In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day, we are sharing this blog featuring the thoughts of our Indigenous Cultural Advisor, Elder Peter Schuler. He shared the following thoughts with us in response to the initial discovery of the 215 children at Kamloops Residential School. We ask that you take the time to read his thoughts, learn and reflect about how we can change for the better.
I believe that there are still those that do not know or don’t understand what the residential schools were.
So let’s imagine if you will that there are groups of people in your community going around abducting children and that you are aware of this and you take steps to keep your children safe.
You know what these perpetrators look like and when they come you hide your children and you have been successful at doing this for your son and daughter to have reached 4 and 6 years of age.
You hear rumours of terrible things happening to those children who have already been abducted and sometimes the children are returned after being away but they are not the same anymore.
They won’t speak to you in your language… they only speak in the language of those who took them.
Your children resent you because you did not protect them.
Imagine then that one day the abductors surprise you and demand that you give up your children and you can not hide them because they are standing beside you crying. The abductors seize them and take them away. You try to stop them. Both you and your husband fight the abductors but in the end, your children are gone and because you fought back they will not tell you where your children are.
You feel helpless because no one will help you.
You can not go to the police because it was them who took your children. You can not go to your church because it was your priest who guided the police to you.
You can not go to your leaders because they have already tried for years to get the abductions to stop. You can not go to the government because it is under their direction that the abductions take place. You can not go to a lawyer because there are laws preventing a lawyer from representing you.
Imagine then that your children never return and any inquiry you make goes unanswered.
Imagine then that in your despair you turn to alcohol to numb the pain.
Imagine then that the minister/priest that has established churches in your community chastises you for being a drunk and preaches on the evils of alcohol and points to you as an example of what happens to those who do not give up their heathen ways and accept Christ.
Imagine then that somehow you give up the alcohol and you are now 75 years old and you still hope that one day your son and daughter will come home. Every day you sit on your porch looking toward the road waiting.
You have your radio nearby and you listen to CBC.
You hear the afternoon news and the only thing you can remember is the number 215.
I am an Indigenous man. I am 74 years old. I did not go to residential school. I grew up within 20 miles of one but I did not know it because no one talked about it except to call it the Mush Hole. I had relatives who went there but never talked about it.
The government… your government …the church….your church, tried to hide the truth but the truth is slowly leaking out.
The truth is that Canada, aided and abetted by the church, carried out an act of genocide over a period of about one hundred years and hid the truth about it.
The truth is that the genocide started long before that with the British passing out blankets infected with smallpox to Indigenous People.
The truth is that Canada is built on a foundation of genocide, theft and ongoing destruction of the environment.
The truth is that when we buy into this lie of Canada being a good country that is all inclusive and welcoming we become complicit.
When you have read this far your ignorance of the truth is gone and you now have choices to make.
You can deny. You can justify. You can say it wasn’t your ancestors. You can say Jesus wouldn’t do that. You can deny that you receive any benefit from these crimes.
You can pressure the government to bring clean water to the Indigenous communities that have lived under boil water advisories for decades.
You can educate yourself on the real history of Canada ….or is it KKKanada?
You can pressure the government to honour treaties.
You can respect Indigenous peoples’ right to follow our own belief systems.
You can pressure governments to fund the revitalization of our languages.
You can recognize that you are a treaty partner and you as an individual are tied to the treaties.
You can start a 12 step program to end racism….that is a challenge in case you don’t recognize it…and I will end there because any change for the good is always a challenge.
Make the change…please.
Ozhibi’ige nini aka Peter Schuler Mississauga Ojibwe n’dow
If you are interested in learning more about the history of Residential Schools and their impact, please visit the following resources:
The Legacy of Hope Foundation is a national, Indigenous-led, charitable organization whose mission is to educate and raise awareness about Residential Schools and the long-lasting intergenerational impacts. Visit their website to learn more.
The Residential Schools podcast series is hosted by Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais and produced by Historica Canada. The podcast aims to commemorate the legacy of residential schools and honour the stories of survivors, their families and communities.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation The TRC was created to listen to survivors, their families, communities and others affected by the residential school system and educate Canadians about their experiences.This website is a collection of statements, documents and other materials collected by the TRC.
The following local organizations are working to support Indigenous People in our community and beyond. Consider donating to help make a difference.
Arctic Rose Foundation was founded by local Oakville resident and Juno-award winning singer-songwriter, Susan Aglukark. The mission of the Arctic Rose Foundation is to instill hope for Northern Inuit, First Nations and Metis children, youth and their families through the creation of programming that engages, nurtures and supports them in healthy and meaningful ways. You can donate here.
Conservation Halton is currently working to revitalize the Turtle and Wolf Clan Longhouses in Stage 3 of their Village Improvement Project at Crawford Lake. The Crawford Lake Village Improvement Project provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the cultural and historical heritage of Halton.
Woodland Cultural Centre’s “Save the Evidence” is a campaign to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, and to develop the building into an Interpreted Historic Site and Educational Resource. This site will act as a destination for information about Residential Schools in Canada, the experiences of Survivors of the schools, and the impact that the Residential School system has had on our communities. You can learn more about the campaign and donate directly through their website.
Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Cancer Support Group gathers and distributes resources for all types of cancer and provides positive group support for Indigenous individuals and families. The Oakville Community Foundation is happy to collect and distribute donations through the Truth & Reconciliation Fund.