Truth and Reconciliation
January 16th, 2020
Imagine being raised in an outdoor environment and having a strong relationship with your mom. Then imagine being taken away from her and placed into a residential school where you are neglected, abused and starved. Then when you get the opportunity to visit her, due to the inhuman cruel operations she underwent during the experimental testing at the hospital, her face was concealed in bandages to hide the bruises. These were the horrific events recalled by residential school survivor, Bernard Nelson. From 1831 to 1996 Indigenous youth were taken away from there families by the government to control the population and assimilate Indigenous youth. They were also forced to convert from their culture to government standards. During the time in residential schools, Indigenous youth were assaulted, denied proper access to clean drinking water,food and were forced to live in highly unsanitary living conditions. These inappropriate actions led the Indigenous youth, that survived residentials schools, to experience negative mental health issues, cultural loss, suicide and continual intergenerational trauma.
The food servings in residential schools were disproportionate to the kids and in doing so they suffered. The Canadian food guide says “the required amount of calories for a child age 3 to 12 is 2,400, [youth] ages 13+ require 3,200 calories”. Residential school students had a daily intake of 1000 calories, which clearly indicates that they were underfed. Oxford dictionary states that the word malnutrition means “lack of proper nutrition” caused by food deficiency. This caused the death of over 6000 Indeginous youth. Former residential school survivor, Barney Willams Junior, had to “eat cold mush while watching [their] disciplinaries feast on eggs and bacon”. Reversely, low-quality processed foods, in small portions, were served and did not meet the Canadian Food guide’s amount of calories required for proper nutrition. Due to their high metabolism, caused by starvation, the calories they did receive were quickly burned off so they never gained any weight. So students started undergoing starvation which caused them to become weak. Soon after the body fatigue symptoms set in, their immune system became submissive to viruses, overran their body, and resulted in fatal outcomes including death.
While residential schools were up and running, the Canadian government continued to rid Indigenous communities of their children, and they were forced to convert to Catholicism which meant not practicing their traditions anymore. This is how the government strived to destroy the native race. When these apolling events of residential schools finally ended in 1996, survivors and families were still left with the memories and events that happened. Still to this day, the effects of the residential school traumas still materialize in survivors minds, haunts them and brings about issues in their lives.On June 11th, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented an apology to the 150,000 recorded families and 80,000 former students of residential schools to apologize for the brutal events that took place in residential schools. This apology was a start in recognizing the impact of residential schools but it’s not going to heal the past. But without question,the events that took place were irreparable.I can’t even began to think of an antidote to mend the memories and wounds that have been inflicted through the years because of these schools.
© 2020 Hayden Barnhardt