We Will Remember… Residential Schools!

People in Alberta (and hopefully Canada) have heard by now that a draft document was leaked to CBC about the Alberta UCP government’s proposed education curriculum. The expert’s (12 hand-picked people who spent 8 days together) advice was to erase Indigenous history from the Alberta school curriculum saying it was too disturbing for children to learn about residential schools. While I agree that education needs to be age appropriate, to erase the history around residentials school in education is taking a huge step backwards. I have sent letters to our Premier, Minister of Education and my MLA stating that.

While thinking about this yesterday, I read a Facebook post by Janice Makokis from Cree Nation. In it she shares a conversation between her father and her 6 year old son on this very topic. Janice has graciously given me permission to share her post here.

I’m inspired to share this for two reasons. First, it provides a unique perspective on this subject. How would YOU feel if it was your history being eliminated? Second, we should ALL be having this conversation with our kids. Imagine what our country would look like if our children grew up understanding the truth.

Janice Makokis’ post (Oct 22, 2020)

Just a quick rant on this ridiculous argument (it’s too sad/ hard for children to hear) the AB UCP government is using to essentially erase Indigenous voices/ perspectives on residential schools in the current AB curriculum review.

Last night, me and Atayoh (who is 6yo) went hunting with my dad. My dad always shares teachings or childhood stories when we travel together or when we go do land based activities. So yesterday, my dad starts to share some stories from his childhood about being in school at Blue Quills and in St Paul. He shares an incident when the teacher took his ear and pulled/ twisted it for punishment for doing something. Atayohs response went like this “Moosom poppa, why would a teacher ever do that? That’s cruel/ mean. Do teachers still do that today?” Then my dad has to explain [in] simple terms about residential schools and what they did there. Then Atayoh said “Mommy is that against the law to hurt children – like what that teacher did to moosom poppa?” And I said yes my boy. Then he said “Well if they broke the law and children were hurt shouldn’t something have happened to those bad people that hurt the children?” The questions and explanations carried on a little bit longer but he knew what was going on.

It’s a gross misrepresentation of the AB UCP to assume children are incapable of understanding and processing these moments in our history that are necessary for every child to learn/ know. This is how we change our collective futures so we co-exist together in peace and friendship, the way the Treaties intended for us to live. In fact, children are incredibly intelligent in connecting feelings, emotions and experiences when explained in a way they understand. We can teach them about social justice, anti-racism and indigenous history/ perspectives from a place of understanding and empowerment to dream a better future for all of us.

So I don’t want to hear the lame sorry excuse that children can’t or won’t comprehend this tragic complex history, because they can and they do. My 6yo is a testament to being the third generation survivor of residential schools and he knows what happened because we have taught him.

Alberta, do better – stop the excuses because you know better.

Yes, we can do better Janice.

I hope that every Albertan and every Canadian stands up and makes their voice heard. We need to learn the truth. We all need to remember the thousands of children who were abused and survived, and especially those who never made it home.

As Janice says, “This is how we change our collective futures so we co-exist together in peace and friendship, the way the Treaties intended for us to live.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation revealed the names of 2,800 children who died in residential schools Monday at a ceremony in Gatieau, Que. A 50-metre long cloth bearing the names of the children who died was unfurled. The event was intended to break the silence over the fate of at least some of the thousands who disappeared during the decades the schools operated. (September 30, 2019.)

Photo source: Provincial Archives of Alberta – Students at Blue Quills Residential School

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