Some Indigenous activists in Nova Scotia appreciate the country’s response to the discovery of 215 children buried at the former Kamloops residential school.
Bryson Syliboy, a two-spirit Mi’kmaw from the Sipekne’katik First Nation, put a Twitter thread together in response to many non-Indigenous people “asking what exactly is Indigenous allyship etiquette.”
“A lot of allyship has been coming forward, everybody is mourning with us,” Syliboy tells Global News. “You can see that Canada wants a change and wants accountability and wants knowledge.
“I was trying to find a constructive way to put my grief into something that I can help somebody else with.”
Learning of the findings has caused “a bag of mixed emotions” for Syliboy over the past week, but surprise isn’t one of them.
The news still hits close to home.
“I’ve had many relatives go to the residential school in Shubenacadie,” Syliboy says. “My mother is a survivor, my aunts and uncles are survivors, my grandparents are survivors…. I have cousins that are survivors.”
The purpose of the residential school system, he says, is to “take the Indian out of the child.”
“It was an act of cultural genocide,” Syliboy says.
Jarvis Googoo is also sharing online resources on social media, including a post from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs titled ‘What can YOU do?’ that offers resources to support residential school survivors and Indigenous people.
While the news came from out west and Googoo didn’t attend a residential school himself, it’s been a “big toll” to process.
“They went after children,” he says. “If we want to undo the legacies of colonialism and assimilation policies in the country, then for me with education, start young in provincial schools.”
He says when he attended an Indian day school from 1985 to 1993, he heard from residential school survivors as guest speakers and says that should be standard in provincial curriculums.
“They went after children … and if we want to undo the legacies of colonialism and assimilation policies in the country, then for me with education, start young in provincial schools,” he says.
“The trauma of what you went through is continuing to stay with you,” he says. “That trauma manifests itself into a multitude of things: substance abuse, suicide rates, etc.
“I’m glad that it seems a vast majority of Canadians are outraged,” he says.
But he, too, isn’t surprised by the discovery of the bodies.
“I’ve been hearing of missing children that attended the schools and were never accounted for,” he says. “Some died at the schools, that’s confirmed; some ran away and then somehow just disappeared.”
Googoo appreciates people reaching out asking if he’s OK.
But while changes to the education system could impact youth in the short term, there are a variety of ways for adults to support Indigenous people while they mourn.
Two suggestions Googoo offers for people looking to educate themselves are to familiarize themselves with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and to read Out of the Depths by Isabelle Knockwood.
While it might sound like a small step, another way to help is to donate to support Indigenous artists, he says.
“If we see a beautiful art piece, let’s support our artists and let’s buy that from them,” he says. “Somebody is going to put it up in their office, or their home, or give it out as a gift — and the first thing people want to ask is, ‘What is that?'”
After the senate recently passed a bill to make September 30 a national holiday for truth and reconciliation, Googoo is urging people to reach out to their MLAs to ensure the holiday would be recognized provincially.
According to advice from the ‘What can YOU do?’ post, people are also encouraged to donate to the National Indian Residential School Crisis line, Legacy of Hope Foundation or Orange Shirt Society.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience