We are interrupting Down the Rabbit Hole this week because the world has been interrupted by the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children in unmarked graves found at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. While, world wide, people have been shocked and saddened by this news, none have been more affected than Indigenous people, as this horrific discovery only serves to deepen the wound caused by colonialism that our country continues to deny and ignore.
Like us, we are sure many of you are looking to reach out and want to know how you can help. Unfortunately, this is not the time to add to the weight of the burden this news already carries for the Indigenous nations of, not only Canada, but the world.
Indigenous peoples of Canada have been communicating their needs for centuries only to have them fall on deaf ears. It is a great insult to now reach out because suddenly we are upset by this tragic news. The finding of these bodies is not surprising to the people who have known about, experienced and advocated against Residential Schools and their legacies of trauma for years.
Your reaction to this tragedy reveals how you can help. If you are shocked and surprised by the brutality revealed in this discovery, then the first thing you can do is educate yourself. Because these findings are neither shocking nor surprising in the context of real Canadian history.
Colonialism and settler politics were largely focused on the mass extinction of Indigenous culture and this objective was not handled with care; it was carried out in inhumane and disgusting ways that reek of genocide and largely still continue today. So, today, if you want to know what you can do to help the first thing is to get educated on the real history of Canada. Then, work to educate others.
The horrifying discovery of children in unmarked graves is something that makes you say ‘how could this happen?’ and the answer is simple: it was allowed to happen through a commitment to ignorance. This is something that never should’ve happened; but the truth is this is not an isolated incident. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WE MUST NEVER FORGET. A commitment to ignorance perpetuates the suffering of Indigenous communities that has gone on for too long. So, a commitment to knowledge is the only way forward. Once you know the truth, you can’t unknow it, and like this discovery demands, knowing the truth will not allow you to forget. Through a commitment to learning, we can begin the journey forward and by way of this education we can begin to know the answer to questions we are all asking: what can I do and how can I help?
In an effort to be strong and good allies we have compiled a list of resources and opportunities for education and donations so that people who want to know how to help have a place to begin. This list is by no means comprehensive and we welcome submissions of additional resources to add to the path we wish to provide to those who seek to join in on and enhance their ability to become good allies on this journey toward healing.
Write, call, or email your MP and demand that the federal government reverse its decision not to fund The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls To Action number 72-76. These are the Calls To Action that ensure Canada works with Indigenous communities to locate their missing loved ones and the unmarked burial places in a culturally informed way.
Sign the petition demanding a National Day of Mourning for the Lost Children of Residential School.
Donate to Witness Blanket is a large-scale traveling art installation inspired by a woven blanket, made out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures including Friendship Centres, band offices, treatment centres and universities, from across Canada. The Witness Blanket stands as a national monument to recognize the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honour the children, and symbolize ongoing reconciliation.
Donate to The Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF) is a national, Indigenous-led, charitable organization that has been working to promote healing and Reconciliation in Canada for more than 19 years. The LHF’s goal is to educate and raise awareness about the history and existing intergenerational impacts of the Residential School System (RSS) and subsequent Sixties Scoop (SS) on Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) Survivors, their descendants, and their communities to promote healing and Reconciliation.
Donate to The Indian Residential School Survivors Society provides counselling as well as health and cultural support. They have an easy to use donation button.
Donate to The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. Inspired by Chanie’s story and Gord’s call to build a better Canada, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund aims to build cultural understanding and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Enrol in University of Alberta FREE - Indigenous Canada Course University of Alberta Native Studies Department offers a FREE online course titled Indigenous Canada. It is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations.
Watch City news broadcast of Sisters of Chanie Wenjack speak about the ongoing pain caused by residential schools
Watch Global news broadcast ‘There’s no doubt there are other bodies’: GoFundMe launched to scan other residential school sites
Read BBC news article How do you define genocide?
Read CBC news article Your questions answered about Canada's residential school system
Read CFJC today READ: How to support Tk’emlups te Secwepemc
Read Facing History and Ourselves article The Charge of Genocide
Read The Native Women's association of Canada's Fact Sheet on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls
Watch documentary We were Children
Listen to the stories of survivors like Eddy Charlies story on The Nature of Us.
Take a tour of the Secwépemc Museum & Heritage Park. The Kamloops Indian Residential School tour provides an excellent learning opportunity to learn about the untold history of residential schools in Canada. The tour start with a 20 minute introductory video titled "Eyes of Children," produced by CBC. Following the video, the tour takes you into our first gallery, where a discussion is led by your guide about the history and timeline of residential schools in Canada, with an emphasis on the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The last leg of the tour brings you to the fourth floor of the residential school building, previously the boys dormatory.
Read Books such as:
Up Ghost River – Edmund Metatawabin A powerful, raw and eloquent memoir about the abuse former First Nations chief Edmund Metatawabin endured in residential school in the 1960s, the resulting trauma, and the spirit he rediscovered within himself and his community through traditional spirituality and knowledge.
They Came for the Children: Canada, Aboriginal Peoples, and Residential Schools, Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, Paulette Regan
A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada, E. Brian Titley
Truth and Indignation: Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools, Ronald Niezen
Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the Culture of Redress, Jennifer Henderson and Pauline Wakeham
Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, Larry Loyie, Wayne K. Spear and Constance Brissenden.
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America is a book by American-Canadian author Thomas King, first published in 2012 by Doubleday Canada. It presents a history of indigenous peoples in North America.
Read to your children:
I am not a number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer, Gillian Newland: When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her.
When we were alone by David Alexander Robertson: When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother's garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.
Stolen words by Melanie Florence The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language, Cree, he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again.
When I was eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Bestselling memoir Fatty Legs for younger readers. Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
And for those Down the Rabbit Hole readers the following are thoughts from that segment concerning this blog dedication:
Canadian residential schools started in the 1800s and were written into the Indian Act. In 1920 attendance was made mandatory by law, and in 1933 parents forcefully lost legal custody of their children which was then transferred to the schools’ principals. The last residential school wasn’t closed until 1996. Take a minute to let those dates sink in.
Every year on November 11th Canadians observe a moment of silence to remember the fallen soldiers of the first and second World War. When I was a child, I was also taught that Remembrance Day teaches us to never forget the horrors of those wars, and the responsibility for people to stand up against evil. In this case, evil is referring to genocide. In Canada, it was first observed in 1921 as Armistice Day, and then deemed Remembrance Day in 1931. Again, I ask you to take a minute to let those dates sink in.
At the same time that the government was establishing Remembrance Day in Canada, they were simultaneously disregarding the values those soldiers fought for by legalizing cultural eradication. The residential school system was part of the organized genocide of indigenous peoples in Canada. The children were stolen from their families, given numbers instead of names, forbidden to use their own language or touch each other, tortured, raped, and murdered. Some of these children were as young as three.
Uncovering the truth is important for so many reasons, not least of which is that to deny these things happened or insist they be forgotten is to reinforce the dehumanization of indigenous people that allowed the residential school horrors to be inflicted in the first place and for so long.
The attempted genocide continues. Indigenous women and girls make up 10% of all homicides in Canada, but only 3% of the population, and almost half of cases remain unsolved. Failure to dedicate the resources to bring their perpetrators to justice suggests that their lives are not as valuable as others, and makes them a prime target for predators. As Canadians, we need to learn the facts about indigenous history, demand justice, and recognize these evils so that they are not repeated.
Information was gathered by members of Book Interrupted's networks, social media (such as post by John Wort Hannam and Bif Naked) and internet searches.