I first learned about residential schools nearly 10 years ago. A friend of mine was working for an organization that brings arts programming to remote communities, training and supporting local Indigenous artists to generate revenue and instruct youth in their given disciplines.
They told me that their work with the artists and children was beautiful, but incredibly sad. As much as they wanted to help, the conditions were depressingly awful, and there seemed little hope of a happy future for any of the residents. These communities can only be accessed by air and often lack clean water, food sources, emergency services, medical facilities, and educational opportunities. Substance dependency/addiction and physical/sexual abuse occur virtually unchecked. And this is right here in Ontario.
They told me about residential schools and their enduring legacy of trauma, oppression, and genocide. My first thought was, “they didn’t teach us about this in school”. I learned nothing of the colonizers’ treatment of Indigenous peoples, aside from watered-down, whitewashed accounts of “mutual cooperation”, with a few minor conflicts thrown in.
In light of the recent discoveries of unmarked graves containing the remains of hundreds children, with countless more yet to be found, I am heartbroken. What we call ‘Canada Day’ is an ode to a country that doesn’t exist. We don’t live in the idealized, whitewashed version of “glorious and free” that we sing about. The truth of our history is utterly shameful, and it is only by facing it that we can begin to celebrate the beauty of this land and the opportunities it has provided for us.
No one can erase the past, and by ignoring it we are complicity continuing the cycle of ongoing harm that has been perpetuated against the Native inhabitants of Turtle Island. Even as an immigrant myself I have an obligation to learn, acknowledge, and reckon with the privilege I assume by living here—the benefits of colonialism that I have reaped and continue to reap. We must contend with the price paid for this privilege—its cost in blood.
Going forward, I will forever look on this day as a day of remembrance and of mourning. My heart grieves for those who have suffered generations of horror in the name of false religion, greed, and white-supremacy.
My hope is that with a light shined on these places of darkness, we can have true repentance, true atonement, and true reconciliation. It’s not only on our government to do and be better, but each of us. How can we help? What role can we play in order to stand in solidarity with our Indigenous brothers and sisters?
@oncanadaproject provides some great educational resources. Deepen your knowledge and understanding by checking their profile or click the link in our bio.
You also have a voice, and it’s powerful. Use it!
If you have dollars to spare, consider donating to Native-led organizations, initiatives, and supporting Native artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs.
Speak out against hate, ignorance, and ongoing oppression.
Let this day be a collective first step for us as a country to face the truth of our history and make amends for this legacy of harm.