The stated aim was to “kill the Indian in the child”…
For generations the children in my family have been under attack, despised. More recently in the form of being stolen from their home and either put in outside/foster care or sent to Residential School.
The Schools were generally many tens of miles away from home, sometimes further. That way it was difficult for parents to visit.
These Institutions were generally run by religious organizations (Anglican, Catholic, United, and Presbyterians) on behalf of the Canadian Government, officially starting in the 1840’s.
Approximately 150,000 children went to Residential School.
50,000 of them died there or in trying to escape. Many others were starved or exposed to disease or cut into for “medical research”.
At school, they were taught that their grandparents were evil devil worshipers and that their language was the Devil’s Tongue. If they spoke anything other than English, the children were punished.
The first thing that happened to them upon arrival was the cutting off of their braids.
Most of the children were abused physically, all emotionally and many sexually.
This from the people who were indoctrinating them in Christianity and the Word of God’s Love.
The last Residential School closed in 1996. Not 1896…1996.
The stated aim was to “kill the Indian in the child”.
So imagine, if you will, what kind of damaged person emerged from a place like that. They have lost their culture, their language, their sense of self worth and their grip on proper behaviour.
Now imagine them trying to piece a life back together in world that despises them for their skin, their family, their culture, their very existence.
Now imagine their feelings when their own children are taken away, and they know what is happening to them, but they can’t do anything about it. Many tried and were arrested.
A shadow of shame and violence descended and for generations no one talked about their experiences. They hid their pain in alcohol. They perpetuated their own abuses.
Some didn’t. Some found healing again in their culture. A culture that the government was actively attempting to stamp out, that had to be kept secret.
I am the first generation of my family that wasn’t taken from my home.
And that’s just one issue.
All people have suffered and come from a long line of suffering.
For some of us it is sickness, in any of its forms, for others it’s secrets or loss.
We are born into suffering and grow in it. It shapes us.
If we only go with the flow, we become lost in it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can navigate these waters, these tears.
Suffering makes us strong if we let it. Even as the body weakens, the spirit can become unstoppable.
If your body is whole, pushing it can build muscle and endurance. The same truth is reflected in spirit.
But we need to see a path. A way. When we are lost in darkness it feels as if there is no choice that could lead to something better. We get stuck in the tangles of the woods, the forest of our mind.
That’s when we need to stop struggling, stop recounting the horrors of our journey and simply rise above it.
To “get away from it all” we often watch tv or have a drink or play video games…check Facebook, lol.
But that activity only makes us sleep. Our soul shuts down and we become numb.
I have found that a creative state, a prayerful state, a meditative state…these have the same effect of allowing us to shed our stress. But instead of going numb, we do the opposite. We become alive.
Learn to dream while awake and aware
Not in the sense of a plan or accelerated thoughts, but in a peaceful state that allows you to see. The shadows are banished.
It takes practice. It takes time. It takes a willingness to be calm, slow down, become still.
In Cree culture, we have many methods to attain this state. It’s embedded in the culture itself. The strongest elements of Cree spirituality and well being demand that you put the world aside and become present.
The same thing is found in Indigenous cultures across the Americas and the world.
It’s how we survived the centuries of attempted genocide. How we laugh when things are darkest.
It’s what heals the people and gives them strength.
It’s how we continue to offer peace, to talk and find solutions, to love those who would destroy us.
It’s a gift left to us from our ancestors, preserved through the generations.
The fundamental teachings are what will save the world.
And it’s what will save your personal world.
Learning how to think about your problems, to view them as opportunities for learning and growth – to view them as spiritual gifts – that’s what will completely revolutionize your life, your community and the world.