Jade Roberts began recording and sharing the stories of residential school survivors to help them recover.
“I feel just like talking about things is healing, when you’re not holding it in anymore,” she said.
Roberts published the first episode of her podcast Still Here Still Healing on April 28. She now has five installments and each focuses on a survivor.
The first episode is an interview with Mary Wesley. Now 80, she was forced to attend the Pelican Lake Residential School in Sioux Lookout in northern Ontario.
“Leaving my parents and going so far away… sometimes I used to go down to the lakeshore and cry.”
Roberts said speaking to people like Wesley gives her mixed emotions because, she said, “it is hard stuff to hear but… it needs to be shared.”
She said she also thinks about her father when speaking to survivors, who was taken to the school in Prince Albert. He died when she was 12 but she says speaking to survivors helps her understand.
“I feel like every episode there’s a bit from each survivor that I’m like, ‘oh that’s … maybe why my dad was like so angry,’” Roberts said.
One of the most emotional episodes was with Frank Clinton.
Clinton attended the Timber Bay Children’s School. A 2017 court decision stated that it was not a residential school because children were only housed there and went to school at a different location.
Clinton describes the cruelty he saw and experienced there and says one school staff member “seemed kinda to get a sick rush out of beating on kids because he seemed to smile a lot of times when he finished beating on a kid.”
In the episode, he states he was kidnapped.
“Why I say that is my grandmother and my mother both had a knife in their hand and they were ready to fend off these people who came to capture us,” he says in the second episode.
He was only removed from boarding school when his father asked why he was standing at the Thanksgiving table. He says his father refused to send him back to school when he realized Clinton couldn’t sit because he was “black and blue” from beatings by school staff.
He says he was then sent into the foster system and that the lack of opportunity to speak to other First Nations people there and at the Timber Bay school is why he no longer speaks Cree.
“I think there’s a lot of people like myself, that are intergenerational survivors that have the same experience. We didn’t really know what was going on until we got older and learned about it.”
Canada’s first residential school, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s ‘What We Learned’ report, opened in the early 17th century. The last — in Punnichy, Sask. — closed in 1996.
The TRC report says an estimated 150,000 people passed through the system and called it “cultural genocide.”
Despite the announcement, however, Roberts said she still meets people who don’t know residential schools existed. She said she hopes the podcast also teaches them.
“It didn’t happen a long, long time ago, it’s still affecting people today.”