‘Not something you can get over’: Survivors, youth reflect on lasting residential school impacts

Click to play video: 'Survivors, youth reflect on lasting residential school impacts'
Survivors, youth reflect on lasting residential school impacts
WATCH: The trauma and pain of residential schools reach far past the students who attended, with their experiences impacting families and children for years to come – Jun 29, 2021

Roland Crowe still remembers his first day at Marieval Indian Residential School.

He was about seven years old when he first attended the day school in the 1950s.

“I got a strapping from the Sister for things that I wasn’t supposed to do or say,” Crowe said.

Roland Crowe was a day student at Marieval Indian Residential School in the 1950s. Global News

“The nuns and the priest were absolutely brutal.”

Story continues below advertisement

From that day on, most of Crowe’s school experiences over the next seven years weren’t very happy ones.

Crowe says teachers would speak French to one another, often times referring to the students as savages.

Other times, students were hit from the back with rulers or an open hand, according to Crowe.

“A lot of us who went to residential school have busted eardrums today,” he said.

Read more: Saskatchewan residential school survivor reacts to discovery of unmarked graves

Crowe says he still lives with the trauma today. But it’s not just residential school students seeing the effects. He says many Indigenous people face a lot of the same issues and many of them stem from economic inequality.

“This country has go give us a fair opportunity for employment, economic opportunities and jobs,” he said.

“Until that’s done, there’s always going to be problems.”

Meadow Musqua, 17, is the first generation in her family to not attend a residential school, but she knows of the harm it caused.

The Dakota, Saulteaux and Cree teenager says her dad doesn’t talk about his time at residential school, but he does struggle with alcohol abuse as a result of attending.

Story continues below advertisement

“He’s a really hard man. He doesn’t like showing his feelings,” she said.

Growing up, Musqua says her dad taught her about Indigenous culture and right from wrong, but wasn’t there for her emotionally.

“When it came to being there and understanding me and my feelings it was kind of shut off,” she said.

Read more: Estimated 751 unmarked graves found at former Saskatchewan residential school

She says her dad didn’t have a connection with his parents either — a direct result of the trauma they faced at residential schools. That intergenerational trauma is now trickling down to Musqua’s relationships.

Meadow Musqua (left) danced at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building during a ceremony honouring the remains of 215 children found at a former Kamloops residential school. Courtesy: Meadow Musqua

She finds caring for people difficult, because she says her father never expressed his love when she was younger.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s a new thing for me — having to show love when I wasn’t really shown it myself,” Musqua said.

“But I love showing my nieces and nephews that I love them.”

In light of the unmarked graves found on Cowessess First Nation, Musqua says Indigenous and non-Indigenous people need to build a connection, ask questions and learn about the impacts of residential schools.

“I wish that people would stop telling us to get over it because that’s not something you can get over,” she said.

Sarah Wolfe, a member of Piapot First Nation, says her family never talked about residential schools despite her grandparents, uncles and aunts all attending.

The 16-year-old says she didn’t really learn about them until a brief lesson in class at her Catholic school in Regina.

Once she knew the history and horrors of residential schools, she says she questioned her identity as a member of the Catholic Church.

“I do feel like it’s a betrayal to my own people,” Wolfe said.

Sarah Wolfe (right) says she embraces her Indigenous culture and participates in smudges and ceremonies.
Sarah Wolfe (right) says she embraces her Indigenous culture and participates in smudges and ceremonies. Courtesy: Sarah Wolfe

Growing up, Wolfe says her family was very religious and didn’t practice Indigenous traditions — a result of many generations being stripped of their culture at residential schools.

Story continues below advertisement

However, Wolfe says she now balances out her identity by embracing Indigenous culture, taking part in smudges and ceremonies, and spending time on her First Nation.

Read more: ‘We need to own our past’: Catholic parishioners reflect on discovery of unmarked graves

“It’s something I’m not scared to do anymore,” Wolfe said.

“Before it was all new and it was more of a journey of finding that part of myself.”

Now that Wolfe is more comfortable with her identity, she says she feels an obligation to learn, educate and speak out on Indigenous issues, including the effects of intergenerational trauma brought on by residential schools.

“We’re speaking for the people who back then didn’t have a voice,” she said.

“Now that things are being brought to light and the younger generation is stepping up, it gives us a chance to really show what these people went through as well as how it affects all of us.”

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.

Click to play video: 'Members of the Cowessess First Nation hold vigil after discovery of unmarked graves at a former residential school'
Members of the Cowessess First Nation hold vigil after discovery of unmarked graves at a former residential school

Sponsored content