Note: We are a settler-led organization and this post is not an Indigenous perspective.
Friday, Sept 30 marks the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
With the discovery of thousands of unmarked children’s graves over the last two years, the horrors of residential schools have been brought to light for many non-Indigenous people in Canada. For Indigenous families, however, this knowledge is far from new as the harm and trauma caused by residential schools has plagued families through generations. For those families, Hackergal wants to acknowledge this pain and hurt, and wish you comfort and healing on this day.
Since before confederation, colonial governments have embarked on a process of assimilation. For roughly seven generations, with the last residential school closing in 1996, nearly every Indigenous child in this land was sent to a residential school. Under the rule of law and enforced by the RCMP, Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families and communities to live in institutions of assimilation where abuse and humiliation were used to sever the ties through which culture is taught and sustained. A general loss of Indigenous language and culture is the direct result of residential schools.
It is necessary for non-Indigenous Canadians to learn about and acknowledge this history – not to induce shame, but to understand why reconciliation is required. We cannot collectively work towards reconciliation without individually accepting the truth. Acts of systemic violence against Indigenous peoples continue today. 7% of children in Canada are Indigenous while 52% of children in foster care are Indigenous. There are more Indigenous children in foster care today than there were at the height of residential schools. We can do better than our history. Once we understand the societal context in which Indigenous families are living today, we can strive and work together to make a better Canada for all.
If you are in a position to do so, please consider learning more about the legacy of residential schools by attending a virtual tour of the former Mohawk Institute located at the Woodland Cultural Centre. Donations made to attend a tour will directly fund efforts to preserve, promote and strengthen Indigenous language, culture, art and history.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their Residential school experience: 1-866-925-4419
Written by Tanya O’Connell, Community Engagement Manager @ Hackergal