We Were Children

Coincidentally, as I was reflecting on this movie/documentary and the readings around it, a song came on the radio which truly captured my thoughts. It was an Indigenous version of ‘O Canada’ but with lyrics surrounding the painful experiences of the Residential School System and the bridge toward Truth and Reconciliation. I tried to find it online but had no luck. This line “They cried to be heard again” truly touched me, especially after watching in disturbing detail the horrific experiences of those innocent children. Because these stories have been hidden from the public eye for so long—and I would argue that to some extent they still are—every time they have to retell their stories in order to be heard, tears come down as painful memories resurface.

Battiste highlights that “Once modern society became convinced of the absolute right and virtue of its values and institutions, either real or imaginary, it set out to convert all other societies with which they came into contact …the modern educational system was created to maintain the identity, language, and culture of a colonial society, while ignoring the need to decolonize” (Pg. 30). Erasing or reshaping ones’ identity toward a uniform “dominant” society is the perfect recipe toward creating a generation of LOST. They are neither part of the dominant society nor do they belong to their own. Simply put; one cannot know where they are going without knowing where they come from.

Battiste’s words really spoke to me because aside from the dark and hidden history of the Residential School system, many of the problems she mentioned are starting to take shape in the new generation of my own culture. Since the emergence of private Eurocentric schools in Egypt, new generations have increasingly come to devalue the need to learn their own language and are slowly starting to lose interest in their own culture. It’s amazing how much influence schools can have on shaping identities of future generations and even more so, how teachers can significantly change the path of many lives by building bridges. As teachers, we have a major role to play within Truth and Reconciliation and must understand that not only do we affect the lives of the students we interact with, but the many generations they will lead. While Battiste’s writing was directed more toward expected change from the government, I believe that actual change will occur from a bottom-up approach when we as teachers engineer safe and stable bridges that introduce our students to a world of hope and possibilities.

Here is a song that may capture some of the memories surrounding Residential School Experiences: