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‘We are born grieving’: Beausoleil First Nation community dealing with residential school trauma

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In Governance
Jul 2nd, 2021
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Angeline Sandy, a 33-year-old Ojibwe-Potawatomi Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation, stands in front of a memorial at St. Ann’s Parish created to honour the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were recently discovered in Kamloops B.C. – Andrew Mendler/Metroland

From Simcoe.com June 15, 2021
By Andrew Mendler

The recent discovery at a former residential school in Kamloops B.C. has left many residents on Beausoleil First Nation reeling.

For Angeline Sandy, a 33-year-old Ojibwe-Potawatomi Anishinaabe who grew up on Christian Island, the discovery hit really close to home.

Her aunt’s sister was taken as a child and ended up at the residential school in Kamloops. She was never seen or heard from again.

The family believes she is one of the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered at the former residential school site last month.

“We have been in mourning,” said Sandy.

In late May, ground penetrating radar was used at the site of former residential school in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. The remains of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three years old were discovered.

“I was saddened, but I wasn’t surprised,” said Sandy.

As the granddaughter of residential school survivors and daughter of Indian Day School attendees, Sandy carries inter-generational trauma.

“We carry that trauma. We carry that grief,” said Sandy. “We are born grieving.”

Memorials for those children were set up on the steps of the Martyrs’ Shrine and St. Ann’s Parish and ceremonial fires took place in Springwater and on Beausoleil First Nation.

The discovery in B.C. has a wide-ranging ripple effect and stirred up emotions right across the country. Many in the Beausoleil First Nation community have been “triggered” by the news.

“It hit us right in the DNA,” said Elizabeth Elson, a Beausoleil First Nation member and Indigenous activist. “It’s like we were there and were part of it. You can almost feel the souls of those young ones.”

Elson said she has teared up a few times thinking about the children whose lives were lost at the Kamloops school. While saddened by the news, she is pleased at the conversation it has started.

“I am glad that this has come to light and that it’s not just being covered up and dismissed. We need to carry on and find our people,” said Elson.

“Those are not the only bodies they are going to find. There are so many places all over Canada where they had schools. We need to find out what happened to the rest of (the missing children).”

Elson’s mother is a residential school survivor. When she was 14 years old she lied about her age in order to join the army and get away from school.

Her father was the victim of a “starlight tour.” He was picked up by police, driven out of town and left at the Saskatchewan border.

“I wasn’t raised on a reservation. (My parents) didn’t want anything to happen to me,” said Elson. “In a way I am glad, but I didn’t get to experience my culture until I was in my 30s.”

She said she believes the Kamloops discovery is “the tip of the iceberg.”

“The truth needs to come out. People need to know what happened. How (the government) got their land, why they got their land, and who was hurt when they got their land,” said Elson.

For immediate assistance to those who may need it, the national residential school crisis line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

See original article here

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