Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 5, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Chesterfield Inlet December 1958

The photo above was provided through the generosity of Piita Irniq who attended a residential school. He told me that it was the first time that he had seen a Christmas tree, let alone any tree!

Another September is in the rear-view mirror. Some would say “good riddance”. Many people love September. Back home in Nova Scotia it signals the changing of the season. The leaves start to turn color, the days are becoming shorter, and there is a decided nip in the air. Here in Northern Quebec, we have already had snow, a harbinger of winter just around the corner. And of course, September is the traditional start of the school year.

“Back to school” days are different this year. Some students are back in classrooms while many others are learning virtually. The results are mixed and it’s far too early to predict what might happen in the ensuing weeks and months. As difficult and challenging as this appears on the service, it pales in comparison to what young children from the north were subjected to for nearly a century.

September 30th was Orange Shirt Day in Canada. It was the day to show love and support for survivors of the residential school system.

Stop for a moment and think about this. What if someone arrived on your doorstep one day and told you that your young children would be taken from you and moved to a far-off community where the language and culture were totally different?

This is precisely what happened to thousands of Indigenous children in Canada.

Once again, I quote from the excellent book, “The Right to be Cold” by distinguished author Sheila Watt-Clouthier.

“The history of residential schools in Canada spans nearly a century, with the last school closing as recently as 1996. During this time, the federal government, in an attempt to aggressively assimilate Aboriginal children, oversaw the schools, many of which were run by Christian churches. Approximately 150,000 children in all were taken from their families to be “reeducated” in English or French and Christianity. Resistance was rewarded with punishment, and many students experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Today people are still trying to heal from these horrific experiences. What’s more, families were torn apart and unable to pass on tradition and culture when their children were abruptly removed from their communities. This has resulted in generations of trauma suffered by Aboriginal families across Canada.”

I am slowly coming to understand the plight of Aboriginal people. A number of people who live in my village went to residential schools. Many of their stories are documented in the excellent archives at the local museum.

None of us personally can right the wrongs of the past although governments have the duty and responsibility to honor treaties signed in good faith.

It pleases me to no end that our school is doing everything it can to keep the language and culture of the Inuit alive and well. Daily classes in Inuktitut are a staple and students in upper elementary and secondary take classes in Culture where they continue to learn about their heritage in meaningful, hands on fashion. There are after hours programs offered to those who want to learn more about the land, hunting ,and survival.

One suspects it will take a few more generations for the trauma of residential schools to subside. It will never completely be eradicated but more Canadians need to understand this shameful part of Canadian history.

Have a great week.


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