SPENCER: It’s here, and it is present – Part 1

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These are tough and sensitive discussions. But I believe they are desperately important for the reparations of our First Nation people and for the change we need in our country.

It is a privilege to learn about this, instead of experiencing it. For many, the affects are still here and very present.

I first fully comprehended the horrid past of colonist settlers, First Nation People and Canadian Indian Residential Schools and what that actually meant, in the last several years.

I have heard folks speak as though this is in the past or something that happened somewhere else, but did you know there was an Indigenous Residential School nearby?

Mohawk Institute Residential School was the first Residential school in Canada, located in Brantford. The school operated under the Government of Canada and the Anglican Church from 1831 to 1969. ‘Enrolment’ at the school ranged from 90 to 200 students per year

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I use the word ‘enrolment’ in quotes as that is how it is written in the history books but to be clear, it was not the families of these children that did the enrolling. Authorities would frequently take children to schools far from their home communities, part of a strategy to alienate them from their families and familiar surroundings. In 1920, under the Indian Act, it became mandatory for every Indian child to attend a residential school and illegal for them to attend any other educational institution.

I recently had the privilege to sit down with a local friend, Kirby Hill. Kirby is from Six Nations and he shared his story with tears streaming down his face. You see, his mom, dad, aunties and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents, attended the ‘mush hole.’

The ‘mush hole’ is the nickname of the Mohawk Brantford Residential school and became known as such because of the bland porridge (in contrast to their more nutritious corn-based porridge) that Indigenous children were fed over and over and over, by the school.

In fact, food historian Ian Mosby has become the modern whistleblower. He documented experiments conducted by the federal government on children in six residential schools across the Canada, during the 1940s and 1950s. Ian recovered information on the nutritional neglect and experimentation on children that took place in these schools.

Mindfulness teaches us to have present moment awareness of what is, as it is. Not as we wish it were, and not as we think it should be. But honouring with acceptance the truth of a reality, so that proper action can be made.

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I invite you to mindfully imagine. Your child turns three or four years old and is of age to attend Junior Kindergarten. A knock at the door reveals a government official, soldier or RCMP that demands and confiscates your child. You resist this notion of someone taking your child away from you and refuse. You, as the parent, are beaten and/or arrested for your resistance of the kidnapping of your child.

You are left at home without your child or children. Your children, taken to a school where they will live, eat and sleep at. You will only be allowed to see your children at Christmas break, if and only if you follow the rules mandated and enforced on your children that are being raised by other people, against your consent.

Can you imagine?

Kirby Hill can, as it happened to his family and the intergenerational trauma that followed is still a part of his life today.

In next week’s column, Kirby shares more of his story and offers a solution for all of us to embrace.

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