Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Follow up on Canadian boarding school apology

Here's an interesting page on the reactions from the Canadian government apology for the boarding schools.

Although I am not as familiar with the Canadian Native boarding school issues as Alaskan, much of what the survivors are saying rings very true to what I've heard here.

I will say, I used to think differently about what happened to these generations. Without any understanding of what happened, it was difficult for me to understand why the generations before me "let" so many things go, like language, cultural elements.

Then I was in a class, and our instructor, a woman who attended a government school during the 30's and 40's, began talking candidly about her experience in the school. I realized I'd never heard even family members talk about this time in their life.

The stories she had were profound, and something she said really stuck with me. She was talking about her first days in the school, and the first time somebody got hit for speaking in Tlingit. She said (not verbatim), "The ones who really picked up on it quickest, the ones who stopped speaking the quickest, were the ones who got hit the most."

She also talked about not wanting to pass that kind of pain onto her younger siblings, cousins, and eventually children. My perspective really changed after hearing her. Given the same situation, facing abuse and constant shaming, I doubt very much I would have reacted differently. I also have some doubts I could have walked through it with as much strength, dignity, and a drive to make it better as so many of these generations did.



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