home. The following year I might have gone home, but the year after that I think I had to stay and every year after that, either I stayed or my aunt took me in. I stayed with my cousins, me and some of my younger sisters, and some of my older sisters would stay with my aunt. They call her “Doctor Granny” now, but I think the most that were in the house, in her small house, were like twenty-seven of us one year, because it was my sisters and brothers and her kids. Q. What was it like staying at the school for the summer? A. Same-old-same-old. It was the same. It was drudgery. It was the same. It was just the same. I still got the punishments. Q. Did you go to school as well? Were there classes? A. No. Some of my sisters and brothers would get to go here and there. I don’t know if they went to the --- Some family would take them in, you know, but they would come back saying they hated it because they were slaves. They were treated just as bad where they were as they would have been if they had stayed. I can’t say anything --- I can’t remember any good times when I stayed, really. I can’t really remember any good times because I was still a bed wetter and I was still getting punished. I had more chores to do because there were less people there. Q. So you spent most of the day doing chores? A. I spent a lot of the days doing chores. I don’t remember too much having fun kind of stuff. I had a few best friends there, but I can’t remember too many of the good things we did. I remember I was able to go swinging a few times, on the swings. We used to push each other on the swings, and then when they get high we’d duck under, take a chance and duck under. I remember one time I didn’t duck in time and I got hit and thrown in the air and flew against a tree, a little fir tree that was there broke my fall. Otherwise I probably would have landed further back. I’ve still got a scar. I ended up with 6 stitches. I remember the Nun coming out. I’m there bleeding and everything, and she came over. The girls were trying to take me inside. “Oh, she’s going to punish me, she’s going to punish me, she’s always punishing me.” I didn’t want her to see me like that. But there was blood everywhere. I couldn’t hide it. I got it all over my shirt. “Oh, she’s going to beat me.” I’m there crying, you know. She came out. She looked at me and gave me a few knocks on the head and grabbed me by the ear. “Look at what you’re doing.” “Gawd”, she said, “you’re nothing but a bunch of savages, all of you.” Now I gotta take her to the doctor. So I had to go get stitches. She was very pissed off about it, you know, no sympathy. Q. No hugs ever? A. Never any hugs, no, never any hugs. Never any comforting from her, in particular, anyway. I think the only Nun that ever comforted me and hugged me and made me feel good, and I loved her, and a lot of the students loved her, was Sister Agnes Marie. She was our fourth and fifth grade teacher. She had the fourth and fifth grade one year. We all loved her a whole lot. We really really loved her. She was just like a saint. They got rid of her. They let her go. They let her go. Q. Do you know why? A. Because she tried to stick up for us, I believe. She tried to stick up for us. They wouldn’t have none of it. Q. I want to talk a little bit about your healing, but before we move on are there any final things you would like to say about your experiences? A. Well, there’s so much more to say for that matter. It was a bad thing, a wrong thing. How could people --- I talked to a friend of mine last night. We were outside talking and he asked me how I got through all of this. How did you start healing? I says, “It took a long time.” All those years I put these people up on a pedestal. They were next to God. No matter what they said or did, it was like God spoke. They were up there with God. Nobody could believe that they could ever do any wrong, I felt. I used to get high, you know. I used to get high all the time. It was during one of these highs, I call it a spiritual experience when I get high, it was nothing religious about it, nothing religious about getting high. It was just being able to be somewhere else. Well, one of these times I was somewhere else and it’s almost like a voice spoke to me and says, “They’re only human, they’re only human”. --- Speaker overcome with emotion I think that was when I started healing. They were human beings and I could take them down and put myself in their place. Q. Are you involved in any healing programs now? A. Yeah, my own, basically. I attend Gatherings and things like that. Q. How about doing your art? A. Oh, I do that a lot, too. I always wanted to be a savage and a pagan and an Indian, and I was. Part of that was the beadwork, the baskets, the language, you know. I never really learned how to speak the language, but I know how to do the beadwork, the crafts and that. I loved the language, the music. Q. Do you find healing in that, doing the beadwork? A. Oh yeah. It takes me back to the good things. It does. It’s a part of the spirit that they can never take away. Someone even said somewhere that I read, as long as there’s one bead, one rock, one stone, one feather in this world, there will always be an Indian. They can never take that away. Q. Thank you for coming today and sharing with us. You did a great job. Thanks. A. Okay. Q. We’re done. Are you okay? A. Yeah. But like I said, there’s a lot more to say. Q. Our hour is up now. But if there is more you want to say, we have the audio as well, and they are not booked up. We have someone else coming right away for a video, but you’re welcome to do an audio. A. I can do them both. I think so. Q. Yes, do the audio. Lots of people come here and then they realize they should have said this or talked about that, so that’s another opportunity for you if you want to sign up for the audio. --- End of Interview.

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http://wherearethechildren.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/18-Shirley-Flowers.mp4
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Part 1 – 19:41

Shirley Flowers

Yale School

THE INTERVIEWER: So if you can just say and spell your name for us. That’s just so we have it matching the records here. SHIRLEY FLOWERS: Okay. My name is Shirley Flowers. S-h-i-r-l-e-y F-l-o-w-e-r-s. Q. And where are you from? A. I’m originally from Rigolet, Labrador. I’m now living in Goose Bay. Q. What school did you attend? A. I was at Yale School in North West River. I lived in the residence there, the dormitory, we called it. Q. What years were you there? A. I was there 1966 to 1967, that school year. And then I moved and lived with one of my sisters in another community, and then I went back another year. But I ran away that year. Q. So you were there for 2 years then? A. Not 2 full years, as I ran away. Q. Okay. We can talk about that a little bit later. How old were you when you started? A. Thirteen. Q. Did you go to school before then? A. Yes, I did, in my home town. We had up to Grade 8. Q. Was it a day school? Like you would go home at the end of the day. A. Yes. Q. So what happened that you had to go to Residential School? A. Our schools only went up as high as Grade 8, and so I guess until you’re sixteen or something you had to go to school. Q. So that was the only school? A. That was the only thing you could do. Q. Do you remember your first day? A. Yes. Q. Can you talk about that a little bit? A. I remember leaving home. We left on a float plane, myself and my brother went that year. I remember mom got us ready and tried to make us look good, or whatever. We were the first ones to get there, and it was totally foreign to me. I had not lived with electricity or toilets and that style of living before. So it was totally foreign. I remember getting there and sitting with what we called house parents, sitting with the house parents at their table. I was too afraid to eat. There was corn on the cob, or something, on the plate, and I didn’t want to eat it because I was scared I might be too messy and they might punish me. I had heard stories from before. My mother had gone, as well, when she was young. Q. What did she tell you? A. I think it was pretty tough. She left at a very young age and I think she was gone for 8 years. She wasn’t allowed to go back until --- Maybe she was eleven and she didn’t go back until she was eighteen, or something. It was pretty tough. So I was kind of afraid. I also remember in the dorm, where the bedrooms were, I remember walking to go to bed because they showed me where my room was and there was this room with all these beds in it. I was the only person there. I remember walking across the main area to go to my room and I heard a click and the lights went out. I didn’t know about electricity and I didn’t know they could control it. I thought there were ghosts. So I had to go in and stay there by myself. It was quite terrifying. Also, too, I think they took me and tried to de-louse me, or something. Q. So can you take us through a typical day at school, what time you would wake up, what things you would eat, the education. A. Depending on what you were doing, I think you had to get up at 7 maybe --- --- Speaker overcome with emotion We had to do all the chores. If we worked in the kitchen we had to get up and get the breakfast ready and look after whoever you sat with at the table. I was thirteen and I was considered a bigger girl, so we had to serve the boys, and little ones, whoever was at our table. We had to do our chores throughout the day because we maintained it. We did the cleaning and everything. At night time we were set aside for studies. We had little time to be free or out to do whatever. Q. What about the food. What was that like? A. There wasn’t enough. I learned to steal. If it was my turn in the kitchen I stole, and I stole enough for other kids. Some of the stuff I had never seen before because I was used to eating wild meat and stuff like that. I didn’t like it. Q. When you lived at home were you speaking your language? A. It was gone years before that. My language was lost generations ago, I think. That wasn’t an issue. But there were issues around --- Out in the community, too, there was a lot of prejudice, I guess, because we were from the coastal communities and it seemed like people must have thought of us as poor, I don’t know, or whatever. We were probably thought of as welfare cases just because we were there. That was the situation all the time. So we were kind of judged on certain things. Q. Was it a big school with a lot of kids? A. In the dorm there were about seventy of us, I guess. There were 2 buildings. One was for little kids and the bigger one, where I was, housed the bigger kids. But even in there they were separated into big girls and little girls, whatever. It was age groups, probably from age 5 to sixteen, seventeen, whatever. Q. So how would you describe your experience at Residential School? A. It was frightening leaving home. I think for me some of the stuff came before I left, the dread of it and seeing my mother crying when my siblings left. I think I was impacted before I went. I remember seeing some of that, and seeing my brothers and sisters coming home and they were supposed to be my family but they were strangers. They came home strangers and we were related to each other. And then knowing I was going into --- Some of the stories people told, the tough work, and whatever, not being free and not being able to have contact with home was scary. I was always scared someone was going to die and I may never see them again or get to them before they would die, before I could get home. It was pretty scary. Q. Do you have any good memories from your time there? A. I’m sure there’s some. I’m glad to be me today. I’m glad I am where I am. I became an alcoholic but I gave up drinking twenty-one years ago and I’m getting my life together. I think some of the reasons for my drinking --- I started drinking. I had my first drink when I was in Residential School, in the dorm. Some of it stemmed from there. But I’m still glad to be where I am, and I’m glad I got the schooling I got. It was no great amount, but I did get some. It has helped me to be who I am today, or get to where I want to go. Q. Can you talk about the time you ran away and how that transpired? What made you want to run away? A. Somehow even when I was little, like I was telling you, I seen my mother crying, I knew that there was something not right. I’m thinking there’s something wrong. They can’t take us and put us away like that. I almost felt like I was in prison when I was there. They can’t do that to me. So I was a little bit older and rebellious, I suppose, so I packed up and I ran away. I have something written that says that. It has been published in a couple of magazines, and stuff. It talks about that. Q. Did you get caught after you ran away and made to go back? A. No. Q. Did you go home? A. I went home. Q. What was that like, going back to your mom? A. It was good. I went home. I stayed home that year, but I went back to school after that and finished. Q. I want to talk a little bit about your healing, and then maybe about what this school in particular is going through government-wise. But before we move on, are there any final things you would like to say about your experiences at the school? A. I don’t know what to say about it all. It’s a tough thing to try to understand it all, and maybe I never will. And maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. But I want to know enough and learn enough so that I don’t continue things like forcing people to do things that they don’t want to do. I want to be better. Q. Do you have children? A. Yes, I do. Q. Is it hard for you to talk to them about your experiences? A. I realized something when my daughter turned thirteen, and I remember specifically where I was. I was looking at her and thinking, “Oh my gawd, how do I be a mother to this thirteen year old”, because that was my age when I left. I have another daughter now. She’s my great niece but I’m raising her, and she’s coming up to that age and I’m thinking. I’m back there again. How do I be a mother? She’s going to be a thirteen year old. So at least I’m conscious of it and thinking. Q. Do they ever ask you questions about going to the Residential School? A. Not a lot, not a lot of questions, but they are all aware of it. And I’ve written stuff and they read it, or whatever. Q. Do you find writing things is the easiest way to express it? A. Yes. Q. Are you able to write your experiences down? A. I’ve got some things written, yes. I wrote a poem. It’s called Gong to the Dorm, and I especially wanted to honour my mother because she had gone for so many years and I’m not sure that she was able to express her experiences. So I wrote this poem to honour her. Q. Do you have the poem memorized? Would you be able to repeat it? A. I have a copy with me. It’s upstairs, I think. Q. Could you read it, or say it right now for us? Or is it not memorized. A. I don’t have it all memorized. I know mostly what’s in it. I start off by saying, “My mother sits by the window crying, her heart is breaking. It’s the same memory every fall. The plane is taking her children away.” It’s about them going to school and being gone for ten months. I’m not sure of it totally. And I go right to where I’m raising my thirteen year old daughter. Q. So bringing it right back to your own children. A. Um-hmm. Q. So what kind of healing are you involved in? Obviously the writing is healing. A. The writing is very healing and talking a lot with other people who had the same experience. Q. Are you involved in any healing groups or anything? A. That’s some of my work, yes. Q. Can you tell us a little bit about Yale School and how it’s not recognized as a Residential School? A. That school, that dorm, was operated by the International Grenfell Association, I guess, Mission, or whatever. As far as I know it was not recognized as being a Residential School, or there even being any Residential Schools in Labrador. There were others that were operated by the Moravian missionaries. And I think what we have to do somehow, and we may or we may not do, is prove that federal dollars went into the running of the schools, the dorms. We are in the process of trying to find that out now. Q. Are there a lot of people who believe there were federal dollars involved and it’s just a matter of finding those documents? A. Yes. I think there’s a good possibility that we will find a connection. Q. How does it feel when you are in Labrador, for yourself and other people who went to the school, when there’s so much controversy about Residential Schools right now in the country, and you’re not recognized as being a part of that? A. Well, it’s pretty frustrating. To me I guess --- I questioned somebody one time, I think he was with the Canadian Government, at this Alternative Dispute Resolution. They were reading in their documents that there were no schools in Labrador. He said, “No.” I said, “Well, I went to a school.” “I had that experience.” But he said that there were no federal dollars attached. But I said, “That’s a technicality.” It doesn’t take away from my experiences. We still went through the same thing. It’s just who did it, I guess, or who they are trying to say is responsible. The dollar bill I don’t think is always responsible. There’s people who distribute those dollar bills. Q. What about the Mission itself. Is it still in existence and has anyone gone after the Mission for compensation? A. I don’t think anybody has gone after the Mission itself. And it’s like things have changed. There are no schools there now, obviously. They closed down in the seventies, I think. They also ran the hospital. But it’s a whole new thing now. There’s a new board and it’s run differently in connection with the Province. It’s different. Q. What church was it? A. I think it was the United Church, or maybe the Anglican Church was involved. Q. Maybe the Anglican Church. You’re not sure? A. I’m not quite sure which one. United, maybe. I was talking about it with my brother last night. I’m staying with my brother here. He thought it was the United Church. But there were other schools, too, like in Maine. They were run by the Moravian missionaries. Q. Who are the Moravian missionaries? What church is that? A. It’s the Moravian church. Q. Okay. It’s the Moravian church. A. I think they originate in Germany. Q. Okay. Well, do you have any final things you would like to say? A. No. But I thank you for the opportunity to share my story. I don’t think I really publicly spoke about it, although I’ve written about it. That’s been very public. Writing is very public, but it’s different when I say it and hear myself speak. Thank you. Q. Thank you very much. You did very well. I know it wasn’t your first choice to come up here. You weren’t sure about it. So thank you very, very much. You are the only one that we’ve heard from, from a school that isn’t recognized. That’s a very important story to hear. --- End of Interview

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http://wherearethechildren.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/17-Azarie-Bird.mp4
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Part 1 – 32:35

Nazaire Azarie Bird

St. Michael’s Indian Residential School and Fort Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Could you please say and spell your full name for us. NAZAIRE AZARIE BIRD: Okay. My name is Nazaire Azarie Bird; and it’s spelled N-a-z-a-i-r-e A-z-a-r-i-e B-i-r-d. Q. Thank you. Where do you come from? A. I come from Canada. Q. Right on. Whereabouts in Canada? A. Little Red River Reserve, north of Prince Albert. Q. What school did you go to? A. My first few years were in Duck Lake, St. Michael’s School in Duck Lake. I was short-changed a couple of years, but that one we’re working on. I also went to school in Lebret, Saskatchewan. It’s an Indian Residential School in the Fort Qu’Appelle area. Q. Okay. Excellent. Do you remember what years you were there? A. Yeah. I went to school --- That new information that we got, I went to school in 1938. Q. Okay. A. Yeah. Right up to ’51. In Lebret I was there in ’50-’51. Q. Okay. How old were you when you first went to school? A. Six years old. My grandmother used to tell me (speaking native language), which means you went to school when you were six. Q. Okay. A. I’m talking to you in Cree on that one. Q. Yup. What was life like for you before you went to school? A. Well, we lived in a log house. In them days there was no power, no electricity. All we had was wood, wood stoves, and I used to haul snow to melt for water. The living was pretty good. Being a young kid, when you’re a young child, you know that you’re being loved by your grandparents and your parents. My dad died when I was four years old so I was raised by my mother and grandmother. Q. Do you remember the first day you went to school? A. Yeah, I remember. The Priest came to the Reserve that day. He used to come on Sundays to say Mass. I told my grandmother that the Priest is here and it’s time for me to go to school. But everything was spoken in Cree. So I slapped on my moccasins, my little rubbers, my hand-sewn pants, my hand-sewn shirt and hand-sewn jacket and I had a little fur hat. But that was thrown away before I hit the Residential School because the boys would be laughing at me wearing a little fur hat, eh. When I got to school all I met was a bunch of little boys, guys about my size. That was the beginning of the Residential School. Q. How did you feel about leaving? A. Well, I didn’t feel too bad because I was one of the guys that wanted to learn, more than A, B, C, D, and more than 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. That’s the reason why I think that I went. Q. When you got there, what was it like to arrive at the school? A. Well, it was different. It was a big building and there was a lot of commotion and boys around. We didn’t have that back on the Reservation. What else? Q. How were the teachers? A. The teachers? Q. Um-hmm. A. Well, to be honest with you, sometimes I didn’t know because I never spoke English. I didn’t understand anything what they were saying, but there were guys that understood English and they talked to me in Cree and that’s what the Sister said. From then on I followed along. Q. Did they think it was okay for you to speak Cree? A. Well, they had no alternative. It’s all the language I knew. And I think most of the boys, too, they spoke Cree. I just want to make a comment on that. There’s a lot of people who said they weren’t allowed to speak Cree. I don’t know what school that was, but the school I was at, everybody spoke Cree. Q. Oh, okay. A. Maybe somebody else afterwards looking at the school maybe those guys weren’t telling the truth. But that’s the truth. That’s the way it was. Q. Okay. And did you have a uniform when you went there A. No; no uniform. There was no such thing as a uniform. I think they gave me a different set of clothes, after taking off my Indian clothes. Q. Were you allowed to go home for summers? A. Yeah. We were allowed two months out of twelve months; two months out of twelve months, and you were only allowed to stay twenty-two --- In eleven years you were only allowed to stay twenty-two months on the Reserve from the school, and the rest of the time at the Residential School. Q. Wow. A. Yeah. I lost a lot of my culture that I was supposed to have. I lost it at the Residential School. My grandfather used to make Sun Dances. But I used to go and watch. They used to sing, like the Native people are singing today, but I didn’t pick it up because I didn’t stay long enough on the Reserve to pick it up. But if you want me to sing, I’ll sing a song for you in Latin! Q. Oh my goodness. I’m very tempted to ask you to do that. (Laughter) A. Oh, no, don’t. Q. I’m just joking. You said you had some pictures that you wanted to show. A. Yeah. Q. Do you want to show them now? A. Yeah. Am I still on camera? Q. Oh yeah, you’re still on camera. A. Holy smokes. Q. Don’s good. He’s got this going the whole time. A. I’ve got a whole bunch of pictures. Q. Do you want to go grab a couple? A. How can I show them? UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Just hold them up like that (indicating). A. Oh, okay. Another thing, I was stationed in Germany for two years, as a paratrooper, in my younger days. By the time I got back from there I was a German, because I spoke German. Q. Oh, wow. A. If somebody wants to --- We used to practice in our barracks how to speak German. Just hang on, hang on here guys. Q. Okay. A. By the time I got out of the Armed Forces as a paratrooper I put in forty-three parachute jumps. We used to jump in the various parts of Western Canada, like Wainwright. We made a lot of jumps in Wainwright and we made jumps in Cold Lake, Alberta. And then we went to Nome, Alaska in ’62 in the winter time. The snow was --- There was lots of snow and it was cold. We made a jump in Nome and then we were on exercise for twenty-eight days with the Americans. We were testing the weapons, new weapons they had, the 7.62 millimetre, firing the weapons, seeing how they would react in the cold weather. And then in 1963 we jumped in Tanner Cross, Alaska, and then we were there for another twenty-eight days on a maneuver with the Americans. They were testing their snowmobiles, whatever machine that moves on the snow, they were testing them. We went about forty-eight fellas on that exercise. What else? Q. Do you have any ones that are about your Residential School? A. Not in this picture. Q. Do you have any in your group of pictures? A. Yeah. Q. Those are the ones that we’re most keen to see. A. I’ll show you. Q. I’d like to see all of them. Maybe after. A. The picture I want to show you, he went to Vietnam. He was part of the Airborne. There’s an Airborne outfit in the States, this guy here. His name is Stanley Lapointe. He’s from Muskeg Lake Indian Reserve. After we got out he went to the States to join the American Army and he was in the Airborne outfit. He got shot twice while he was in Vietnam. Every time a guy got shot over there, he got a Purple Heart. I guess that’s one of the highest ranks they got. And the other guy is from Cardston, Alberta. I think he went to school, too, somewhere. His name is Don Mills. Is that it? Q. Yeah. Good. I want to hear more about you in school, about your experience there. It sounds like things were pretty good. Did you enjoy going to school? A. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know too much about the first years because of the lack of language. My English wasn’t --- I had a hard time grasping onto it but eventually I did. After a while I done okay, except for the few hardships that we got from some of the supervisors and the priests. They were the only things that spoiled a young kid. Shall I tell you the experience that I got? Q. Yeah. A. The worst one of all… It seems like when a person is being picked on by somebody, I think I was one of them, we were coming out of the mess hall and I slipped a piece of bread here in my shirt. As I’m walking out the priest was at the door waiting for me because the priests used to sit way at the front out there and he’s asking me, “What have you got there?” I told him I got a bread. He just took it. And he says, “You go into that…” There’s a cubicle where they had the recreational equipment. So I went in there. I didn’t know I was in trouble. I think I was in trouble but I wasn’t too sure until he came in with the strap. You know, one of them straps that was this wide and about this thick and about this long (indicating). He had a good grip on it. So he says, “Take your pants off.” So I took my pants off. “Take your shorts off.” So I took my shorts off. “Now you kneel there.” So I knelt down with my bare ass. The next thing I know I got the first one. The first one really hit. He would really hit, wind up, you know. You know how they wind up. Six times. At that time I was about eleven years old. At the first strap you cry. In the meantime I think he hit me a couple of times on my penis when he was strapping me. I told that to my lawyers and they never done a dam bloody thing about this. Anyways, that’s what happened there. That was the worst one of all I got. Q. Wow. A. And then I couldn’t sit down. You know them welts, I must have got them. When I was sitting I had to actually sit kind of sideways, you know. That was the worst experience I had. I never thought I would get strapped like that. But in the meantime I was starting to learn pretty good English too, eh. I was eleven years old. The other one --- Another one who used to pick on me was a supervisor. I’m going to mention his name. His name is Alfonse Reikers (ph.). He’s from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. He used to be a supervisor there. He’s one of these people, I think he was a red neck, or some dam bloody thing like that. He used to walk straight, like a big shot. So one day I got him riled up. I don’t know what I did, but he made me stand right against the wall. I was standing there and the next thing I know, he’s going to punch me like this (indicating). I slid down and he hit the cement wall. He bruised his --- If I would have stood there, if I hadn’t moved, he would have punched me right in the nose, or somewhere around here and probably broken my nose. But anyways, I slid down. And then he grabbed me and he took me to the principal at that time, who was Father Latour (ph.). George Marie Father Latour was the principal at that time. They went into the office and they shut the door. They were talking. They were talking for a while. “I don’t know what kind of lie is that”, the supervisor said. But anyways he went out and the priest told me, he says, “Roll up your sleeve.” So I rolled up my sleeve. “You look up that way.” So I looked up that way. Two times he strapped me here (indicating). “On the other side now.” Two times here, too. You know them buggars, when a fella is going to strap somebody they really wind up, too, like that. That’s probably what they did, eh. That’s the second time. Another time we were doing exercises in the school Play Room. Mr. Reikers (ph.), that’s the same guy who punched me, he says, “You come out in the front here and do that.” I told him, “No.” You know, that guy just wind up and slapped me right across the face. Q. For no reason? A. I told him I didn’t want to do it. Let somebody else do it, eh. But he was picking on me, this guy. I went and sat down on the bench crying. That was one of the worst ones there is. People like that I don’t know why they made us suffer. I had experiences that I never had on the Reserve. I picked them all up from the White people at the school I went to. Indians don’t do that, back in them days when you were a young kid. Your parents look after you, or whoever is looking after you. Yeah, that’s one of the --- Another time, another worst one of all, not the worst one but one of them. In the spring time I lost one of my rubbers. You know when the snow is melting and there’s water. I lost one of my rubbers. That supervisor sent me out. He said, “You go and look for it.” That’s that same Mr. Reikers (ph.). So I went out looking and I couldn’t find it. We had a barn where they kept the cattle and horses. I seen this Father, Father Latour coming. They had a rail along the school yard and I was standing there with my foot up like this (indicating). I had no rubber. He seen me but he just kept on going. That guy, he was supposed to be a man of God but he didn’t even come and talk to me, or ask me, but he never did. He kept on walking. So that same night I was up in the Infirmary in a bed, sick with pneumonia. That Sister that looked after me, Sister (something) she says that she kneeled down and prayed for me. I was there for --- I didn’t know nothing for four days. Then I finally came out of it. Then she came out with a bowl of soup and a toast because that’s the first time I was going to eat something in four days. It really went good, eh. So that was one of the times. That’s neglect. Because of the Father, and the supervisor, they didn’t look after us. They would rather see you --- They were bullying us most of the time, I guess. Q. Wow. I wanted to ask you. When you went to Lebret School, why did you change schools from St. Michaels at Duck Lake? A. I’ll give you the reason why. In 1948-49 we won the Provincial Midget Championship at St. Michael’s School in Duck Lake. Q. For hockey? A. Yeah. We beat all the White teams that year in Saskatchewan, Midget age. The reason why I went to Lebret is I was a hockey player and they wanted two hockey players at Lebret. At that time it was Juvenile age next to Midget, and then Juvenile, so that’s the reason why I went to Lebret. Do you want to take a picture of it again? UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Um-hmm. A. That’s me (indicating). I was sixteen years old at that time, fifteen or sixteen. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Point yourself out again. A. This one here. That’s the reason I went to Lebret. They wanted hockey players. Q. How did you like Lebret? A. Oh, Lebret, that’s another new experience because I didn’t know the guys. But they all accepted me when they seen me get on the ice and they know that I was a hockey player so I got along with everybody. Q. How were the teachers? A. Lebret was good. I was doing my Grade 9 at Lebret. It was a good school. The guys accepted me as one of the guys. I played baseball, too, in them days. I got along with them guys. I made the baseball team. Lebret at that time, too, had a band. So that one guy he says, “Here, you play these drums, these snare drums.” I didn’t know how. But I used to play the snare drums in that band. I’ve got a picture of that back at home from Lebret. Q. Wow. A. Yeah. Q. After you finished Lebret, was it shortly after that you joined the Army? A. Yeah. I was out of school for three years and then I joined the Canadian Army. Q. What did you do in that three years? Did you go back home? A. Yeah. I stayed home. I looked after my grandmother. I used to haul water for them, chop wood for them. We were still using wood. They used to have a coal oil lamp. I used to look after them. And then I had to leave them because I wasn’t --- I wanted to advance myself. I had a feeling I had to advance myself. I didn’t want to live on the Reserve all my life, not like the ones back at home. They were living on the Reserve all their lives. They hardly went anywhere, them people. But me, I seen the country, I seen the world. I seen Germany. I seen Copenhagen, Denmark. I seen Amsterdam, Holland. And in my hockey days I went to Santa Rosa, California and San Francisco, and we went and played in that arena in St. Petersburg, Florida. We had a hockey team called the Wagon Burners. The guys were the best guys, the best players in Saskatchewan; not the best but they selected the best to go and play for the Wagon Burners. Fred Sasakamoose --- Trancriber’s note: Fred Sasakamoose was listed on the Chicago Blackhawks website as a former player. was there that time. He played in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks. There was a guy by the name of Ray Ahenakew (ph.), he played for the Saskatoon Quakers, Senior Hockey. Q. Wow. Did you get married? A. Yeah, I got married in my last two years in the Armed Forces. I met my wife in North Battleford. That’s the time when they used to have fairs. Nowadays they call them exhibitions. I met her in the Fair Grounds. Q. Did you have kids with her? A. Yeah, but not right away. We went together for two years and eventually we got married. Her name is Eliza Big Ears. So I went and registered. That summer I got married I went and registered in the office. You know, in the Army they’ve got an office and I told them. The lady there, I said, “I got married.” So that lady came and gave me an interview. “What’s your wife’s name?” Elizabeth Big Ears. All them secretaries, they laughed. It sounded funny, I guess. Q. Especially from such a funny guy! A. It was a funny name, I guess. So that’s what happened. Out of that marriage I got four sons. One of the guys I talked to is the youngest one. He’s working in Utah. Cameron Bird is his name. And I’ve got two daughters. Q. Do you have grand kids, too? A. I’ve got a few. I don’t know how many. I don’t keep track. My wife keeps track of that. Q. Do you feel like you had to heal from your experiences in Residential School, or were you pretty much okay? A. Pardon me? Q. Did you feel like you had to heal from your experiences in Residential School, or did you feel like you were okay and you just went on with your life? A. No. Because of the beatings and the strappings, your mind kind of --- When I was growing my family I used to kind of slap my kids around, too, because I got slapped around in Residential School. You know, that’s the worst thing. I feel sorry for what I did to my kids. Not all the time, but once in a while. It’s because of the way they treated us at the Residential School. It was their fault. Another thing is I used to drink. I drank lots. My wife says she was pregnant one time and it was deep snow. Today it hurts me, hurts my feelings. I hurt right here (indicating). She used to go and cut wood while she was pregnant in the deep snow. She told me that. Boy, I felt bad. I never used to drink. In the Residential School you couldn’t drink. But when we left the Residential School most of us, the majority of us I think drank. It also seems that the people getting lots of money are the ones that have been in jail and never worked at one steady job in their lifetime. They’re the ones that are getting lots of money. I might as well brag about myself. I’m the guy that works all my life. When I go to apply for that CPP, whatever you call them lawyers --- All they paid me was --- All I got was $1,102 after telling them all my experiences from 1999. I told my experiences and all they gave me was $1,102. You know, them people are going to make a whole pile of money if they make a book and sell it. They want to make money on that, make money on us. But not right now. But in about twenty years time they will be doing that. What do you call that lawyer in Saskatoon? I can’t think of his name right offhand. But anyways, that’s the way it was. Q. Can I ask you one more question, because you talked earlier about you don’t drink any more. How long has it been since you’ve had a drink? A. I’ve been sober for thirty-four years now. I quit smoking in 1967, so I don’t know how many years that would be. Q. Lots. A. Yeah. Q. That’s all the questions I have. Do you have anything else you want to share? Our tape is about to run out, so if you do, hold onto that thought. We could put in a new tape if you want us to. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: We’ve got about two minutes. Q. Okay. A. This training that people are giving, it’s good for people that are there. But what about the other people that are not there. They should be here listening, too. They’re the ones that need most of it. They want to hear. They want to listen to what’s happening. And there’s some of them back at home. They went to Residential School. They’ve never been to anything like this. This is about the fourth one for me to attend this kind of a thing. Q. Do you tell people about it? A. Yeah, back at home I try and tell them. Q. Well, we really appreciate you telling your story. You will help a lot of people. A. Yeah. Also back at home I’m a farmer, too. I’ve been farming for eighteen years. Q. Oh wow. What do you farm? A. Wheat and barley, and sometimes weeds! Q. Oh yeah. I have them in my garden. A. Not the kind you smoke! Q. Me? (Laughter) I’m scandalized. A. I guess that’s it for me. Q. You’re done. Thank you very much. A. There’s one more thing I forgot to mention. Q. Okay. A. This happened in Residential School. See this elbow? I never got compensated for that. They never give me nothing for that. This finger here, is just about dead now. Look at the finger on the other one. One is bigger and one is shorter. This one is getting shorter and this one’s got a big bone. I broke that in school. I’m not getting compensated for this. I’ve been asking. You’ve got to re-apply, they told me. That’s that lawyer. I told them about it but they didn’t give me nothing. They say that people like this with broken --- They get so many thousands of dollars and me all I got was $1,000 out of the whole deal, eh. So they tell me I could re-apply but I don’t know how I’ll make out. So that’s about it for me. Q. My goodness. Well, good luck with everything. And thank you so much. A. Things will be all right. I’ll be seventy-six in May. Q. I can’t believe you’re seventy-six. You look good, may I say. A. Thank you. That’s it. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: That’s it. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 29:25
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Part 2 – 13:05

Roy Dick

Lower Post Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Roy, could you please say and spell your name for us? ROY DICK: Roy Dick; R-o-y D-i-c-k. Q. Thank you. Where are you from? A. I’m originally born in Ross River, but now I live in Watson Lake. Q. Okay. What school did you attend? A. Lower Post Residential School. Q. Do you remember what years you were there? A. ’61 to ’68. Q. Okay. And how old were you when you went? A. Six. Q. Do you remember your first day? A. My first day? Q. I know it was a while ago. A. Yes, I do remember it. Q. Could you tell us about that? A. The first day there was a bus going around at the village. It wasn’t a bus. It was a big green Army truck that had a canvas on top, behind. They gathered all the young people, all the kids were on it from Upper Liard. I was staying at Upper Liard at that time. They were going around picking up children, anyway. They took us down to the school, down to Lower Post. It wasn’t very far from where I was staying in Upper Liard. It must have been about twenty-two miles. When we came into the school I remember us all lining up. It was boys on one side and girls on the other side. I was scared. I know that, because I actually didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know why I was going there. I didn’t know I was going to school. I remembered seeing my sisters on the other side in the line. I tried to go over to them but they told me I had to stay on one side and not to approach my sisters. I couldn’t figure out why that was happening. I remember them putting us into the dorms and taking all of our things away, like our clothes and stuff that we went to school with, and giving us some other clothes to wear. Each of us was given a number. My number was 198. I still remember that. After they gave us a number they took us to the showers and we had to take a shower. They started cutting our hair and putting some powder in our hair. I guess it was delousing. That’s my first knowledge of going to school. I remembered I was scared because I was seeing all these people, all these different people. What made me really scared was the Nuns. I couldn’t figure out who was these people, you know, they are all dressed up in black and white habits. After that they gave us a place where they said we had to sleep and they started giving us things to do, giving us chores and giving us all these rules --- And places to sleep --- I remember I was in the dorms and we were all separated. I remember because I went down to the school with some of the boys around who were older than me and from my own community. They separated us, too. We were all put into categories. The younger people stayed in one area and the older boys stayed in another area in the dorms. After that, when we had all settled in, I remember the first thing they done in the morning before breakfast or anything is they brought us into a chapel. They had a chapel in there. We had to pray. At that time I knew about the Creator, but in their ways it was different. Everybody was talking about hell and I didn’t even know what was hell, and the devil and all this, and that we were heathens and all this. They say that everybody had sin. My first knowledge of the Catholic Church was they tell us that we all are sinners and we had to go to church. I guess we were kind of forced into going into a little place there that was the Confession box. They said we had to confess our sins. At that time I didn’t know what was a sin. Q. You were just a little boy. You probably didn’t have any sin. A. No, I didn’t. But they said we all were sinners. I remembered all about this and I was thinking, what kind of sin did I have. What kind of bad things had I done? The first time I said, “I got no sin.” I don’t know what is this. I never done all these things that they said I done. And they said I lied, or something like that. I got punished for that. So next time I went to Confession I made up my own sins. I realized that for the first time, lying for something, so I didn’t get punished. That was my first knowledge of going to that school. After that I remembered that. I still had all my culture and I talked my language fluently. Q. What language did you speak? A. Kaska (ph.). I remember talking to my older cousin, my brother, actually. I was talking to him in my language and he got mad at me. I was thinking, what’s all this anger about talking my own language. He said, “If they ever hear you talking like that, those people there, you are really going to get punished.” I remember speaking it a few times. And yeah, I did get punished. I got physically abused for that, physically. I remember eating some soap. Quite a few things went on at the school. I remember my first time I had breakfast. It was porridge. That was my first knowledge of eating porridge. Q. What did you think of the porridge? A. Not very good. Q. What was life like before you went to Residential School? A. My life was happy. That’s all I can remember, it was happy. Nobody every hit me before, not in my family or anything. We were always together, doing everything as one; hunting, fishing, everything was done on the land. It was like going to a different world when I went into that school. My whole life and everything changed drastically because of the different teachings. One thing I learned down there was all this deep secrecy. That’s where I learned about that code of silence. You don’t say nothing, you don’t get hurt. The second year I was down there I started getting --- First I was physically abused. The second year when I was down there at the school, I started getting sexually abused from this guy named George Mazinsky. I was about 8 years old at that time. How I can recall that, at that time when I was 8, it was in 1963 --- How I remember the specific date was because one day they made us all come into the gymnasium and tell us we had to pray and shed some tears for this person that I didn’t even know. This person was the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, when he got assassinated. That’s how I remember that date. I can’t even disclose the sexual abuse at that time because we weren’t believed. Most of the time I was under the silence of being punished and we were not going home for our holidays. That’s what they laid on us. I held that for a long, long time. Q. Who was George? A. He was a supervisor for the boys. Q. So he worked for the school? A. Yeah, he worked for the school at that time. Q. Do you think that you were the only person that he did that to? A. At that time I thought I was the only person. They make you think you are the only person, I suppose, because if everybody said the same thing at once that wouldn’t have really happened, but because we were all terrorized into saying that we weren’t believed or anything. If we said anything we weren’t believed anyway. We were punished severely. I remember after that I ran away from school so many times. But every time I had to --- They called it running the gauntlet when you come back. You get caught and they had a line-up of boys. The boys all line up with belts, or whatever, and you had to run through it and get hit. Q. Students would hit you? A. Yeah, the students, yes. They make their own students hit me. After that school, I was there for 6 or 7 years, and I just didn’t believe anybody after that, even my own parents because I remember that one day I think I was about twelve years old and this big old bus came around. It was Coachways. They were picking up students to go back to that school. I had enough. I just took off. I remember my dad calling me. “Roy, come back, you’re not going back to that school.” I remember seeing this Indian Affairs guy there. I remember his name, Johnny Watson. “You’re not going back to that school, Lower Post.” I remember him showing me papers. But still I didn’t trust. I was way back in the bush. I said, “Just meet me halfway, leave that paper there.” Because at that time I knew how to read. I wanted to see if it was for real. He came back and he left them there and I came back and I was transferred to a different school in Watson. That made me feel a lot better. But still yet I didn’t trust him. I waited for the bus to go. I see it start going across the Liard River Bridge, and finally I came back. Indian Affairs was gone. I still held a lot of pain, anger and everything: distrust. From there I went to school in Watson until I was fifteen. I quit because my parents were having a rough time financially and most of the time I remember going to school without lunch, and my siblings, my younger brothers and sisters were having a rough time so I had to quit and work in the sawmill, just to make ends meet. Q. How old were you then? A. Fifteen. I went to school up here, too, to take carpentry lessons and arts and crafts after that. I started using alcohol somewhere around sixteen or seventeen because I thought I was no good, just to hide everything, all that pain and shame. I didn’t know how to talk my language. I lost that. The bad part of it I thought I was better than my parents because I knew English. They really brainwash us in that school. I thought my parents were beneath me because they didn’t know how to speak English and it was all wrong. From there I turned to alcohol and started drinking. I drank. Oh man, I hid everything for about thirty years. I never told anybody about getting abused in school, sexually abused. I kept my pain to myself. I was suicidal. I don’t know how many times I tried to take my life. I figured I was a failure. I can’t even do that, take my own life! Finally one day I was tired of everything. I didn’t feel human any more. I didn’t trust anybody. I was empty. I had no spirit. Whatever spirit I had in me left me, and all that. I was just a shell. Until one day I caught a ride. I was hung over, I remember, walking down from 2 ½ mile. It’s another little community from Watson Lake, it’s about 2 ½ miles from Watson. That’s what they call it now. I was walking down and I caught a ride with my sister. Anyway, she was telling me, “How come you’re drinking so much, brother, I never seen you like that.” I didn’t tell her anything. Then she looked at me. She asked me, “Did something happen to you at that Lower Post Residential School?” There’s gotta be something happened to you. That’s when everything came out. I started crying. Then she told me, “Do you want to charge this person?” This person was still alive at that time. “You might as well do that”, she told me. “It’s the only way you can get it out in the open.” But at that time still yet I thought I was only --- You know, it’s a frightening thing to go through. So to this day I know a lot of people who are suffering from abuse, especially the women around. Still yet that’s the reason why they don’t want to go out in court. So she brought me down to the Detachment in Watson Lake. I remember talking to this police officer and he told me he was investigating. At that time I didn’t even know they were investigating the Residential School in Lower Post. His name was Tim Ashton (ph.). I went in there and I told him I was abused back in school. But I had never disclosed this person’s name at that moment. I was all mixed up. I was drinking quite heavily and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just about left from the police station. But the corporal, Tim Ashton (ph.), he asked me, “I’m not really supposed to do this”, but he says, “I’ll phone someone that was in Ross”. He’s going through the same thing and he’s already laid a charge. So he phoned this person in Ross and he said, the officer said, “you probably know Roy”. He phoned him. He said, “Don’t walk out of that police station without laying a charge.” “Do that right now and I’ll be down in Watson Lake right tonight.” So that’s what happened. But at the time I was still drinking and I went to Terrace, BC, where we had our first court --- Not a court, but there was a judge there. It was the beginning of a trial anyway. They brought us all back to Lower Post and I don’t know why they done that. They brought back all these things. After that I don’t know how many men were there, and I went to Terrace, BC. We had the Supreme Court up there. That’s when I first seen my abuser, eh, after so many years when I was a child. They found him guilty. He got sixteen years, or so. Most of the men I went with were all my friends. I knew them back in school. Quite a few of them have passed away. I didn’t know at that moment --- I thought all this was going to open up around for other people. It was a really tough journey going through that court. We had no support from anybody. But a few people who were there are still around supporting us, and I’m happy for that. Then we came back here and we all had meetings and stuff in Atlin. They were talking about suing the Catholic Church and DIA. So we did. Even back then it was a pretty unbelievable story, things that were happening back in school at that time. I don’t know how long we went through court for that. It was about 7 years, I think, 7 years of going up there and telling our stories and all this. At that time I think they called it the David and Goliath court case, because we took on two entities: the Catholic Church and the government at the same time. In ’99 they finally --- In 1999 they finally won that court case and that’s how we opened all these doors for people to come forward. They called us the trailblazers, but it was just a title. Everybody in their own way are trailblazers because it really --- --- Speaker overcome with emotion A. It hurts yet. In 1999, after thirty years of drinking, for the first time in my life that somebody really absolutely believed us, I put everything away behind me and I started on my healing journey. Three words a little girl told me, that was my niece, she was about 2 years old at that time, I was still drinking at that time and I was hurt, even after the court case was over and stuff --- She put her arms around me at that time I remember. She told me 3 little words. She said, “I love you.” That’s all it took. I thought, man, I’ve got to do something with my life. I can’t carry this pain any more, you know. I just can’t pack it. Why am I packing this? Why am I packing this? It’s not me. So I went to treatment in Whitehorse. I remember I was still drinking when I went into treatment. That night there --- Q. I hate to interrupt you but we’re going to change our tape. I don’t want to miss any of your story, so would you mind just --- --- End of Part 1 Q. We’re ready to go again. Can you please just take us back just a couple of moments in your story, if you don’t mind. You were talking about being at the treatment centre. A. Um-hmm. I went in there. Before that I was drinking quite heavily for 2 or 3 months, steady. I went into DT’s at the Detox. The funny thing, the bad part about that was when I went into the DT’s, I went right back into my childhood. I went back to being 8 years old again and that phase turned into Residential School. I thought I was back at Residential School and man, I was scared in there. I was looking around for all those people who were abusing me and stuff. I thought, why does it never ever end? I went out of there and I started drinking again. I had enough of my life. I went down to the Robert Campbell Bridge. I was ready to end it all there. But some people seen me, I guess, and they reported me. I ended up back at the Detox. It was April 6th, and April 7th I was clear of mind and all these whatever bad feelings of everything kind of disappeared. The only thing that was bothering me at that time was my physical discomfort, drinking so long, I lost everything in my body like vitamins. I took up that treatment. I went back home and started taking care of my dad, who at that time was into his nineties. There I started going on my healing journey and I started helping out people. Today, to this day, it’s 9 years now. I come up to meetings like this every day. I don’t know how many times I went to jail before that. All I done in my young life is go to jail and drinking. Now when I’m up there I visit once in a while. Like I said, I told my stories up there, too, of what people can accomplish. Just don’t look behind any more. The good thing of it --- I did lost my identity, but they never really stole the whole thing from me. Now I know I still can talk my language, I know my culture and I’m proud of who I am. Q. Is there anything else that you want to share with us about your Residential School experience, because you have answered all of our questions? But I want to make sure that if there is anything else you want to say, that you have a chance. A. About Residential School? I remember seeing a lot of other people, kids at that time, getting abused. Most of the time it took place at night. I remember that. I remember a lot of younger kids who were crying and stuff, maybe because they were lonely, maybe because they were scared. Because I remembered some of the kids were led into this guy’s bedroom and I was scared thinking they were going to be --- I know in my mind what was going to happen. But at that time I just didn’t know if it was good or bad. I knew in a way it has got to be bad because they were crying. A lot of physical abuse was happening, a lot. Getting the strap and getting called down, a lot of bad things. But I think the worst part of it is making us feel dirty about who we are, and that really hurts, and the way I felt towards my parents when I came back. And that feeling --- I’m thinking that same thought they were thinking of how no good we were, that our culture was bad, that we didn’t believe in their God, or whoever their god was. Because in my culture our culture was growing up to respect people, others, the land, everything that the Great Spirit created we had to respect. That was taken all away from us in school. I was sad. Every time I go around talking to people, especially kids, I tell them the same thing. That we are special. It doesn’t matter what race you are, you are still the same. Everybody’s got their own culture, but it makes them a better person. But once you start taking somebody’s else identity, it’s bad. It’s genocide. They took a lot of trust. It took me a long time to trust people. In my head for so long I thought I was deficient in a lot of things. I thought I was gay, and all this, just different kind of thinking because of what happened to me back then. I don’t know how to be a parent, that’s one thing. I can’t make my own biological children, but I have a lot of other children. I got a common-law wife. I’m sober. I’m not ashamed of who I am any more. I’m just looking forward to a lot of things now. The school, I just let it go. Now I just feel bad for those people who were doing all this. I don’t feel bad about myself. I don’t feel shame about myself. I’m just saying now they’ve got to do their healing. Q. Do you have anything else you want to share? A. The only thing I want to share now is in the years ahead, my future generation, all I have to say is be proud of who you are. Don’t let anybody take away that pride and that strength that you have in you. Q. Thank you so much. A. You are welcome. Q. Do you live around Whitehorse? A. No. Watson Lake. Q. Where is that from here? A. It’s about 300 miles south from here. Q. Oh, wow. A. It’s the gateway to the Yukon. There’s a sign there. I was originally from Ross. I was born in Ross. Q. Where is Ross? A. Toward Faro area, on the Robert Campbell Highway. Q. Okay. I’m from Winnipeg so this territory is new to me. A. Why we moved around is my parents wanted to be closer to where we were at school. Not only that, they had a trading post up in Upper Liard. We are more like nomads following around the trading post and where the animals go. It’s just where it was easier to get food, and whatnot. I gotta have a smoke. Q. Thanks, Roy. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 30:48

Julia Marks

Christ King School

THE INTERVIEWER: Julia, I’ll get you to spell your first and your last name for me. JULIA MARKS: J-u-l-i-a M-a-r-k-s. Q. And what school did you go to? A. Christ King School. Q. How do you spell that? A. Christ King. Q. Christ King; okay. And where is that? A. Capital. Q. In Manitoba? A. In Manitoba. Q. Wow. Nepinacks (ph.)? A. Yes. Q. There are lots of Nepinacks (ph.) around Capital. A. My granddaughter is a Nepinack (ph.) Q. I have an uncle who is a Nepinack (ph.) I always think that if you don’t have a Nepinack in your family, you’re not a real Indian! How old were you when you first went to school? A. Five. Q. Five. Do you remember what it was like that first day? A. It was good. It was scary, but it was a good day. Q. Why do you say it was a good day? A. Because we never got abused that first day. Q. Can you tell me about it? A. It didn’t start, the abuse didn’t start until around October for me. It was one of the Nuns. We were playing outside and I was by myself. She took me by the hand and she took me to where the Nuns stayed. What I used to see was where they used to kneel in her office, and that’s where she sexually assaulted me. It was every week she was sexually assaulting me. I went to day school. I couldn’t talk to my mom because my mom couldn’t talk English. I couldn’t tell anybody because the Nun said that nobody would ever believe me. I was a nobody and that nobody would ever love me. Still today nobody does. That’s what I think, anyway, but I still love my kids and my grandchildren. I’ve been suicidal since I was young. I didn’t think about this Nun until the signing of the papers I started having my flashbacks and seeing the Nun and having nightmares of her and the flashbacks started coming. I ended up in the hospital because of it, because of the suicidal thoughts. So I started writing things down in my life in the hospital from the age of five where she would rub me and make me rub her, too. She would make these scary noises that I didn’t even know what she was doing. I kept trying to run but she would grab me and have my pants down. And then she would send me back to school, back to the other school classroom. But I would run to the bathroom first because I was hurting. I started burning. --- Speaker overcome with emotion Q. Take a nice deep breath. A. And then the other Nun caught me coming from the bathroom and she grabbed me, she grabbed my hair and she pulled me back in school. And she asked me how come I was out there and I kept telling her I had to poo and she wouldn’t listen. --- Speaker overcome with emotion She just wouldn’t listen to me so she pushed me on my desk and I kept wanting to go to the bathroom and would put my hand up but she wouldn’t even look at me, the one that assaulted me, so I pissed myself. I felt so dirty. I had to scrub the floor. I wasn’t the only one that had to scrub the floor. There were other kids. I couldn’t tell anybody why I was wet. I had to go home. I put myself in water so my mom wouldn’t know I pissed myself. People would come over and try and hug me and I would back away. I didn’t want anybody touching me. And we had to trust them! My mom would always drag me to church. How I got away with it was by fainting and having seizures. So I had a couple of them and she never took me to church again for a long time. Then she asked me, “Come with me to church”, and I did it again. Q. Why didn’t you want to go? A. Because she was there, because I didn’t want to see her, or any Nun. I didn’t want to see anybody from the church. Because we were nothing to them. We were garbage. That’s the way I felt. And that nobody loved us. She said that we can send your mom to the devil and you can go with her, and everything. Q. Julia, did you ever tell your mom about what happened? A. I couldn’t tell her because she never spoke English? Q. Even until she left, or is she still with us? A. Nope. Q. She is still living and you have carried this all by yourself? A. Yup. That’s why I said, I hold everything in. I don’t tell anybody nothing. And I still hold all my pain. I hold my pain for my kids, all of it. I started sniffing and drinking at the age of eleven. Then I was raped at thirteen. Then my mom put me away in a home because I didn’t tell nobody. But I went to school drunk. I passed out. She said I would always be trouble and nobody would ever want me. That’s what she always told me. And that’s the way I felt growing up. I pushed everybody away in my life, even my kids. Q. How many kids do you have? A. I have four, and I have eight grandchildren right now. --- Speaker overcome with emotion I have abused my children. I beat them. They feel the same pain I went through. They are struggling today. I had my son at the age of fifteen. I started prostituting at the age of sixteen because I wasn’t wanted by anybody. Because I was getting beaten up by my boyfriend I figured I didn’t deserve nothing, like she says. --- A Short Pause Q. Today do you think you’re a cultural person, like a traditional person? Do you try to get help from them? A. Yes. Q. Tell me about that. A. I tried to smudge. I try and live by our Creator. I don’t like going to church, but I will pray. Because they stopped me talking my language I can understand it but I cannot talk it. I listen. I can understand Cree, any kind of Cree, just by listening. But I can’t talk it. I just listen. That’s why I said that I’m a good listener. I listen to what people say and that’s what hurts. There were a lot of hurtful words. Q. Have you talked to your children today about what happened to you in school? A. I try, but they don’t want to hear it because it’s too emotional. If they see me cry when I talk, they see me as a child, they don’t see me as a whole person. They think I’m crazy sometimes because I talk to myself and they’re sitting there. But I just want them to hear. They don’t understand what I’m going through. They don’t know the hardship I’m dealing with. I’m trying to apologize for what I did to them and yet they are still angry with me. I’m trying to change my ways by being there for them. They are old enough to be on their own, but they still come to me when they need me. But I’m not whole. I’m only half because I was never whole. She took that away from me. I’ll never be whole. I’ll never amount to anything, like she said. And I’m nothing. Q. You’re a grandmother, you’re a mother. You’re here telling your story. That’s courageous. A. I’m still --- I don’t feel I’m whole. I’m not whole. She took something. She took a lot out of my life. I can’t love myself. I can’t respect me. I’m ashamed of me. I’m everything she took away and that money is not going to do it. Money is not going to make me whole. Q. What is your hope, Julia, for yourself? A. I want closure. I want her to pay for what she did, if she’s still alive. Q. What would you say to her? A. Why? Why did you hurt me? Why did you do this? I didn’t do anything? Why did you tell me nobody would love me? She hurt a lot of people, I think. It wasn’t just me that she hurt. Q. Other girls, too? A. Yeah. But I never watched for that. It was always me that I was watching for. I would always try to hide but she would always find me. I knew she would come every week but it was always different days and you can’t always hide. Q. Where did she live? Do you know? A. She lived right next to the school. Q. Oh. A. And my sisters couldn’t do nothing because they were in the high school, right next to ours, so they couldn’t be with us. That was the hardest part. They couldn’t protect me because I’m the youngest of thirteen. Q. If you were to sit down with your children, what would you say to them? A. They know. I told them the story of what I’ve been through. They think I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, but sometimes they tell me, “Mom, you’re too emotional because you’re always crying.” I’m isolating myself in my own home, in my room. Since this all started happening I don’t eat. I wasn’t eating there for a while and I’m a diabetic. Finally I just had to put myself in. I couldn’t take any more. My family threw me away. I also did a suicide four years ago, over four years ago. I attempted suicide. I have nothing to live for. My children don’t --- Because my kids --- They step all over me emotionally and physically. --- Speaker overcome with emotion That’s why I say I can’t live like this any more. I’m fighting for my life. Lorraine has been the one helping me. Q. Who is Lorraine? A. Lorraine Stone. I told her she was my hero. She directed me to a lawyer and to a psychiatrist, I mean to a therapist. I see Lynne every week because I’ve got so much hurt. But I need closure. So I figured if I do this, maybe it will be closer if I spoke it out and get it out in the open, what they did. Q. How old were you when you left that school? A. Nine. And then I started having my kids, but the abuse didn’t stop there. The sexual abuse still kept on, with his brothers, until I left. That was when my daughter was six years old when I left. And then we moved to Winnipeg and my kids were sexually assaulted there, too. And more trauma. We moved out of there and we moved back to our other house and they were sexually abused again right there, by family members. Then we moved back to my home town and my daughter was sexually assaulted by two of them; again. My kids were struggling. My girl is an alcoholic. One of them is a drug addict. They are both fighting for their lives. They don’t know where to go. They don’t who they can depend on. My daughter is promiscuous. She would rather choose her boyfriends over her kids. That’s an awful feeling. But when I look at her I look at myself, the way I was, and I hate it. I thought everything would be okay if they went to counseling but it didn’t change nothing. Q. It takes more time. A. I’ve been seeing the doctor and telling him I’m suicidal and he wouldn’t listen to me either. “Do you have a plan?” I said, “No, I don’t.” I said that if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. It’s not going to be planned out. I’m just going to do it. And he kept giving me pills. So finally I just took them. My son found me. I was drinking, I was gambling and I went to drugs, crack cocaine. Then they took my little girl away. Then I went to the suicide. That’s when I couldn’t take no more. Q. And now you’re in therapy you’re all right? A. Yeah. Q. Counseling, and you’re going to see a Traditionalist, too? A. Yeah. Q. You’re doing everything that you’re supposed to do. A. I’ve got supports from all over. I’m fighting for myself, trying to find me. I’m trying to get the kids to see I am different. I’m not the same person I was. I keep my anger in. It doesn’t come out. Q. You control it? A. No. I want my anger to come out so I can scream it out, but I can’t because I hold everything in. I wish I could get it out just for once, just to let it out, not to yell at my kids or my grandchildren, or anybody, just me. That’s what I want is to get these Nuns out of my life and this Catholic church. Q. Well, you know what, when you first came in here, this is how I know they’re not winning, because when you first sat down you wouldn’t look at me but now you’re looking at me. That means that talking about it works. A. It does. But there’s still a lot of pain. Q. I don’t blame you. A. But I’m writing things down and I’m letting it go. But there’s still a lot of work that I have to do with my kids and for me. Q. Is there anything else that you would like to add before we wrap? A. No. I’m kind of glad I did this. Q. Do you feel better? A. Yeah. Q. How are you feeling? A. Tired. Drained. I feel like something has lifted. But I’m happy. Q. I’m really proud of you. This is hardest thing to ask people to do and it means so much to me that you can leave it here with us. I’ll do the best I can to put it away from you. A. Yeah. I feel a lot better. Q. I think a lot of women can learn from your story, a lot of children, especially young mothers. They need to know that they’re not to blame. Right? That’s what I learned from you today. A. I know there’s a lot of shame and a lot of guilt that I live with. But I’m not going to let it beat me. Q. No. Thanks, Julia. Take a nice deep breath. Have some water. You did a really good job. Your interview was perfect. Your voice came across really nice and you look great on camera. You look good. I’ll remember this for a long time. You can keep that. Do you want to smudge before you go back? A. No. Q. You’re all right? A. Yeah. Q. Okay. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 24:25

Jennifer Wood

Portage Indian Residential School

No Transcript Available

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Part 1 – 29:55
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Part 2 – 21:27

David Striped Wolf

St. Mary’s Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: We’ll start by getting you to say your name and spell it so we have it for the video. DAVID STRIPED WOLF: My English name? Q. Yes. DAVID STRIPEDWOLF: David Stripedwolf. Q. Can you spell that please? A. S-t-r-i-p-e-d W-o-l-f. Q. Where are you from, David? A. Standoff, also known as the Blood Reserve. Q. And which Residential School did you attend? A. St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School. It’s on the Blood Reserve. Q. How old were you when you started there? A. Ten. Q. And how many years were you there? A. I was there until I was sixteen. I stayed there six years. Q. Do you remember what it was like when you first started? Do you remember your first day and why you went? A. I didn’t really understand. I knew I was going to be away from my home and my community. My grandparents kind of prepared me about what to expect. They kind of helped having that feeling you are going to the unknown. I was only ten years old. But the fear, the unknown --- Maybe I wasn’t that mature to understand. When I was brought there I was crying. My grandparents told me he had that red letter. He cannot stop. He tried to fight going to Residential School for me but he said I would go to jail because of this red letter. They called it a red letter because it was kind of red or pink. The “black robes” are coming for you. They bring you to school. They said they would bring me to school. I was brought in a wagon with a team of horses to school. They prepared me. They bought me new clothes to go to school. My sister was ahead of me, about a year or two ahead. But she kind of prepared me what to expect, and some of my cousins had been ahead of me. They tried to tell me what I’m going to see and feel, making it more easy entering into that new world. I was brought there but I didn’t want to go. I was held onto by my parents but the Priest and the Nuns were very kind and talked to me. My parents bought me some candies and oranges and stuff, because I always had them at home. Anyways, as soon as they left the Nuns changed their attitude. They slapped me around a little bit to stop me crying. They were very nice when our parents were there. I always remember that. As soon as they walked away they slapped me on the head. “You stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” That was the message I had but I wasn’t speaking English. But I was told by the other boys what the Nun was saying. They said, “You had better listen.” They were talking to me in Blackfoot. Of course the older boys are there and they kind of tried to help me. These are the first experiences I got into. And of course the clothes I had were taken off and they issued me some different school clothes. I always remember that we all had the same coloured shirts and same coloured pants. I remember the shirt they gave me was kind of yellow. Everybody had yellow stripes. You couldn’t tell who was who. We all looked the same. That was one of my first experiences. It was kind of a strange world, a negative experience. I seen younger kids were crying. We were all sent to bed early. At that time in the fall there was still a lot of light. A lot of these other young ones were all crying. They called it the small boys’ room, way up at the top of that school. A lot of us were crying and of course the Nun was walking around yelling. This I never experienced at home. The next morning some of the younger ones --- Some were about six years old, younger than me, kind of wet their bed. But the older boys would make them clean it up. These are the things that happened when I first got into the school. And there was the language. I didn’t speak English yet but the older boys kind of interpreted and explained things to me, where I’m going to go and what they’re saying in this strange language. Q. What happened if they heard you speak in your language? A. At the time I was still young but I guess it became kind of a rule that we cannot speak our language. But I was young, still. I had not learned English. But it was forbidden. I guess they couldn’t help it because these older boys had to interpret, talk to me in my language, because I can’t speak English. Anyways, a lot of things we were told, like to kneel down. As soon as we got up we were told to kneel down. The boys used to tell me you are supposed to kneel down beside your bed. As soon as we got up we’re going to pray. But of course I don’t understand the language and the Nun was praying and the other boys would kind of respond, or reply something. The Nun would be talking. To me I wouldn’t say a thing for prayers. But I got down, of course. We all went to our class and here again we prayed. I remember Father (something) was the Priest. He tried to talk in Blackfoot a little bit, but not much. We could understand what he was trying to say, Father (something). I guess they called it Catechism before we started doing the other work. Anyways I never seen my parents after, or anybody. Today I would say it was a prison. Q. So you never went home in the summer or for holidays? A. Never went. I never seen my clothes. I was told my parents could come on Sunday to visit. There was a little room there. But of course having only a wagon and a team of horses and being far away they never came around until about a month later. Just my father came to see me for a while and he gave me some candies. I was crying. I remember when he was going to go I grabbed his leg, you know. Of course the Nun was very nice. As soon as he went the Nun slapped me around and made me sit down in the corner. I was sent to bed early because I was a bad boy, without my meal. I remember that. Then of course they scared me, the way I was treated. I started to cry. I remember all this. Those other younger ones too had the same treatment, slapped around and sent to bed. Q. Did you ever think of running away or did you ever try? A. I thought about it but I was too young. I never went home. It was Christmas and I was allowed one week at Christmas time when we were able to go home. They would pick us up and right after Christmas we were sent back. And the same thing we never went home until the end of June. We spent all that time --- These are the other experiences I had. Then I was told that I cannot be speaking my language. The way I was brought up --- I was brought up with a lot of things like ceremonies. I was forbidden all these things. We were told it was evil and devil worship. They taught just the Christian way. I could never understand it. I was taught to speak in Latin. I became an altar boy. I was too young and I didn’t know the language, but I learned how to memorize the sound and respond at a certain place when I hear the Priest. I would respond. I was kind of practicing it. They showed us how to be an altar boy. I was too young. But I never could understand. These are the kind of things that --- Then of course they started introducing movies; cowboys and Indians. The good guys were the Whites. We were the savages. I was too young to see that. Hopalong Cassidy and all those old cowboy movies. They really put down our culture by the things they say. It was defective. It was not a good culture. This is the way. If we got caught after I started learning to speak English I was told that I cannot talk. If I get caught talking my language I wouldn’t maybe be allowed to go home any more, like at Christmas which was the only time we get to go home. I would never see my parents. It just happened to me. But my grandparents were kind of (something) just took me out of the school. I couldn’t go home. I was too young. But they didn’t actually bring me home for a few days and bring me back to school. These are the early experiences I had. These six years I spent I felt ashamed to be an Indian. I was always looking up to the Whites. Even our schoolbooks talked about Columbus discovered the New World and the savage people. You see a picture of Native people, dirty filthy --- How do you know how they looked back then? Then you see the White guys and they are good guys. Then I started going down and feeling ashamed. Why am I an Indian? After all those years they spent putting that in my head and they started talking about heaven and hell, I never really could understand it. But anyways even today I don’t understand the Christians. I was there for six years. But we were allowed to go home for about a month in the summer. Of course we learned to do a lot of things at the school; work, janitor work, washing and sometimes we would go out and help in the barns. Sometimes we helped at the teacher’s house cleaning the yard. But we were kind of forbidden to mix with the girls. Q. I was going to ask you if you got to see your sister? A. Pardon? Q. Did you get to see your sister at all? A. Not much. Every chance they got they come to me and ask how I was doing. Sometimes I would start crying. They were just like a mother. We looked up to them. But the boys were kind of forbidden to mix with the girls. We were segregated over there. They’ve got their own yard and we’ve got our own. The older boys were segregated, too. They’ve got their yard. They called it the Junior boys. The older residents couldn’t look after us because the small boys were here and the big boys had different recreation rooms. The small, younger boys had that. As soon as you get older you kind of go --- It always reminded me of the prisons in Canada. You get there, you know, and they give you a badge. But I remember I was hungry. THE INTERVIEWER: Cathy, you were saying that his wife wanted to interject and add some stories that he told her. She wanted to remind him. (David Striped Wolf’s wife) He’s not getting into they can’t even talk in the Dining Room. And if a kid wets his bed he had to carry his blankets through the Dining Room. He had to carry them if he had a wet bed. And you can’t even talk your language. They get strapped or they get punished. They only had certain hours to go to the bathroom and they can’t get out of their Dorm to go to the bathroom. They were not allowed to drink a lot of water. See, he left all these out. Q. Are there some specific memories like that you would like to share? A. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it. --- Speaker overcome with emotion. (David Striped Wolf’s Wife) Sometimes he doesn’t like to talk about it. It brings back bad memories. He doesn’t like to break down. --- A Short Pause A. Anyways, these are the things that we went through. But what my wife was saying about the abuse, the physical and mental abuse, the loneliness we went through and seeing the other young kids, you feel helpless because you can’t help them. You were forbidden from doing that. You see the younger boys abused. There are a lot of things today that I didn’t know because there’s no physical contact to hug somebody. We were forbidden to go and hug somebody or shake hands. There was no contact. You’re a six year old boy or a seven year old boy and you grew up like that. I was like that. A lot of us have problems showing affection to our kids. Sometimes I wanted to hug my kids but I just didn’t. I wasn’t doing that for some time. I love my kids but I wasn’t the hugging type. Or even to communicate with them. My wife was able to talk to them and hug them and she never really experienced the things we went through. But today I hug my grand kids but sometimes you feel it. I want a hug. The emptiness you feel. Today I have grand kids and I’m able to do that now myself and hug them, talk to them. Q. How would you describe your healing journey since Residential School? A. These are the hurts you go through when you are abused. Of course I started running away from school. As soon as I grew older I was a little wiser. You grow up and start stealing food because I was hungry and stuff like that. We learned how to fight back. I started running away from school when I was about fifteen years old. I started running away. But I would get caught. The cops would be looking for me and I would get caught and they would bring me back. Then I would be put in with the small boys because they would be watched. They would take my shoes away. But sometimes I would just take off with no shoes! As soon as I was sixteen I just wanted to get out of there. I went out of there in ’59. I just walked out. (David Striped Wolf’s Wife) Talk about your healing journey. A. Then of course my grandmother was still alive on my father’s side and on my mother’s side they were still alive. They were still into the culture, the ceremonies. Of course I started drinking. When I came out of the school I had no self esteem. I was very ashamed. I couldn’t speak English. I was only at Grade 8 level. But I still couldn’t. I was very ashamed that I might make a mistake because as soon as you speak English and you don’t speak correctly, you get slapped around. So I can’t really talk in front of other people. Then of course I got all mixed up. A lot of us got into alcohol. We discovered it. My grandparents were very shocked because I was completely changed. I had no respect for my sisters any more. I learned to swear in English. My grandmother was very shocked. I was totally different inside. My grandmother was saying I wasn’t the same boy she had raised. What did they do to you at that school? What did they teach you? As soon as we got older we knew a lot of things in English that we could swear. A lot of us were doing that. I started working for the farmers and ranchers to earn money. I learned more English from them. They taught me how to do a lot of work; mechanic work, welding. But I was drinking a lot, every pay day I was drinking. I was lost. My wife was into drinking. But it got so bad that we had kids --- One of my friends came and he told me that he had a religion and perhaps I should join him going there as a partner. That was the Horn Society. He said it would help me. You need to get back. So I went in there with him, or by myself. I went back. I started going to Elders, kind of reorientating to my way of life and culture. So it took me a whole year to sit down with the Elders and listen to them. I spent hours. Once a month all of us would gather together and the Elders come in and we continued. Every few days I would visit an Elder. We spent hours talking. They kind of prepared me because I was going to join this society. They started talking about my way of life, the marriage part, my companion, what she is to me and my kids. So this took a whole year. Q. I’m sorry to interrupt you. We just have to change tapes. We will change the tape quickly and then we can continue on. --- End of Part 1 --- Transcriber’s Note: Tape B2 identified as David Striped Wolf is a duplicate of Tape B1. The story does not continue.

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Part 1 – 29:11

Johnny Brass

Gordons residential school

THE INTERVIEWER: Johnny, I’ll ask you about your family. Who in your family went to Residential School? JOHNNY BRASS: Everyone on my mother’s side of the family; my mother, my aunts, my uncles and my grandparents. Q. Did they ever talk about their experience? A. Very little, other than my mother talked about it. Q. What did she say? A. She talked more about the different things that had happened to her while she was in school, the physical abuse. It was more about that than about the good things that may have happened there for her. It was more about those experiences and the trauma. Those are the things that I used to hear about from her. She went there for ten years. Q. What school was that? A. Gordon’s. Q. Is your mother still alive? A. No, she isn’t. She has been deceased now for it must be about ten years, I think. Q. And your uncles and aunties who went, did they speak about their experiences? A. No. Actually I have an aunt in Vancouver and an aunt out in Saskatchewan and an uncle in Saskatchewan. They are the only ones that are living now, and not really. They don’t talk about it a lot. I’ve always questioned a little bit around it but I don’t get a lot back from it. More of it came from my mom and my deceased aunt, from about 2 years ago, who used to talk about it. Those 2 were 2 years apart so they pretty well went to school the whole time together. So their experiences and things that happened were very similar. I guess maybe the one thing I was really grateful for with that is that they had the opportunity to be a witness for each other, so one would verify the other one’s story, or I would hear the story from my mother of something that happened and my aunt would talk about those things, too. I guess maybe it was kind of reassuring for me that those experiences did happen and it wasn’t something that was made up or anything like that because some of the things I heard about were really harsh. It was really hard for me. To say how could one human being do that to another, especially to children, who to me were helpless. I guess maybe --- I can understand some of that, too, just through my own experiences of growing up in a world that wasn’t mine. I grew up in foster homes. I was taken away from my mother and father when I was 3 years old, and not meeting my mother until I was twenty years old and never knowing my father at all. My father was Ukrainian. The only connection that I have with my father’s side of the family is --- One of his brothers lives next to my Reserve in Saskatchewan, so I go over and I visit with him. So that’s the closest connection that I have to that family. Many of my family members are --- Just their feelings, and I’m not sure just all what it is about having a connection with First Nations People, and accepting that I’m their brother’s son, and those things. My uncle has been really appreciative towards me and respectful towards me, so with that him and I have been able to develop a really close relationship. I feel lots of times with me sitting with him and stuff like that, and just some of his body language and things like that, that there’s much about me that reminds him of my father. My father has been deceased since 1984 so I never got a chance to meet him or know him. But I feel that my uncle tells me a lot just through his body language and accepting me and who I am because of how I do certain things and express myself. It helps with that connection. Q. Why did your mother have to give you up? A. I think it was drinking. She actually said that she went to a funeral. We were in Dawson Creek and she went to a funeral in High Prairie, Alberta. When she came back we were gone. We were never able to go back to her after that. We were put into fostering. I have a twin brother. Him and I were raised together, and 2 other brothers that went to another family and they were adopted, and a sister that was adopted out. One brother I met when I was seventeen. He’s seventeen months older than I am, and he was living in Vancouver. He came. He remembered us, so he came back and looked for us. He found me and my brother. And then my sister, I met her when I was thirty-two, and one brother who is thirteen months younger than I am, I still haven’t met him. I’ve talked to him a couple of times on the phone, but I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him yet. It’s interesting because when I see pictures and things like that, him and I are the closest in resemblance. He grew up with my older brother, Leon. So Leon tells me that Earl and I are very similar in many ways. So I’m hopeful that one day we’ll meet. Today, this morning, I was speaking with my brother in Vancouver and I just found out this morning that their mother is deceased as of last Wednesday. My sister is always --- Her and I share lots and she has always said that she felt that perhaps the day that their mother goes somewhere else that perhaps Earl would come to the table because of his loyalties to her and those things, so it has been a lot of those things that have kept us separate. Q. Do you think the disconnect was related to Residential Schools? You know, your mom went to Residential School and she started drinking and lost her children. It’s a symptom, for sure. Do you personally feel that? A. No, I don’t. I feel it’s more to the loyalties, to the different values and beliefs and the different things that were put onto us and not so much about the Residential Schools. I believe we all carry something there, us being separated from our mother for sure, and our father, and our families. But I feel it has more to do with the values and the beliefs and the different things that were put onto us. How I came to that conclusion within myself was when I started on my healing path about 7 years ago, when I went back to my Reserve and started learning about my culture and the ceremonies and many other things and started taking things inside of myself, that I discovered that to develop a relationship with my siblings, especially with my sister because her and I are very close today and we’ve been building a relationship for twenty years, it was all about being able to put all our issues and our values and our beliefs and the connection with who we were raised with, who I was raised with, understanding that those were given to us but they weren’t ours. And to understand more about where we came from and who we were than just being brother and sister. Because brother and sister --- We are able to say that today in a way that we both feel very close, but it has to do with our culture and our values and our beliefs of today and what was given to us, what we’ve learned, both her and I through counseling and going back to the Reserve. Those things have brought us together. The issues, all of the things that were given to us, given to me in an unfamiliar environment, it was those things that kept me separated and kept me from getting close to my sister. My sister has met my brother, the one that hasn’t come to the table today. She has always felt that because of his loyalties to his foster mother, that family and Christianity and those things, is what is keeping him from coming to the table. Q. Did you ever ask your mother about why you were taken away? A. I did. But it was never ever about her taking ownership or responsibility for that. It was always about something else. That was the one thing that I always wanted my mom to do, to be responsible for that, owning that, and saying that she had a part in that. But she never ever would go there. There are thirteen of us siblings all together, and I have an older sister Mavis who lives in Vancouver, and up until mom was on her deathbed I wanted mom to own that Mavis was our sister and she never ever would do that. She always said that Mavis wasn’t my sister but that she was my aunt, she was my grandmother’s daughter, because my grandmother raised her. Q. You said your grandmother went to Residential School as well? A. Yes. Yes, she did, she went. I only met my grandmother once in my life so I never really had much of an opportunity to spend much time with her at all. I just met her once in Vancouver so I never really got to know my aunt or my grandmother. Q. She was from Saskatchewan as well? A. That’s right, she was. Q. Did she go to Gordon’s school as well? A. Yes. Q. What do you think of that place now? A. I was just recently in Saskatchewan and my wife and I were driving by there, because my wife went to Gordon’s as well. We just happened to --- It was by accident. We made a wrong turn on the road. We were going to Yorkton and we ended up going on the road towards Regina and we drove by there, where the turn-off was. I asked my wife is she wanted to go in there and she said, “No.” Later on we decided that we would like to go back there and go there and just see what it was, and things. I just sort of feel a chill go through me when I went by there. Yeah, just because I feel that that place was a place of not just destruction for my family at the school, but the destruction that lived on after that. Because I had 2 uncles that perished in the prisons when they were just young men, aunts deceased from drug overdoses in Vancouver, and so on. And I feel that is where it all started, at Gordon’s Reserve, because that’s where they all went. So I guess for me to maybe take that inside one day and have that as a part of my reality instead of just the fear, is something that scares me, and even my own reality of all of the things that happened to me in Gordon’s Reserve, the school there, was a tribulation to all of that, the separation. Like I say, thirteen of my siblings --- Today I have a relationship with 3. All of the other ones are so distant it’s like we’re not even brothers and sisters. So I guess maybe for me to go back to Gordon’s one day and just go there, maybe just to say that that place is real, it existed. I would like to go back there. Q. Why do you think it is important for people to know about the history of Residential Schools in our country? A. For me --- I was listening today to the first person who was speaking, or when I walked in here, and they talked about the government acknowledging. For me I believe that people in Canada and around the world will hear our stories, and yet at the end of the day I don’t know if the world will ever understand the impact of it as much as if the government, when the government steps forward and possibly even the churches and acknowledges, and that they know and can put a voice to the harm that was done. I believe that if the government, if they can say “these are the things that happened with these people and this is the impact and the results of the government and the churches”, that this is the result of those things, then I believe that if people can hear those things, even our people, the Aboriginal People can actually hear of the things that the government created, that that to me would form a more solid foundation for healing. Because people would have a sense of direction they may go to, to take themselves away from that. For many people, even myself, the struggles that I went through in my life, I was absolutely lost. I had no idea that I was impacted and how much I have been impacted by being separated from my mother and those things, until I started doing my own healing and wellness. Before that I had no idea of what the Residential School had actually done to me. I learned that when I went back to the Reserve and connected with Elders. The one thing that really set precedence with me was when my uncle told me, “John, all of our behaviours and attitudes and everything about us is all a given. We’re born into the world innocent. So it’s what people give to us, what they pass on to us, their wisdom, their abuse, their different things. They give those to us.” So do we live with those for the rest of our lives and pass those on, because we can only pass on what has been given to us. We may want to do something different. Until we learn how to bring that into our lives, we’re not able to. How I started to come to an understanding of that was how many behaviours, many things that were given to me towards physical violence and verbal abuse and a feeling of not being worthy and those things, well those are things that I wanted and wasn’t able to obtain those things, so I learned how to start doing that. So when I’m with my children today I see the things that I passed on to them when they were little and what I gave to them. What is challenging for me today even with my younger 2 daughters, twelve and thirteen and them living with their mother, is that it’s like I’m a complete stranger to them. Because they don’t know me for who I was when I was in their lives, because of my values and beliefs and how I was. Drinking and those things were all a very important part of my life and the behaviours that come with that. And to not have those things and be able to pass on positive things that have been given to me to help me become a more positive person, in passing those on to my children and how hard it is for them because of their loyalties towards their mother who indulges in different things like that and how much easier it is to stay in something that is more familiar than something that’s different. So it’s interesting. I have an FASD son. Him and I have a beautiful relationship together because he’s drawn more towards who I am and how I can connect with him and get right in there with him. He doesn’t hold those things against me from the past, like my other children. I don’t know that it’s my other children hold things against me, as much as they are always hearing about how I used to be, so it’s loyalties and things like that. I have a wonderful relationship with my son, and it’s hard to obtain that from my other children because they are more used to the way I used to be than the way I am today. So I understand about given behaviours and passing those on. Before I started learning about the impact of Residential Schools by going to Healing Circles and Talking Circles and sitting with Elders and actually going to Residential School Healing Circles and listening to people talking about their experiences and the losses and the grieving and the different things, then I started to come to some understanding of what I had lost and what I had become. It’s interesting growing up I was taught to be afraid of Aboriginal People. I always used to just hear profanity and descriptions of them, and so on. I didn’t have an understanding at all about what it means to be Aboriginal. I didn’t know I was Aboriginal when I was growing up, until I was in my teens, because growing up I looked more Ukrainian than Aboriginal. So there were a lot of things I seen put onto Aboriginal children, school mates and things, that wasn’t put onto me. In fact, even my own behaviour was part of the oppression behaviours. To be able to start to turn that around, there was a lot of grieving that I had to experience to move beyond that and accepting myself as Aboriginal. Q. Is there anything else you would like to add before we close? What is your hope for our People? A. To be able to one day have a life without this pain and to be able to retain our culture and our language and all those things, and have all of that intact and secure, and to be able to live here in Canada without the oppression and the different things being put onto us, as well as just today even sharing with someone who is here in Whitehorse who is not Aboriginal and the difficulty they have in understanding what oppression is. And for me I see the oppressors as still in the oppression themselves because many of them don’t even understand, they just don’t see or feel the impact of how it has been just even for myself, and living in both worlds. Living in the White world growing up and going back to the Aboriginal with my culture and all of the things that I have, yeah, to be able to bring both worlds together. Because we’ll always have that. It will never be different than that, and to have an understanding and a positive environment and to just have this as a learning experience for everyone and to be able to live in unity without all of the negative energies that are still here with us today. And that’s for both Aboriginal People as well as other people. It’s hard for me today to be with Aboriginal People and hearing our people even putting down other cultures, White people, or whoever because I believe in unity and the world working together as one and not that separation that we experienced. Q. Thank you. --- End of Interview

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Part 2 – 7:29

William George Lathlin

All Saints Indian Residential School

HE INTERVIEWER: Could you please say and spell your name for us? WILLIAM GEORGE LATHLIN: My name is William George Lathlin; W-i-l-l-i-a-m G-e-o-r-g-e L-a-t-h-l-i-n. Q. What school did you go to? A. All Saints. Prince Albert Indian Residential School. Q. That was Prince Albert? A. Yeah, Saskatchewan. Q. Was it a Catholic School? A. Anglican. Q. What years were you there? A. 1950 to 1954. Q. How old were you when you started? A. I was actually nine but my parents lied so they wouldn’t put me in with the smaller kids so they said that I was ten. Q. You were nine but your parents said that you were ten? A. Yeah. My birth certificate says my age was nine at the time. Q. Okay. Do you remember what life was like before you went to school? A. I lived with my grandparents, my grandfather first and then my grandmother, to teach me the language, I guess. Living with my grandmother we ate dried meat, pemmican, a lot of moose meat and fish and all that. She showed me the medicines and all that. Q. You had a traditional upbringing? A. Yeah. She showed me the medicines and I was to go and dig up roots and grasses and stuff like that for her at an early age before I went to Residential School. For me it was a busy life learning. My dad used to show me how to make fish nets. I didn’t know what I was doing. He gave me some tools to measure and I didn’t know I was making fish nets. And my grandmother, when we finished smoking the meat and all that, the fish, she would put it in a bag and she gave me something to eat it with. I didn’t know I was working and preparing my food and making pemmican and all that. We would gather up --- Nothing was wasted when my grandmother was handling fish. Nothing smelled bad, even all that meat. When I was in the house we lived in you wouldn’t find no food on the table. You would think we had no food but it was hidden underneath the building where it’s nice and cold. But there was nothing to spoil. That’s what I remember. At the time, before I went to Residential School, I used to go to a day school here. I would walk about a mile from here to school, whether it was in the winter time or summer time. Q. I think we’re just going to stop for a second because of the background noise. A. Okay. --- A Short Pause Q. So can we talk a little bit more about your childhood before Residential School, maybe talk a bit about the hunting that you did. A. When I lived with my grandfather I used to watch the steamboats go by, before I lived with my grandmother. Those were the quiet peaceful times I remember, watching from the bridge. The people rushed to the bridge and the steamboat came and they were opening the centre span of the bridge so the steamboat could go by. I used to like watching that. Most of what I remember is going out trapping, in trapping season. At different times of the year we went to different places to hunt and fish and all that. So when I was seven or eight I went hunting and trapping. --- A Short Pause We were out west here. My dad had a trap line. When we went out of course we had to haul everything out by horses. Horses took us out there and the whole family went. The first winter there I got my first mink. I don’t know how old I was, seven or eight years old. My dad gave me a .22 and I shot my first deer, a great big buck. It had horns and all that. And the next one I got my first --- So I guess I learned to be a hunter and a trapper at the time because my dad was teaching me. In the spring time he said you have to go and learn another language and learn how to read and write and do arithmetic. I didn’t understand what he was saying. So he said you may have to go away for a while. So I didn’t know where I was going. I knew that my cousins, Walter and Albert Lathlin were away in school at Elkhorn at that time. But then they came back and said we’re now going to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. So they were telling him I guess --- Like I said, I was nine at the time and they told him no, that’s too young. They’ll put him in a place where they lock them up. Say he’s ten. So I guess that’s what my parents did. They said I was ten. So they put me in another category when we got to Prince Albert. Around August they put me on the train with the kids. My sister and I were eager and they sent us. We travelled all night by train and we were met by some people and put in a truck and when you got to the place where we were going, they unloaded us. The little ones went somewhere else and the medium-sized people and the older people. I went with the medium-sized people. I guess you called them Intermediate boys, or something like that. The little ones, I found that they were locked up after their schooling, whatever. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere. But at the Intermediate level we were allowed to go. This is where I didn’t understand what was expected of me because I didn’t speak the language. It was very difficult for me to comprehend what people were asking of me. But anyway, I watched the kids and that’s how I followed what they did. So they took us there and assigned us beds and numbers. I think my number was “214”. They assigned us beds. The clothes were on there. I don’t remember if they gave us a haircut first or later, but they made us take a bath. I think there was a haircut first. I don’t remember. But then they put this white stuff on my head I had to kind of wash that off. It was my first time being in a shower room with a bunch of kids naked and all that. To me that was the first shock that I had. People say it’s culture shock and I guess from there --- But I wanted to learn. I wanted to find out more about what my dad had said about school. “Try and learn as much as you can.” So I tried. The next thing I know when I came back my clothes were all gone and I had to put on other clothes and everybody was the same. Of course at first I missed my clothes and all that. They stripped the bed and said, “Here, you’ve gotta learn how to make your bed.” So I tried to make it. I was watching the kids and I didn’t know what they wanted of me. But I was watching them and they were making their beds so I did the same thing. The ones that did it right they were let go and me I get caught I don’t know how many times. I guess finally I got it right but there were a lot of times before I got it the way the other people make their beds. Anyways, that was my first lesson, my first lesson. Of course I didn’t speak English. I spoke only Cree. When I was washing up I would talk in my language and the supervisor would find me talking and give me soap, Lifebuoy soap. He said, “you --- So I ate it. I ate this Lifebuoy soap, you know, you wash your --- I didn’t know why. Why was I eating it? But I guess it was because I was speaking Cree. But it’s the only language I knew. In the classroom the same thing happened. I learned. I tried to learn what they were trying to teach me but at times I couldn’t understand what they were saying and they would come back and hit me on the side of the head. They kept hitting me until I did what they --- I guessed what they wanted from me. That’s what I tried to do. I just guessed because I didn’t understand what they wanted of me. That went on and on. Somewhere in the winter time of that year my ears started to --- There was this yellow stuff coming out of my ear and covered my pillow. I guess I smelled awful. The kids started calling me stinky. That’s my nickname today because of that. I guess something happened to my ear. Q. Did any of the people that worked there look at it or did you get any medical attention? A. No. I didn’t get nothing. Again, I didn’t know what to do because I had never been away from home. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know. I just suffered through it because I didn’t know the system or nothing, being away from home for the first time. Anyway, that went on through the year. As it went on I became deaf. I couldn’t hear no more from this ear. So it made my learning the academic stuff that much harder, again because I couldn’t hear. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t understand. And then I couldn’t hear with my left ear so it made things worse for me. People would think I was not paying attention or not trying to do what they were telling me but it was because I couldn’t hear or understand. They were trying to make me do what I didn’t understand. It was awful. I get mad when I think about that because people shouldn’t be treated like that. If I had known what they wanted I would have done it. If I had heard and understood I would have done it. Anyway, that went on. That was the first year, 1950. The kids picked on me. They kicked me. They beat me up. I would just whimper. I couldn’t cry no more. That went on throughout the year, and that was the first year, again. Q. Did the teachers ever see the other kids beating you up? A. No. This was when we were outside the school. There was no supervision to tell you the truth. All I seen the supervisor was in the morning and time to go to bed at night. That was it. I didn’t see no one. There was no supervision. I found something. I found a hole in the building, a crawl space, so I went in there and that’s where I hid. That was my home. On the weekends I went there and hid. I didn’t want the kids beating me up. Again, that was the first year. But the second year, later on in the summer time I got tired of that and I said, “that’s it, you guys beat me up and made me cry but you’re not going to make me cry no more.” So they beat me and I didn’t cry. But I said, “I’m going to hit you as much as you hit me. I don’t care how big you are.” And that’s what I did. Every last one of those guys I went and hit. They were bigger than me but I hit them as much as they hit me. Pretty soon nobody bothered me. That’s how I defended myself. I got a bad reputation later on. You don’t bother that guy. I didn’t feel the pain after. When I said, “You’re not going to make me cry no more”, the pain, the physical pain I didn’t feel it. It didn’t matter if you were hitting me. Sure, I got a licking, but I didn’t feel the pain. That affected me through my adult life because I couldn’t cry. I had a hard time crying because I made that statement that nobody would make me cry, in public. But I cried when I was alone. So that was the first year. Again, in the first year, some time in the winter time I found myself tied up. They had double-decker beds. My legs were tied up and my arms were tied up like this (indicating). There was two people standing on each side of me and played with my penis and it hurt. I didn’t know what to do. Q. That happened the first year as well? A. So I pretended it didn’t happen and I guess I fell asleep. But in the morning when I woke up and went to the washroom it hurt because I was bleeding. I don’t know who those people were but I knew I was tied up. It never happened again. But I didn’t know how much damage was done to me until later on in my adult life. This one here, my ear, again I couldn’t hear. I could just smell myself. The food, like I said, when we were preparing our food, nothing smelled. On Fridays we had fish and that fish smelled. I didn’t eat it because to me when something smells bad you don’t touch it. As I said, from my grandparents, you know, I didn’t touch it even though I was hungry. A typical breakfast would consist of a slice and a half of bread cut in triangles, three little half slices, and then watered down porridge and powdered milk. Q. Were you always hungry? A. I was never full. Never full. Again, later on --- This was the first year again. I was hungry. But I didn’t know --- People ask me, “Do you know these people?” I didn’t know anybody. I was totally in shock for the first year of all the things. I had never experienced anything like that. Q. What was it like going home after that first year? Did you tell your parents anything that happened? A. No. I couldn’t fit in. I couldn’t fit into the community. I felt alone. I felt that they had abandoned me. I felt the trust that I had was not there so I couldn’t tell nobody. Everything went inside. Q. So it wasn’t the same at all when you went back? A. No, it wasn’t the same. Q. Were you angry with your parents for sending you? A. Yeah. I didn’t understand that they had to send me, not until later, when I was older. They were forced to send me and then I understood. Q. So what about your second year at school? A. My second year I learnt to speak a little English but then I kept getting hit on the side of the head for not hearing and not really understanding what was expected of me, by the teachers. I would get a strap because I didn’t know what they wanted. Q. Was your first year the hardest year? A. That was the hardest because I was not able to speak for myself or know how to protect myself. I just learned as I went along with the other kids. It prepared me, I guess, for the second year and third year. I knew if I was to survive I had to do things, take control of things myself, in terms of --- I had to survive: number one. The best way --- If I didn’t have enough food then it was up to me to find food for myself. And cold. I was cold all the time because I didn’t have enough blankets to cover me. I was cold and hungry and lonely, no one to talk to, no one to communicate with because I didn’t know anybody the first year. Q. Did you ever get to see your sister? A. Once in a while I would get to see her. My dad would send us some stuff and she would come and give it to me. I think in the first year I saw her twice. That’s it. Q. Was it nice to see her? A. Yes. Q. What did your dad bring? A. He would send a package, like bannock --- Say, for instance, shoes. He would send me shoes and stuff like that and a little bit of money. Q. Did you look forward to those, those gifts from your dad? A. Yeah. Q. We’re just going to change the tape. I want to talk to you about life after Residential School. --- Transcriber’s Note: Tape was not changed. Q. So I would like to talk about life after Residential School, but if you could just tell that story about your hand, what you did in the second year and how you felt. A. Okay. In the second year after all this negative talk about Indians being no good and the only good Indian was a dead Indian and all that and everything that the Indians did was evil and all that, the way they prayed and so on, it affected me. My skin was kind of brown and I tried to wipe the skin off my left hand. You can see the scar today. It’s still there. It was all red. It really messed me up because I didn’t --- I couldn’t figure out why my family, my grandparents and my mother and father were called evil and what they did was evil and all that. I couldn’t. It messed me up in my thinking. It messed up my thinking. I didn’t know it affected me that way at that time because I was just a young fellow and all that. I was not even an adult yet. It bothered me I guess in a way that I despaired in my mind and the way I was brought up, there was a clash there of cultures, I guess. I was lucky that I was able to maintain my language, to know and understand that we are different from other people and we have our ways and we are closer to the Creator than any other race of people that I know because I’ve come back to my roots. That’s what probably saved me from really destroying myself. I thought about committing suicide. I tried it. I turned to alcohol. After I got married --- I figured by getting married I would settle down so I started having children and all that. But things got worse. I was running away from something and I didn’t know what it was. I went on a drinking spree for seventeen years. Finally I said “there’s something wrong with me”. I was seeing a psychiatrist and a doctor and he gave me pills. I was actually addicted to prescription drugs, too, because I was feeling all this pain in my body and my mind. I was working at the mill. I had a job there, a steady job. I became apprenticed there. I became a millwright, a certified millwright. But my drinking kept on for seventeen years. In ’78 I decided to do something with it. I went down to see a doctor. He sent me to a Treatment Centre and that’s where my journey of healing I guess began. I didn’t know about the sobriety part, anyway. Q. Just back at school for a minute because you practiced your traditional spirituality at home, how did you feel about having to go to church every day? Did you go every day to church? A. No, just on Sundays, twice on Sundays. There was something different where all the people, the old people that were around at that time, the Elders and all that, a lot of them prayed. In the other place there was only one person in the front speaking. Once in a while we were allowed to sing or speak. That was the difference. And then they had this --- They were praying to a god I didn’t understand and it was the son they were praying to. I didn’t understand that. And then they had this book that they were reading from which I came to understand was the bible. The bible itself and the words that are in there are a lot different than what our teachings are. You know, I found that out. I came full circle. But the people I guess were trying to do the right thing. I didn’t know that either. So I forgive those people. I forgave those people that harmed me in so many ways. But I can’t forget what happened. Q. So what was life like right after Residential School when you left in 1954? What did you do right after Residential School? A. I went back to school here in the day school. I got kicked out of there because my dad got sick and I had to help out with my mom and raise the other kids. It was tough. There was no Welfare. I became an instant father, I guess, as well. I was fourteen or fifteen at the time. I helped my mother raise three other brothers and sisters. There was four of them, two sisters and two brothers. We made money by tanning moose hides. I did the fishing and hauling the water and fishing and all that. So we survived through that. My dad came back in my teen years so I went to work. Well, actually, I was working when I was fourteen. I was making 50 cents an hour, but it was enough to buy food and clothing and all that. By the time I was in my twenties, like I said, I found myself wandering around doing nothing. I had all these women around me, chasing me and all that so I finally decided to pick one and get married. I asked her if she would marry me and she said, “Okay.” Well, let’s get married. So we got married and we’ve been married since ’61, and we had five kids. I provided everything for those kids except love and nurturing because I didn’t know what that was. It was buried inside me. I couldn’t teach them that. So they are suffering with their children. Q. Have you ever been able to talk to them about your Residential School? A. I have written down what happened to me but hopefully this tape will have a deeper meaning because they will see it for themselves personally by my talking about it. But I have shown them. I have seen them. I wrote this stuff down and they seen it in writing. They know. Anyway, where was I? Q. You were going to talk about your healing journey. When did that start? A. My healing journey started in 1978. Like I say, I was onto prescription drugs and alcohol and all that. I didn’t know what was happening to me. There was something wrong with my life. I got to the point where what I was taking had no effect on me. The more I drank the sober I got. So I went and seen a doctor. He says, “I can’t help you but maybe AA can.” So he sent me to (something) House and that’s where I learned about alcoholism. That’s where my healing journey began. I’ve been searching for me all through those years. They helped me quite a bit. In fact, a whole lot. But in the meantime I had security. What I wanted was a meal ticket. It took me ten years. I became a tradesman, an industrial mechanic. I worked in the mill for eighteen years. But again there I faced something called racism because I was the only Native person there and all the other people were different nationalities, and White people and all that. They talked about me and I would be just shaking. I couldn’t understand why, why I was like that. But the good part is I became the Shop Steward in the Union. I went as far as I could with my limited education. In Residential School I didn’t have time to learn academics because I was traumatized from Day One. I just lived in fear. The fear. I didn’t talk about the fear. I didn’t know I carried that fear all those years. It came out one day when I was hunting with the van. I started shaking like this. My partner had gone out. He seen a moose run across and he’s chasing him. I’m sitting in the truck and I’m just going like this (indicating). I had my rifle here. What the heck is happening with me? I’m thinking I’ve got to get control of my mind because if I don’t I’m going to do something awful. I might shoot myself. So I go around the vehicle and went and sat down there and I tried to relax. But from that day on the fear was in me. I started to sort out that fear. Why am I like that? I found out that when fear has control of you there is no love in you no more. Q. Do you know why it came out at that moment? A. I could not understand why. But I guess all the love had drained out of me. I had given all I could to other people. In that sobriety thing I gave to people and got nothing in return. It drained all that out of me and the fear came in. That’s when I understood I was running away from something. I went and searched for that and I found it in the Residential School experience. That’s where I went, back to that. But I did some good things. I was a counselor for the (something) Band for many years and I became Chief. I did a lot of good stuff for the community but I told the people I don’t want my name printed anywhere or people using my name. I did it because I felt it had to be done, not because of the glory or a name. You won’t see my name anywhere because I told the people not to put my name anywhere. And then I tried to bring back healing in the community because of all the Workshops that we had done, that came to the Residential School experience, the second, third and fourth-generation people, they were stuck in that mode. They couldn’t go nowhere. I wanted to tell my story. When I was invited to a Court Hearing to find out --- We were allowed to go to court and all that. That’s when I knew that I had these things buried in me and I had to get rid of them. When the lawyer said that these things never happened to these children, oh, I got mad because I knew it happened. It happened to me. Q. The lawyer said it didn’t happen? A. He said, “These things never happened to these children”, in front of the courtroom. I got really upset and mad over that because I knew they happened to me. What I’m saying to you is what I experienced. It’s not something I picked out of a comic book. It’s my own experiences that I went through. But again it taught me to be resilient and to pursue I guess --- I wanted justice. That’s what I want. I want justice. And also to do what is right because I feel that our People out there are decent people. They are honest and they will do the right thing to remedy this because it should not have happened and it should not go on. It should be fixed, fixed by recognizing us as who we are. We are who we are. I cannot change who I am. But I know that the Creator is with me and guiding me every day. And I want to pass that message on. To forgive is good but to forget I can’t forget it. It’s in me. You see this scar here (indicating). That’s the first year, too, a physical scar. I got hit with a stick on my eyebrow here. I forget now, but it’s there. --- End of Part 1 Q. How long were you chief? A. Just two years. I wanted to get out of politics. But the people didn’t want me to leave so I was out in ’99. Q. ’97 to ’99? A. Um-hmm. But before that I was counselor for twenty-four years. Q. Really? Did you like that? A. Yeah. Q. My husband just got elected as counselor. A. Yeah. Q. I’m a counselor’s wife. A. Good. Q. He’s busy. A. Yeah. It was tough. People were always on my case. I was one of the first Special Constables in the country in this community. Q. Oh wow. What year was that? A. It was in the sixties somewhere. I forget. They had this Special Constable Program and I was one of the first ones. No vehicle. Just by foot. It was a dry Reserve at that time. But it was good pay at the time; ninety bucks every two weeks. Q. That’s not bad for the sixties. A. Yeah. It was good. Q. Okay, so maybe we can talk just a little more about just that turning point for you, when things turned around. You said you went to AA and maybe I think you had said before --- A. Yeah. As I said, I gave lots to people in their sobriety and all that. Finally I had nothing left in me and I became fearful and traumatized. Not knowing what to do, again I turned to my Creator and asked for help. But it didn’t happen overnight. It happened for quite a while. The fear sort of went away. I couldn’t wander by myself I was so afraid. I was working at the mill, shift millwright, and I was working at nights. I would drive back from the mill about a mile to where I lived. It was frightening because I was alone. That’s when I learned about love. Fear is the absence of love. So I had no love in me. That’s something that I didn’t know. I shut out everybody. I shut out everybody and everything was inside me and I had to bring that out. That’s what I tried to do. I tried to bring that out. Where I found it was in my old traditional ways, peace and quiet and all that. Just before I became --- Well, I was Acting Chief. Before I became Chief something happened to me. I had to go to Vancouver. There was an election over there and I went there to Winnipeg for three or four days before the flight. I was in my room and I was walking around. I come back and I seen this thing on my bed. Of course, I’m fearful of things, eh. I opened it up and here’s all this medicinal stuff. I don’t know what to do so I go see one of the traditional people and he says, “These are for you”. So I took them with me to Vancouver. But my dad had told me you don’t play with these things. They are sacred. So in practicing that there was a lot of stuff coming to me and my wife became afraid. So I didn’t know what to do. So again I asked one of the traditional people to help me and he said, “Put it away for a while.” So I gave it to him. That’s one mistake I regret. But he says, “That’s yours, you can get it back again.” But I don’t know how. I never had a pipe or nobody showed me what to do with it and all that. But I have since learned that to know yourself you have to know seven things about you. You have to look up to the four directions, inside, and seven ways. That’s how you pray with the pipe. I didn’t know that then but now I know. So I missed that. That’s one thing I’m missing. I kind of feel alone because that pipe that I set aside was really mine but I didn’t know what to do with it when it came. Go and learn about my traditions and all that. But I have since discovered that the greatest thing we have is in here. What we see is different than what is inside you. Our subconscious mind knows all and sees all. So when people say they lost everything, they haven’t lost nothing. It’s in here (indicating). And it’s carrying on, too. When I go in the sweat lodge that stuff comes to me. It just comes. So people who say they have lost their traditional ways, they haven’t lost it. It’s in us. It’s in me. I know that. And the Creator, he’s in me. He is, because that subconscious mind or whatever I call it, intelligence, it’s there twenty-four hours a day. It doesn’t stop. It keeps going. It knows all. It sees all. And it’s in us and it’s up to me to tap into that. That’s how I have sort of recovered my journey. My journey has been long and hard and finally I came to what people say is my inner child and all that. But when I say a child I literally mean that’s what came out today, that child that I’m keeping in me. And it’s here and here and now I’m letting it out. I feel like crying at times but then I know that it’s coming out. Before when I told this story I would probably cry but now I’m at that stage where crying is there but it’s not coming out as much as it used to. So I’m on my way to healing. I’m trying to help other people. The only way that I know is to help other people to heal through the gifts that have been given by the Creator. That’s through love, kindness, generosity. That’s the laws that we have. They’re good, the seven laws that are there. I try and practice those. Q. Well, thank you very much for coming today. A. I appreciate it. Q. Good. You did a great job. That was a beautiful interview. Thank you very very much. --- End of Interview

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Part 1 – 31:09
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Part 2 – 8:29

Mary Caesar

Lower Post Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: Can you say and spell your name, please. MARY CAESAR: My name is Mary Caesar. Q. Can you spell that, please? A. M-a-r-y C-a-e-s-a-r. Q. What community are you from, Mary? A. From Watson Lake, Yukon. Q. What Residential School did you attend? A. Lower Post Residential School. Q. Lower Post? A. Yes. It is in northern BC. It’s about 15 miles south of Watson Lake. Q. How old were you when you started there? A. I went to school there when I was 4 years old. Q. How many years were you there? A. I was there for 4 years. Q. Do you remember what your first day was like when you started Residential School? A. I remember my first day. I don’t remember what kind of vehicle I went in, but I remember my first day. I was riding with a bunch of kids. We got off in front of the Residential School. I was feeling really confused and emotional because I was wondering where we were going. I remembered we were going to the school, but I didn’t know what kind of school it was. I was kind of excited, too, because my older sisters went to that school. I thought it was a good school. When I got off that bus, or whatever vehicle that I rode going to that school, I remember going up the steps to this Residential School. I looked up and I saw this big building. I just got scared and I thought I wanted to be with my parents. I went in with the other kids. I remember we were in a line-up. It was really scary for me. Even the first day it was traumatic. Q. Can you tell me what a typical day would be like for you, from morning til evening? A. It was stressful. It was terrifying. It was just traumatic. I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that --- I just felt scared for my safety because I remember the first day, or the first couple of days we had to line up and we had to get our number. We had to line up and get our number. We had to get our hair checked for lice. And then I remember Sister Alkwa (ph.) the Nun who was my supervisor, she made sure we were all in the line-up. I remember kids getting their hair cut. I remember being showered and just scrubbed clean, until my skin was red and raw. Sister Alkwa (ph.) asked us to take our shower, and I had to wash my hair with lice shampoo, even though I didn’t have lice. I remember just being really traumatized. I was scared. Every day it seemed like I was always scared because Sister Alkwa (ph.) was really mean and cruel. From morning until night it was just regimented, like we had to follow rules. We had to wake up about 6 o’clock in the morning. Then at 7 o’clock we had to go to Mass. We had to go to the chapel. And then I think it was 7:30 we had breakfast, and after breakfast we had to go to our class. It was just rules and regulations. I just felt like I was in a concentration camp, or some kind of army camp. Q. For those 4 years did you go home for the summer, or at holiday time? A. Yes. I went home for Christmas and summer. For Christmas we went home for about ten days. And then in the summer we went home in June, til September. I really enjoyed my summer holidays with my parents, but I just dreaded going back to that school in September. Like towards the end of August when we knew we had to go back to school, I just dreaded going back to school. Q. Your parents at that time when you were having to go back to school, as a family how were you all dealing with that, with having to go back to school? A. I think we were all just really devastated. I think my parents really didn’t have a choice but to send us there because I learned after that my parents would have been thrown in jail if they didn’t send us kids there. It was really hard for us. But we had to go to school. My parents didn’t have a choice but to send us there. I remember it was really hard for me to go back to school because it was so horrific there. Q. Do you have any particular memories or experiences at the Residential School that you want to share? A. Yes. Some of the experiences I went through were really horrific. I saw a lot of atrocities happen at the school, and I saw a lot of suffering. I was traumatized there, too. I was sexually and physically abused at that school. Some of the ways we were punished were, like if we spoke in our language, some of us kids had our mouth washed out with soap. They would just punish us for anything, just for being kids. If we laughed or if we expressed ourselves, or if we would express our opinion, or even showed any joy or laughter, we would get punished for that. They would just use it as an excuse to punish us. And Sister Alkwa (ph.) I remember she always whacked me on the head with her fists or her palms. She would always hit me on my arm, right here (indicating). Every day she always picked on me. I remember she had this ping pong paddle. They used to play ping pong. She used that wooden paddle to whack me on the arms or on my backside. Sometimes she would punch me in the head with her fists, or whack me on the head with her open palms, like really hard, too. She just whacked me around with her fists and her palms. Sometimes she would use a ruler. Us girls were just terrified of her. Some of the ways they punished us I remember to keep us sitting still in kindergarten, or in class, they would stick straight pins in our thighs, our hips and our backside to keep us sitting still. For punishment sometimes I had to wash the gym floor with a glass of soapy water and a toothbrush, and the stairways, too. There were 3 flights of stairs. The school was 3 storeys. Sometimes I had to wash the stairways with a glass of soapy water and a toothbrush. Sometimes for punishment we had to sit on rulers for hours. I remember one time my cousin had impetigo, sores on her head, and Sister Alkwa (ph.) shaved her hair off with an electric razor. I remember my cousin just screaming. There was blood and pus on the floor beneath her chair, like around her chair. I felt like Sister Alkwa (ph.) picked on me a lot. I remember her words, too, to this day. I remember her. She would always tell me, “You’ll never amount to anything, lady Jane.” And she would just whack me on the head. And then she would call me a harlot and a little flirt. And here I was 5 years old, 4 years old, 5 years old. I didn’t even know what those words meant until I became a teenager. I read a lot when I was a teenager and I looked up those words in a dictionary. I learned what those words were. Sister Alkwa (ph.) was really mean and cruel. She humiliated me. Sometimes for punishment if any of the girls passed gas in their underwear, we had to stand in the dormitory for hours with our soiled underwear on our heads. Sometimes kids that wet their beds, they had to walk through the Dorm and the Dining Room with their soiled sheets on their head. Sometimes we ate spoiled food. I remember eating spoiled soup. It tasted sort of like rotten food, and we had to eat that, too. Spoiled soup. Sometimes kids had to steal from the garden because they were hungry most of the time there. Kids had to steal. Some kids stole carrots or apples from the kitchen, just because we were hungry most of the time. I remember eating porridge. That’s what I ate most of the time. We ate porridge for breakfast. To this day I’m still traumatized. I still have PTSD. I still have nightmares. I have anxiety attacks. But I’ve been on my healing journey since 1990, when I sobered up. What I went through at Residential School affected every aspect of my life. Q. So can you talk a bit about your healing journey since Residential School? A. Since I sobered up I have been on this healing journey. It is about fifteen years, I guess. Since I sobered up and stopped drinking I’ve been going back to school. I got back into my art work. I’m a writer, too, so I write. I haven’t written anything for a while, but I have a book of poems that I would like to publish. I have 2 sons that I have to look after, that I feel I’m just getting to know, too. My sons and I were separated when they were young. Residential School affected my parenting skills, and my son’s dad took them to Ontario so I’m just starting to get to know my sons now. I’m trying to rebuild our relationship. A lot of good things have been happening. I believe the Creator is opening up doors for me with my art work. Sometimes it gets kind of overwhelming, but I live a day at a time. It’s my faith in the Creator that keeps me going. And my art, too, it helps me to cope. It helps me to cope with all the memories and the trauma I went through at the school. It helps me with my healing. Q. It’s a way of expressing yourself, through your art? A. Yes. Q. Okay, Mary, is there anything else that you would like to add? A. Well, I just want to say that there were a lot of other traumatic things that I experienced at the school. I’m still working on my healing. I just feel that I have a long way to go yet on my healing, but I’ve been on this healing journey for many years and throughout the years I had a lot of teachers and mentors that have helped me. I have had 3 years of treatment, or therapy, for my issues and my experiences I went through at the school. But I’m a survivor. I survived that experience, and if I could survive that, I could survive anything. I believe I have a purpose and that purpose is to help my People to heal, too, through my art and through my writings. I want to be able to help my family. I want to get to know my sons again. I want to help my family in some way, to help them on their healing journey. So I’m still healing, you know, I’m still working on my healing, even after all these years. The pain will always be there. But like I said, I’m a survivor. I’ve still got a long way to go yet and I still have a lot to learn. Okay? Q. Thank you. Do you want to talk anything more about the Conference or your feelings on that? You were talking about how you see some people here that you were in school with. Is it part of your healing journey, Conferences like this? Do they have a purpose? Do you have any thoughts on that? A. Yes. It’s always kind of stressful and kind of overwhelming to come to these kinds of Conferences, Healing Conferences, because it always stirs up memories and stirs up emotions. It stirs up feelings for me. But I feel like it is giving me strength, too, to come forward more and to express myself and to talk about it, because I kind of isolated myself, eh, for a long time. I just feel that it is time for me to start getting out there, start telling my story and start sharing my story. I feel that these Conferences help me to work on my issues and to regain strength, because I’m still on this healing journey, you know. I’m still learning and I’m still healing and I’m still growing. Sometimes when I come to these Conferences I feel like I’m a little girl again. I’m that child again, back there. But now I’m an adult and I’ve got to try to put the pieces of my childhood back together again. Do you know what I mean? Q. I understand. A. So I’m just kind of tired, too, you know, because I’ve been on this healing journey for so many years. I just think when is it ever going to end, you know. But I just feel that by sharing my story I might be able to help other survivors. Q. Thank you for sharing your story. A. Thank you. --- End of Interview *****

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Part 1 – 24:01

Alfred Solonas

Lejac Indian Residential School

THE INTERVIEWER: We’re ready to start. Can you say and spell your name for us please. ALFRED SOLONAS: Alfred Solonas; A-l-f-r-e-d S-o-l-o-n-a-s. Q. And where are you from? A. Originally I’m from McLeod Lake? Q. McLeod Lake. Where’s that? A. It’s ninety miles north of Prince George. Q. So it’s still in BC then. And where do you live now? A. In Fort Fraser. I met my wife there in 1980 and I stayed there with her. We’ve been married for the last twenty-five years. Q. That’s nice, a 25th wedding anniversary this year. A. It will be twenty-six in May. Q. What school did you attend? A. Lejac Indian Residential School. That’s in Fraser Lake. Q. What years were you there? A. From ’58 to ’61. Q. What grade did that school go up to? A. Grade 8. Q. Where did you go after that? Did you continue on? A. McLeod Lake. Q. McLeod Lake. Was that a Residential School as well? A. No, it was a public school. Q. A day school? A. A day school. Q. Okay. How old were you when you started at Lejac? A. I was 9. Q. Did you go to school before then? A. No, I didn’t. Q. Do you remember what life was like before you went to Residential School? A. Oh, my dad was working on the five bridges, Johnson Hart. They used to call that Mile 23. I think it was twenty-three miles from Summit Lake. He was working in the sawmill there. On weekends he used to go trapping. Q. Would you go with him? A. Sometimes, yes. That was interesting. Q. How were you able to avoid Residential School? You started at 9, so a lot of kids started at 5 years old. Were you sort of hidden away from where they could find you? A. Well, we went to McLeod Lake, and the one time we went to the store and my mom said “You’re going to go on a bus ride.” She didn’t tell me where I was going. She just said that I was going to school. And I said, “What’s a school?” I didn’t speak English at all. I spoke Sikanni all the time. Q. Sikanni. How do you spell that? There’s probably not a way to spell it, or just how it sounds? A. I’m trying to think. Q. That’s okay. Don’t worry. A. Sikani. Q. S-i-k-a-n-i. Okay. Good. So do you remember your first day at school? A. Yeah. There were quite a few of us. They separated us right away from the girls. And none of us spoke English. We didn’t know what they were talking about, but we spoke to each other, keep communicating with each other and we do what I thought was right. I told them to do whatever I do. So as the days go by they start hitting us because we couldn’t speak English. That was the worst part. But we stuck together. We tried to stick together as much as we can. Q. How many were there in your group? A. Oh, there were quite a few of us, about seventeen or eighteen, I think. Anyways, I told them in Sikanni the best way we could do it is try to learn English right away. So we practiced it while we’re out on the playground, because in school we keep getting hit because we don’t understand them and we couldn’t speak it. That was the hardest part. We were beginning to hate the school because of it. Q. Can you describe a typical day for us? A. What do you mean? Q. What time you would wake up in the morning and just everything that happened during the day. A. About 6 in the morning. We had to be back in the dorm by 7 and lights out at 9. Q. Was the dorm like? A. Well, there was about twenty-four or twenty-five to each dorm, maybe more. Q. What about the food? What was it like? A. I didn’t like mush, or porridge, whatever you call it. I remember that Brother Currans (sp?), he used to put cornflakes in the porridge and he expected us to eat it. I don’t know why they hired him to be a supervisor in an Indian Residential School. He hated Indians so much. Any person that don’t like Indians they shouldn’t be in a public place. That’s what I think. Even nowadays. Q. Do you remember specific things that he did that made you feel he hated? A. Well, for one thing, if we didn’t do what we’re told and we don’t understand him or we did it wrong, it seemed like I’m the only one that’s always out of line. But I stayed there for 4 years. I seen him a couple of times about a year or two years ago, I seen him, and I was so angry at him I just about --- But I didn’t feel like going back to jail so I didn’t do anything to him. I didn’t even say anything to him. Q. You didn’t talk to him? A. I just gave him a dirty look and walked away. What’s the use? I’m trying to forget the past. Q. Do you think he recognized you? A. Oh, he recognized me. Q. What’s he doing now? Where was he when you saw him? A. Well, I was selling tickets in the (something) Centre, selling cars. I was selling tickets. I leaned close to him. I was going to punch him and his face turned red. He knew what I was going to do, I guess, but I did that just to scare him. I wasn’t going to punch him. Another time was downtown where the street people go for the soup line. I went up there just to see some friends, to have a game of crib with them. I go to talk with them. I like that. And he came up. I just froze. I just stood there. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even look at him. I just walked away. Q. What was he doing there? A. Somebody said he was working there, but there were so many people from all around this local area --- Q. Was he a Priest? A. No, he was a Brother at Lejac. I don’t why he was working there, but everybody couldn’t work with him. Some people, I don’t know, if they turn religious, I guess they forgave him and stuff. But most of the people, 90% of the people doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. Q. When you were a child, did he ever humiliate you and call you down and make you feel bad? A. No. He mostly hit me with the strap it seemed like. It seemed like he was constantly on my back, just always after me, leaving everybody else. I seemed to be the only one that he singled out. But for 4 years --- Finally I just couldn’t take it. I just told my mother I don’t want to go back. I mean, it seemed everything I did I was doing wrong. I tried to do things right but it seemed like I’m always doing things wrong. Even out in the playground I asked some other kids, “What am I doing wrong?” Most of them they just said that you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s him that’s in the wrong. So I don’t know. Q. So how would you describe your experience at Residential School? A. To me it was awful. The only teacher that was really nice was Mrs. Brown and Sister Maria Ethel (sp?). It seemed like they were the only teachers --- Mrs. Brown was like a mother to me, a foster mother or something, I think you call it. She was nice to everyone. Same with Sister Maria Ethel. Pat Lawley (sp?) was another one. When I was in Grade 4, when he’s teaching it’s just like walking on egg shells, so he’s another guy --- He’s the reason I quit in ’61. Q. Are you able to talk about any of the things he did to you? A. Who, Brother Currans or --- Q. Either of them. A. Well, yeah. I was talking to my lawyer about that. The only part I didn’t like was I lost most of my language. I speak it some. You can’t forget a language, I don’t think. But there’s some parts I can’t say any more because I haven’t spoken it for quite some time now. Q. Are there any other things you would like to share about your experience at Residential School? A. Not really. It seemed like it was a sad way to learn English and lose your language. The hard part was you got strapped for it because you can’t learn the language because you don’t understand. Before I went to Lejac I was on a trap line and everybody spoke Sikanni and everything you did, twenty-four hours a day you spoke Sikanni, and then you go there and all of a sudden you gotta change your language. It’s really difficult. You had to learn it in 4 months. You can’t do anything. You can’t fight back. You can’t do anything. You had no rights at all. They just stripped off your --- Q. What about the religion they were forcing upon you. How did you feel about that? A. Well, they woke you up at 6 o’clock and you gotta be in church by 6:30. You stayed there until the Mass was over and then you go down and have breakfast. Some of the other kids, they had to teach them Catechism just to --- I don’t know how I avoided that, but they didn’t put me in that one. Q. They didn’t put you in Catechism? A. No. Q. Only some kids went to Catechism? A. Yeah. I don’t know how is that. I don’t remember why. Q. What about going home for the summer. What was that like, the summer holidays? A. Some of us couldn’t sleep before we go home. We went home for Christmas and Easter, but some of the other kids go in there in September and they don’t go home until June. I was kind of sad for them because it’s really hard not seeing your parents, you know. I think some never got to go home. Q. Did you have brothers and sisters there? A. Yeah, I had some brothers and sisters there. Q. When you would go home, was it hard to speak your language again? A. Oh, to me it wasn’t. I spoke my language. But 95% of the Reserve didn’t quite understand what we’re talking about but we spoke English and the parents spoke Sikanni. They turned around and slapped some of their kids because they don’t understand Sikanni any more. That’s kind of a reverse for me. So it was a really confusing world. Q. Before we move on and talk about how life has been since Residential School, are there any final things you want to say? A. No. I want this over with and I don’t want to talk about it. Q. Okay. How has life been since Residential School? A. Oh, I’ve had my own companies. Because of Lejac I don’t think I can work with other people. I’ve always managed to start something. I started a garbage company myself. That turned out pretty good. Now I’m thinking of putting in a little tire shop. The Band is going to help me, anyways. Q. That’s good. A. That should run into well past retirement. It’s something to keep me going. Q. Do you have children? A. I have only one. He’s graduating this year. He’s seventeen. Q. Have you ever been able to talk to him about your experiences at Residential School? A. No, I never. I never tell him anything about it. I don’t think I want to tell him about it. Q. What about your wife? A. Oh, she knows about it. Q. Did she go as well? A. She knows about Lejac but she didn’t attend there. She’s twelve years younger than I am. I quit when she was born, in ’61. Q. So how about healing for you now? How are things? Did you start to see any counselors or get any help through Conferences or anything? A. In Notley, Fort Fraser, I went to see a counselor for about 2 years. That helped quite a bit. I mean, he kept me busy, just things in general and just try to forget about the past and move ahead. Q. And what about now? Do you seek any help now or do you do anything? A. No. We have 3 foster kids so they’re keeping us busy; from 2 to eleven. There’s one 2 year old, a 6 year old and an eleven. They’re keeping us busy. It’s like having your own family. It’s all right. I don’t mind it. But my boy is seventeen and in our own way we’re trying to teach him this is life. We help out other people with kids. The kids’ parents are having a problem with drugs, so we try to help out. We’re having those kids for 6 months. We have a couple more months left before we give the kids back. We’re going to mis