The tragic legacy of Residential Schools – four stories
“You had five minutes to get up when the first bell would ring, five minutes to get up and put your clothes on, five minutes to run two flights of stairs and be downstairs and stand in line for the second bell to go in and wash your hands and face…You should see the girls coming down there—we had boots that laced up high and they’d tie them together and lace them when they got to the bottom. If you weren’t down there—up you would go to get the strap. They would give you the strap for being late—you were supposed to be down there when you were supposed to be”. click to read the remainder of the story …
The legacy of the Residential School system is one of heartbreak, injustice and abuse. Read about one boys experience when he’d finally had enough and decided to take things into his own hands. This is the story of Willie Blackwater which eventually led to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Link to the article in ‘ Broadview ‘ magazine, formerly The Observer https://broadview.org/at-13-willie-blackwater-stood-up-to-his-abuser-at-a-b-c-residential-school/
Watch the movie – We Are Still Here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJtM-YEGpKc Three elders from Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, and the Bjekwanong First Nation on Walpole Island, share their memories of surviving residential schools. Produced by the Right Relations Group of Lambton Presbytery, United Church of Canada.
See TVO’s production- Is it Really Genocide? https://www.tvo.org/video/is-it-really-genocide-in-canada. It is hard to watch, it may change your view of what type of country we’ve been but its also a call to action to make Canada a country that genuinely accepts all its peoples.
Land and Treaty Issues
- To find out more about local Indigenous territories, languages or treaties; open the link to Native-Land.ca then depending on what you want to see; territories, languages or treaties, highlight the associated tab(s) and search on an address. Follow the links thru to see the actual treaty.
3. LAND BACK ! Over the last few years, we’ve begun hearing the cry of a powerful slogan in Canada: Land Back. While the slogan is new, the demand is not. Native youth have elevated a truth that we’ve long understood: a just path forward is impossible without the return of stolen land. More at https://breachmedia.ca/land-back/
4. Info on The London Township treaty of 1796, known as Treaty 6, – can be found in the London Public Library, including some original maps or click here
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. ‘Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, ‘What We Have Learned Report’, ‘The Survivors Speak Report’, The TRC’s ‘Calls to Action’. TRC Reports Page
The United Church’s Response to the TRC’s Calls to Action Click here
The 60’s Scoop – As a small child, Nakuset was taken from her home in Thompson, Manitoba and adopted into a Jewish family in Montreal. The story of how she reclaimed her Indigenous identity, with help from her Bubby. Link to clip
The Non-Indigenous United Church’s Journey of Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
by Dr Sara Stratton’s- Indigenous Justice Animator with the UCC
Note – these notes are a summary by Brad McMurray of the Zoom seminar ‘TRC101’, presented by Antler River , April 29,2021.
The earliest relationships between Indigenous and settlers often had truths, trust and treaties. But with more settlers arriving, these agreements became a blockage and were ignored. The relationship changed from one of co-existence to assimilation.
Approximately 150,000 children attended Residential Schools. The earliest one was in Mt Elgin, not far from London, On. The predecessor of the UCC operated 15 Residential Schools in 1927 down to 4 in 1966, the last UC school closed in 1969. It was later tabulated that the UC was responsible for aprox 10% of the total number of children in Residential Schools. During their lifetime, between 4000- 6000 children died in the care of Residential Schools. But its also important to remember that these schools existed on a foundation of colonialism and racism that existed at the time. Its also important to remember there were gradual positive developments between Indigenous peoples and the United Church: there were many Communities of Faith formed then that still exist. In the early 1970’s Dr John Snow helped form the Indian Ecumenical Conference. June 21 was recognized as our National Indigenous Day of Prayer. All of these developments signified significant theological and spiritual connections were happening as a counter to the Residential Schools legacy.
In 1977 at General Council, a review was initiated of Indigenous and UCC relations. By 1980, with national aboriginal consultations, calls were being made for the UCC to be held to account for its role in the abuses during the time of Residential Schools. At the 1985 General Council meeting, a call was made for an apology to Indigenous peoples.
In Port Alberni in 1997, Residential School Survivors came together and brought a lawsuit against the UCC and the Government of Canada for abuse by a dorm supervisor. This was followed by a ruling in June of 1998 that the church (25%) and Federal Governments (75%) were liable and the number of lawsuits increased dramatically, also involving the Anglican and Roman Catholic church’s. At this time the UCC created a steering committee, made up of survivors, to give direction to reconciliation. In October of 1998 the executive of General Council issued a formal apology to survivors of Residential Schools.
In May of 2006 the Federal Government announced an agreement between it and survivors of residential schools – the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement ( IRSSA) the largest class-action lawsuit in Canada’s history. It was based on 5 pillars; monetary payment for loss of culture and language, setting up of a commission to investigate residential schools history ( Truth and Reconciliation Commission) , commemorative memorials, a national healing fund and independent assessment hearings.
Dr Stratton noted this agreement would not have happened without the tenacity of the survivors. For more info on this subject, Dr Stratton mentioned the book Healing Haunted Histories by Enns and Myers.
The United Church’s Healing Fund
The Healing Fund, established in 1994, is a grant that supports healing initiatives in Indigenous communities to address the ongoing impacts of the residential school system. Indigenous communities may apply for up to $15,000 to create healing, culture, and/or language projects. To donate to this fund Healing Fund link or mail a cheque to The United Church of Canada attn. Healing Fund, 3250 Bloor Street West, Suite 200
Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4
Books to read or articles to research
Eileen Antone recommended these March 10, 2022 on a presentation ‘ Truth before Reconciliation, an Antler-River sponsored event via Zoom
The Unjust Society by Harold Cardinal ( available on Amazon )
Half-breed by Maria Campbell ( available in London Public Library )
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples ( Govt of Canada- link to report
It seems that every time there is a pipeline project that tries to get started, there is a blockade. Why is this? For some insight – click here https://www.united-church.ca/social-action/act-now/wetsuweten-and-right-free-prior-and-informed-consent
Globe & Mail story – Can this First Nation’s partnership with police offer a path for peace and justice elsewhere? https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-can-this-bc-first-nations-partnership-with-police-offer-a-path-for/