I am positive that everyone reading this is well aware of everything that has happened with the residential schools. But really, have any of you done ever everything to show that you are not okay with it? I know that it isn’t going on anymore, but I think we need to realize that perhaps the scars may fade, but a person’s memory of those tragic times are eternal.
Residential schools are no little thing. Personally, I cannot imagine having to go through that. Having to leave my home and my family, no longer being allowed to practice my religion, being stripped of every reminder of where I come from. Having my hair cut because someone else doesn’t like it. Being abused both physically and mentally. Being treated like I’m nothing. Feeling inferior because I am different. Being looked down on. Would you want that? Would anyone want that?
The residential schools were designed to eradicate any sense of Indian-ness. They denied us the opportunity to learn about ourselves.
It is not okay to treat others badly because they don’t believe in what you do. Because they don’t look like you. Because they don’t act like you. It may be over now, but is it really? People still remember it, and to me, that feels like far from over. The residential schools were made to take away a person’s identity, to take away who that person is, and fill that hole with who they want them to be.
To me, reconciliation means to restore our friendship. To show them that although we may have not gone through the same thing they have, we share their pain. We have to show them that we support them. All of us are equal. No matter where we come from, how we dress, what we believe in, our skin color. None of it matters, because, when you really think about it, we’re all humans.
We all know about the horrible past, so we can help change the future by showing support for those that have suffered. One of the easiest way is to wear an orange shirt on Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day may not seem all that important to you, but do you know the reason behind it? It is about a girl name Phyllis Webstad. When she was going to her residential school, her mother had bought her a beautiful , bright orange shirt for her first day. But what happened was that when she arrived, feeling incredibly proud of her wonderful shirt, her shirt was taken from her, and she never got to see it again. So we can support the Indigenous children by participating on every September 30th. We can show them that we know about it, and we want it to change.
We can also help reconcile by learning the truth about what happened. A lot of us think that the residential schools are old news, but really, the last school to shut down was actually in 1996. Not all that long ago if you think about it. We also think that not too many kids had to go, but that is far from the truth. 150 000 children were taken from their homes and forced to attend the residential schools. And a lot of the poor children were treated horribly. They had been expecting a normal school, but instead got a place where they were rejected, forced to all act one way, abused when they did something wrong, locked in dark basements for entire nights. We would be crazy to think that the kids weren’t getting the slightest bit fed up by all of this. And some had even tried to run away, but didn’t get far. The schools were often built far away from the children’s homes.
It is beyond important that we all become aware of what happened, because, although many of us did not have anything to do with it, it still happened. We may not have anything to do with it, but seriously, we didn’t have anything to do with preventing it either. It happened because no one tried to stop it. Now you might be asking why the Indigenous people didn’t fight back. The answer’s simple, because they didn’t know. They had thought that their children were going to get a better education, and, as parents, they wanted what was best for their kids. So really, if you think none of this has anything to do with you, think again. We didn’t start it, but it’s not like we can say that we stopped it either. This is one of the biggest ways it had impacted me. When I was younger, I thought that they had nothing to do with me, since I wasn’t the reason for them, but, like I just said, I was wrong. I think that you should take your knowledge, then do some extra research. Compare what you know to what you don’t know. Then compare what you do know to the truth. How far off base are you?
Now imagine if we all did something to help the Indigenous community. To show that we support them. How different would everything be from how it is now?