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Another country

Finding a healing space with Residential School survivors

By Carolyn Pogue

I have been to another country. This country didn’t have borders or make passports necessary. For me, it was a country of welcome and generosity. And it was only a five-hour drive from my home.

I have been to another country. This country rides around inside people who were born there. In fact, they would find it difficult to give up citizenship in this country. And even if they tried, others may not allow it. 

I have been to another country. Last week, I sat in a sacred circle with seventeen other women, each with a story to tell. We were there to encourage the writing of these stories in ink, thread, paint, laughter and tears. We were there for solidarity and sharing. We were there to talk about how survivors of Indian Residential Schools could tell their life stories in 15 minutes at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Edmonton between March 27 to 30. In this other country, there is pain and there is fearlessness beyond imagining.

Photo provided by Carolyn Pogue
Photo provided by Carolyn Pogue

In this other country, stories are different from the ones I heard growing up while at home, school and church. They are completely alive, and require the courage to live and to tell, instead of being prepackaged by faraway people — and viewed only on an electronic screen. They are similar, in some respects, to stories I have lived, but they are different in one important way. These are stories of children who were taught that they were savages; that their spirituality and parents were inadequate; and that they should have been born white. 

In this other country, the women prepared to place on record what the Indian Residential Schools actually accomplished. Let the record show — from these women and  150,000 other children — that Canada made a terrible mistake. And let it show, too, that the apologies from the Canadian government, the United Church of Canada and others were essential steps toward reconciliation. After all, there is much for which to apologize.

I want to live in a country that understands its own history. I want to live in a country of citizens who, when we welcome new people to this land, will inform them of this history. I want to live in a country that teaches every school student what happened. 

Of course, people who cannot visit another country can still learn its stories in books, films and Friendship Centres. There is opportunity for that. 

But I have been to this other country, and I am grateful.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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