The past month has been quite something for me. I have had the opportunity to do work I wouldn’t have imagined even three months ago. I have met beautiful people and been a part of something really, truly special.
First there was the Moose Hide Campaign event – an event for a movement to get men across Canada – Indigenous and non-Indigenous men – to talk about the role that they play in ending violence against women.
I spent the day at the event and there were many great speakers who said many great things but what struck me was the hope, the optimism and the respect for women I felt in the room. Women being referred to as the cradle of life, beautiful words about the resilience of women and how powerful they are. And one thought that I cannot get out of my head is how beautiful the ceremony I got to witness is, and I can’t help but wonder how someone like me once saw this and decided it had to be destroyed.
I never learned about residential schools in school. I don’t even remember when I first heard about them. I think I had heard the term but had no idea what that really meant. I had no idea that it was something that was still going on even when I was in high school – the last one closed in 1996.
I had no idea until I was an adult that people like me were stealing children from their homes and families and stripping them of their identities.
A couple of months ago I had never heard of Chanie Wenjack. Now I’ve met his family, I’ve read about his life. Now I understand that they took kids my daughter’s age away from their homes and their parents and made life so bad that they would run away – trying to walk 600 kms.
Now I know there is an 87-year-old mother in northern Ontario who still doesn’t understand why her 12-year-old son died alone by the side of the railroad tracks and that I don’t have any answer for her.
Now I have been in a room filled with over 2,000 people that has gone completely silent as a sister cries.
Now I am learning everything I should have been taught in school.
And I have talked to my daughter and told her that it was people like us who did this. We tried to destroy culture and language and it was wrong, and it’s up to us to do what we can to make it better. I have showed her how much my heart hurts when I think of her being taken away from me, coming back and not having her language any more, being told that her culture is bad and wrong.
I want to give her a window into what I never knew so that we can try to make the pain of it all go away. Because it hurts all of us.
Last week I sat with an elder and listened. She gave me peace. I sat on ceremony and I felt calm. I listened to a very wise man speak and I felt moved to action. I can’t quite grasp all of the things that have happened to me, around me, all the things I have been a small part of over the past month.
My child will know. My child will listen, she will witness, she will act.