Sihtoskâtowin is a Cree principle that is the act of supporting and helping each other as well as looking out for one another; collective support for the wellness, safety, caring and protection of community (Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge)
In the last year, there have been many graves that were found on the site of many residential schools and the search continues. The latest graves to be uncovered at Grouard Indian Residential School, also known as St. Bernard Mission School by Kapawe’no First Nation, contributes to the feeling that I have had since our little sky beings were uncovered In Kamloops. I am not surprised. Most Indigenous people are not surprised. Every Indigenous person in Canada is survivor of or is affected by Residential schools today. Our future was taken. These sky beings were future healers, educators, dancers, ceremonialists, mothers and fathers and grandparents, and elders. As an Indigenous person, I must live my life in a good way for those who could not. Their sacrifices have given me the opportunity to attend ceremony, receive my Spirit name, smudge daily, raise my children in my own home, reclaim my Cree language, create traditional crafts, relearn harvesting and healing practices, and live the traditional teachings that were taken. I am blessed by creator to do all the things that these sky beings were not allowed to when ripped from their families.
We have been asking for our missing sky beings to be brought home since they were taken. The Truth and Reconciliation calls to action number 73 and 74 (TRC Calls to Action, 2015) state the following:
- We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.
- We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.
Why have these calls to action not been met? The pain and sorrow felt by all Indigenous Nations across Ministik (Cree for the island consisting of North, South and Central America), has been felt for generations. I have family who have survived residential schools, who were taken in the 60s scoop, who were apprehended by social workers who lied to adoptive families, and who are still experiencing the effects of intergenerational trauma today. Generational Trauma, think about that. Years of trauma woven into our families that replaced our wholistic worldviews, our healing practices, our loving parenting practices, our ways of being, knowing and doing that nurtured our spirits to live our lives in a good way and in balance. When that is taken from you and you have to spend your life searching for those connections, in doubt, with shame, feeling alone ….it is not surprising that all my relations are still feeling the pain as though it all happened yesterday. Do not forget that it is still happening today (in the child services system, and with the practice of birth alerts) and without significant and purposeful change…it will continue into our tomorrows. I do not want that for my children and my grandchildren.
So check on your Indigenous clients, learners, colleges, friends, family and partners. Be present and do not be afraid to stand in that space with them with the pain and sorrow. Ask yourself, what can I do? What is my role? What are the gifts that have been given to you to be able to begin meaningful change within your community, workplace, and families ? And share. Share your voice, share your gifts, share your knowledge, share in our pain, and sorrow and share the love we should have for all of creator’s children. I challenge you all…do the work, and when the news reports trickle away…. Do Not Stop.
I have added some national and local resources for your information to share.
Take a few minutes to look at the memorial map by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will show you all the residential schools in Canada and the number of communities who had sky beings that did not come home.