More than 300 people were in attendance at the Conexus Art Center in Regina on September 16, as the community seeks to recover from one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history.
Dubbed “The Truth Telling Gathering” and hosted by Keeseekoose First Nation, the event hosted more than 30 speakers, many of whom shared stories about their years as students in residential schools, facing mental abuse, physical and s****l.
Keeseekoose Chief Lee Katchemonia said it’s important to remember this uncomfortable history, adding that those unfamiliar with residential schools tend to ignore the experiences of survivors.
“That’s the reason why a lot of them won’t come forward, because of the negative reactions they might receive, and on top of that, there’s a lot of shame,” Katchemonia said.
He added: “A person has to carry this shame, for all these years, and it is not their shame to carry it, it is not their fault. They were just kids when it happened.
Katchemonia attended a day school where students were abused. He said the healing process will take some time, as the best approach is to help one person at a time, as everyone is at “a different stage in their healing journey.”
He added that teaching this history to the next generation will help them understand and connect with their elders.
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Alvin Musqua Jr. is the first generation in his family not to attend boarding school.
He said he saw firsthand his grandparents and parents deal with the trauma of residential schools, but he’s grateful his parents broke the cycle when they had him.
It’s a tradition he wants to continue with his own children, he said.
“I also wanted to be a good role model for them, I work at Keeseekose but I also work full time for Mosaic at the Esterhazy mine, to show them that there are many opportunities you can get, you don’t have any . It’s not enough to stay on the reservation like it was in the past,” Musqua Jr. said.