There are memories that continue to haunt residential school survivor Gratia Bunnie.
“I had infected kidneys and was supposed to take pills every day, but those nuns would take those pills away from me,” Bunnie said. “They’d leave me lying in the dorm until my body would be so swollen.”
She was just three years old at the time and attended the school from 1963 to 1971.
“My older brother would wet the bed and whenever he would wet the bed, they would make him come to the dining room and wear the diaper over his head,” Bunnie said.
“He wouldn’t get to eat, just stand there with the diaper on his head until everyone was done breakfast.”
On Thursday, the world learned the shocking news of an estimated 751 unmarked graves found at the school’s former site.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron and Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme shared the findings through a virtual news conference.
It came just weeks after 215 unmarked burial sites were reported at a residential school in Kamloops.
“We will find more bodies and we will not stop until we find all of our children. We will do a search of every Indian residential school site and we won’t stop there,” Cameron said Thursday.
“We will also search all of the sanitariums, Indian hospitals and all of the sites where people were taken and abused, tortured, neglected and murdered.”
On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for the “incredibly harmful” government policies that led to residential schools and the treatment of Indigenous peoples.
He said Canadians are “horrified and ashamed” of the country’s past.
“Specifically to the members of the Cowessess community and Treaty Four communities, we are sorry. It was something that we cannot undo in the past, but we can pledge ourselves every day to fix in the present and into the future,” Trudeau said.
“That means recognizing the harms, the impacts, the intergenerational trauma, the cycles of challenges that far too many Indigenous peoples face in this country because of actions that the federal government and other partners deliberately and willingly undertook.”
Bunnie said it’s good to see the country recognizing its mistakes and is stressing the importance of continuing to share stories like hers.
“I think we need to keep this legacy alive because I’m ashamed of Canada. There’s no pride in genocide,” Bunnie said.
Trudeau has promised action to make things right.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.