Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Importance of Remembering History

Over the years, my schooling has allowed me to gain a broader perspective on Residential Schools in Aboriginal culture. First, I had to see if I had pre-conceived ideas. Then, I had to prepare myself for learning about tragic circumstances that happened throughout Canadian history. Afterwards, I attempted to sort out the stories from history that took place in my mind. This subject was new to me because I was just a student and an uninformed Canadian, but I had become interested and very passionate and I had grown to love the Aboriginal Peoples and their culture. Understanding Aboriginal culture has been heart wrenching, powerful and difficult all at the same time. I am still trying to grasp what is at the core and what is the truth about the past. This was a very significant time in history, even shameful, because what we have done in the past can influence what we do presently at this very moment, and affects many generations to come.

The question is, "Who has the right to say how the Aboriginal Peoples should live? Who gets to rewrite details from the past and justify their previous acts?"

From the dominant culture's carefully planned assimilation, the dramatic, detrimental events that occurred were very horrendous experiences. Unspeakable tragedies transpired.

Take, for example the loss of Aboriginal languages. During my life, these unspeakable tragedies were taking place all around me, I was unaware of the discrimination that Aboriginal Peoples of my time faced, designed to assimilate Aboriginal children for years to come. These children were forced to speak English and were forbidden to use their own languages. They were punished with physical abuse such as nails through their tongues, a painful reminder that their language was "inferior."

In Canada, the effects that Residential Schools had on Aboriginal Peoples are still present today. In all generations these painful circumstances will be remembered for more generations to come. When the memories of the physical abuse of these children come back to haunt them, the effects are felt by their whole family.

There is much that is sacred in the ancient traditions: family relationships, connection to land and the maintaining of language. But our dominant culture has attempted to strip them away.

The thought of being taken from my family is unthinkable and unimaginable. My family had a very important decision to make when I was born, they could either place me in an institution or take me home and care for me themselves. They wanted to give me the best life possible, so they chose to take me home and love me for who I was. My Mom took some time to educate herself on cerebral palsy and what it entails, so that she could help me grow up and be a successful person in society. A challenging undertaking, maybe? It proved to be a difficult decision, but a triumphant one at the same time.

I am being taught about what happened to the Aboriginal children at the Residential Schools, I consider myself very blessed that my family had a choice.

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