The ‘scoop’ of children happened close to home in Bruce County

photo by Allan Murray

We have all heard in mainstream media about the tragic and almost unbelievable story of 215 First Nations children that were found buried at a Kamloops Residential School.

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However, before taking part in a moving sharing circle and hearing first-hand the stories of survivors and their families, one cannot begin to understand or appreciate the suffering that these families must have gone through, and are still going through.

Mothers who lost their children to a government and church and had no recourse, no choice, no voice.

The depravity and atrocities that these children and others in the 139 residential schools across Canada must have gone through is incomprehensible.  What kind of people, church or government would ever have condoned this?

To sweep into a community and ‘scoop’ up children who were little more than babies takes a breadth of cruelty that is hard to understand … in the name of religion? In the name of assimilation?  In the name of what else?

Surrounding the Cenotaph at Saugeen First Nation, where the names of the men who volunteered to go to war and the many who died, lay tributes to the children … baby moccasins, teddy bears and flowers.  Sad reminders of lives that might have been.

                                                           Saugeen First Nation drumming ladies

I took part in a ‘sharing circle’ at Saugeen First nation on the third of a four-day ceremony held to recognize the lost children and help support those families who went through this unspeakable horror.

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Each in the circle had the chance to tell their story.

One gentleman (and gentle man) told of how he was taken from his family at the age of five and spent the next seven years in a residential school where ‘strapping’ was the norm.  Finally, at age 12, he escaped. And, yet, he remains a gentle soul.  He is also a veteran who volunteered to serve his country during war time … his country of Canada?  How does that happen?

Another, told of her sister who was taken while her father hid her in a barn to escape the ‘scoop’.

Yet another broke into tears trying to tell a story that was too painful for her to tell.

Another told of the ‘Indian Agent’ who came in with the priest to seize the children and take them away.

These are stories that aren’t thousands of miles away … they are here in Bruce County.

Spanish School remnant – for larger view Click on Image

On a personal note, I will say that I grew up some 20 minutes aways from Spanish, Ontario.  I learned only five years ago that there was a residential school there … something none of us knew at the time.  I learned about it because of a friend at Saugeen First Nation.  I was giving him a ride into Port Elgin when he told me he was a ‘scoop’ child who had been taken to Spanish.  I didn’t know what he was talking about even though I knew Spanish as just having been ‘around the corner’ in miles. He explained it. I, my family, my school friends, and I don’t know how many others, knew absolutely nothing about this school.  How could that be?  How could that have been kept so secret all those years?  To this day, I don’t know how, but it was obviously because some(body)/(thing) worked hard at it.

The Saugeen First Nation special ‘healing sharing circle’ and ceremonial fire invites and welcomes everyone from any community to take part in remembering the lost children.

Today, Thursday, June 3rd is the last day for everyone to take part in remembering those little children, some as young as three years old, who had no chance at life, and their families who are still reeling from the affects of having their children ‘scooped’ in order to have “the Indian beat out of them”.

This was a government order and was taken under contract with the Catholic church, which has not, as of today, issued any apology.

Hard to believe.

photo by Nan Marie Wismer – for larger view Click on Image