I hoisted my tired self off the couch at 10am today and hied away to the MacKenzie Art Gallery to see a group show of First Nations artists. The theme of the show was the residential school debacle. The artists, of various tribes and provinces, are extremely talented and they told the story well in minimalistic displays of photos, audio exhibits, residual items from the schools themselves and sculptures. I truly enjoyed reading their personal stories and why they chose to honour the suffering of their ancestors in this way...passing on the stories of what happened then and how it continues to effect their families now.
I am not sure what to think of what is going on right now in regard to that whole residential school situation and the cultural genocide it fostered. So much destruction to lifestyle, language and families occured in so many cases. Such a misguided attempt to assimilate those we conquored into our own European culture was doomed to failure from the start. Terrible things happened to many of those people.
I do have one problem that I am struggling with though in the midst of all the heartache and that is the fear experienced by those in the residential schools who feel they benefited greatly from the experience, believe that their lives were saved from carrying on certain family dysfunctions. They fear that they will be persecuted by their own people if they admit how happy they are that they were actually rescued from ongoing tragedy and despair that began back on the reserves where they were born, long before the creation of the residential school policies. The people I have talked to are incredibly grateful they were rescued from the dysfunction, provided with educations that stood them in good stead for life employment, who had toys and good clothes and enough food to eat and loving group home "parents"...all things they would not have had access to had they stayed in their particular homes on the reserve.
I feel very sad that their stories are not also allowed to be heard. I feel sorry that they are so afraid to speak out and show another side of story, some of the positive life transformations that also took place in the midst of a government created situation that should never have taken place. Why can they not be allowed to rejoice that in the midst of a catastrophic situation, at least a few experienced redemption from sure disaster and transformation of their lives in a very postive way?
I am sorrowful for all who were so hurt by the residential school experience and I am sorrowful for those who have been bullied and terrorized into being unable to publicly express the good things that happened during their own experiences there.