It took a while to sit down again, after purging my story……
It was the sudden and tragic death of a younger male cousin that brought me out of a fog. The fog I wandered through for a while after writing Blood Memories, and A Story of Hope. I was trying to remain hidden and I was embarrassed about my anger, and the rawness of my story. As always the voice inside of me was repeating consistently, constantly, conflicting me inside.
“Don’t be ashamed, keep going, and push forward. You’re not the only one – we are many…”
There are so many of us affected by our broken family systems. Many of our family systems have been torn apart by the Residential School System and the government policies in Canada. The sad reality is that many of our youth are still so caught up in the negative inter-generational effects, to have even had a chance to learn their own respective histories. In their daily lives to survive a single day takes incredible effort, there is not the energy nor the will to dig so deep. Unfortunately this work must be done, they must be supported, and they need to know the truth – it is time.
What about the children in care? The ones without parents or family there are so many, too many. Many are left to fend for themselves, not even aware of what has happened to their family systems. Some are lucky and end up okay but most do not. All that they know is that have been chosen to feel the wrath, the wrath of life. This reminds me of my father and the countless other children who were forced into residential schools not knowing why. There is a parallel here we need to see it, understand, learn and find a better way their lives are not expendable.
For our children in care, many times there is no one to explain to them what is even going on, the history of our people and what has happened. The inter-generational effects are showing in the high numbers: The high number of our children in care, incarcerated, and the ones who die violently or finally give up and take their own lives. Suicide is very real to a large majority of our children. Far too many haven’t made it, some have been devastated by losses, clusters and even bullying into suicide by peers. This happens daily, it is a sad reality in most of our communities.
What happened? The system happened.
Remove the life seeds, the children from the homes. Disconnect them from the love and safety and traditions of the family. Break the bonds the most formative years were targeted ages 3 to 5. Then there are the abuses that were endured there, and in day schools also. Like our current system many do not make it, they walk in fear, sadness and uncertainty about their losses and life. “Why me?” The sadness, anger, fear and confusion planted like ugly seeds in our families – planted by these places and some of the people there. Ugly seeds passed to our great grandparents, grandparents and parents. Passed to them and received by us, to pass on to our children and so on.
Our survivors are still fighting for justice, many of us have lost our lives, and the lives of people in our family systems. Our youth are dying en masse, suicides, violent deaths, illness and more. We need to teach them what has happened. We need to help them make the connections like I did with my father, we need to break the silence of the old and let them be heard.
Those days are over, and we will not be broken. I still see the lateral violence in our communities, the divisions between Church and The Culture, old messages passed down from the residential and colonial era. “Your ways are evil, your ways are wrong, and you shall be judged”. My personal experience? Anything and everything that is good is what we need, no more shame or judgement and I have written about this many times. This is only confusing the youth even further, but we can speak openly now about what is still going on around us. We can teach, we can talk, we can share and that’s ok. We have choices now and we can stop the cycles of abuse in our own homes it is up to us. Bullying, divisions, gossip, lateral violence, inability to close the gaps even among the adults these are all ongoing underlying issues.
I understand the effects of my mother and father attending missionary and residential schools, and it took a lot of work to look back but I regret nothing. I now see how they were affected, and how that changed my life. I accept, I’ve overcome, and now I want to help. I’m at peace in my heart, I have forgiveness and I have empathy for them. I want to give back and share my story, share with the youth and help them learn to survive also. We need to work as a team, and knowledge? It’s free.
I always said there would be three parts of my life story here in this series. The last part is the most important to me – The Reconciliation. What does reconciliation mean to me? I had to really think about that for a while. While doing that I allowed the residual anger and grief work its way through my mind, my body, my heart, and my soul. Soul work takes time, energy, pain and also many good things such as appreciation and gratefulness for love and life. It’s a roller coaster ride – life.
I’m going back to my dad’s school, to walk the halls. I’m going to see through his eyes, and then I am going to let his soul rest in peace finally. It’s my own reconciliation…
In closing, a story within a story: I met a man, and he was a classmate of my father’s but my father was older than him. He told me of a time when he had been bullied by other kids there at the Portage Residential School and that my father had “stepped in” to help protect him. He was grateful for him that day, and now I am keeping this memory of my father now that I’ve reconciled with him in his death. I’ve gone back to see through his eyes, I’ve heard from someone who knew him as he was still young, most importantly I’ve worked through the inter-generational trauma and my own personal trauma. There were many helpers along the way, to me that means that we need to have empathy for each other. I could never have made it without the understanding of many important supports in my life. I’m coming around full circle and it feels good to be this free….
Thank you Mr. Peter Yellowquill I’ve always respected your willingness to listen, and to share when I have asked you about my father. It’s a true gift to me, and I will cherish this memory always. He did also stand up for another during his own hard time.
To the youth who are struggling I see you:
“You have come from many dark places into the light, and my prayer for you is that when you look into the mirror you see what I can see…”
That is beauty strength and resilience please don’t give up. Someday you will be here to tell your story and you can help save someone else. If you or someone that you know has questions or would like to tell your own story of reconciliation, feel free to contact me I’m always listening.
All the love,