I am a woman who sits in the middle.
On one side, I am a white woman of privilege; on the other, I am a grandmother, auntie, mother-in-law, cousin and sister to my First Nations family and friends.
My privilege means I have never experienced the lasting intergenerational effects of residential school; the kinds of hatred, self-hate, abuse and racism those friends and family have. But, my open heart allows me to hear their pain and begin to understand through hearing their stories, exactly what Truth and Reconciliation is and means for our people.
Yes, our people.
I can only imagine my cousin’s pain and suffering not ever knowing who murdered his mother. Or understand when I hear my family or friends say they don’t want to be seen as an “Indian”. I also can’t imagine what my new friend – an intergenerational daughter of residential school survivors – feels when she’s told to “just get over it”.
That new friend, Sabrina Sullivan, said such powerful words about her experience, “As a child who grew up under the exact same abuse that occurred in these schools, as an adult who has been deprived of a relationship with a sister my entire life while my other sister rode alongside the little house of terrors, because our mother was so damaged by the practises of the almighty “catholic saviours” during the 60’s scoop, and stole her ability to mother us. The beautiful family and culture I denied for 20 years due to the trauma and abuse I endured as a child to which I have only just reconnected to. I count it another loss. The on-going battle I fight every day to be the best mom I can (despite the judgements from others). Always fighting the natural instincts ingrained into me and finding forgiveness for the people who have hurt me and forgiving myself for those I have hurt … if these aren’t direct effects on this woman of this generation, tell me what is?
“This is a very real and still very raw reality, to minimize its affects and to say it’s not a big deal, get over it … Shame on you. It’s time to open eyes, heal and acknowledge.”
I belong to such an open and sharing community here in Northern B.C., each surrounding FN community has welcomed me and shared with me as an equal – a part of the community.
This openness plays a big part in how I can take ownership of my role in the healing process of survivors – through a greater understanding of who my community is, where they come from, and where they are headed.
Part of healing is just like Sabrina said, opening your eyes to what is still happening to the next generations as a result of what we did.
Be a part of that healing process by taking responsibility for and acknowledging what we did to our people – because it doesn’t matter if it was our ancestors who wronged our people – it is and always will be our burden and a part of who we are.
Working for forgiveness is the part we play in truth and in reconciliation.