Here is a letter by an indigenous related person named Jim Bissell, which he wrote in reply to a Sun columnist, named Lorne , relating to the “Residential schools” article, that is leading to church terrorism (by non-native people).
Lorne: I have been a follower of your writings for many years and although I agree most of the time with your opinion, even when I don't I still respect the way you present it. Suffice to say I am a fan.The time has come for 70 year old people like me to speak the truth. a little background. I grew up surrounded by 4 reserves and a large community of indigenous peoples. (95%). It was a community of wonderful, kind, very generous, very humorous people that remained that way even when very poor.
Also I have a wonderful successful indigenous daughter with grandkids and great-granddaughters. I am not a Catholic and I do not belong to any church. I belong to me and my family but I like Christian values.It should be noted that the missionaries though were very essential to our success in the northern communities at that time. I had my first TB test administered by a missionary trying to stop a TB outbreak. (I hated her at the time for the scratches on my back. LOL). I got my first stitches from a wonderful nun. I got my first tooth pulled by a missionary. My first X-ray by the nuns. My first teacher was an angel called Sister Rita. I will never forget her and her deep love of all the children she met and taught over the years.
My best teacher ever and she was not qualified by Government standards. So although I have never been a Catholic, their church has been very good for me and although I now do know of one very bad priest, most of the people were wonderful. I can still see brother Fillion who later became a priest working all by himself outside the school window making a wonderful merry-go-round for the schoolyard.
There also were two residential schools in the community. When I arrived in the community, there were no phones, very poor roads, mostly winter access, and not a lot of services other than the churches. The mission school was there long before my time. It has been told to me by elders that many small children, some way younger than school age, were dropped off at the missions sick, hoping the nuns could heal them. Sad to say many died from measles, diphtheria, TB, smallpox, flu and many other conditions of the poor. Just the reality of the north. Years ago most of the dead were placed in the trees so the birds and other animals could take them back to nature.
It was the churches that convinced them that that part of their culture should be changed so that to stop the spread of disease so they started to bury the dead. If the dead were Christians, their grave was marked by a painted rock or a small wooden cross that rotted away in 25 years or so. No one could afford a headstone and if they could there was no one that made them at the time. Times were hard and in fact desperate in the ’30s. Many people owed their lives to the missionaries and we tend to forget that.
They were not always right, no of course not, but they actually wanted to educate, feed and make the lives of all people better regardless of where they came from. The churches do not need to apologize for trying to educate the poor in the only system that would work for nomadic peoples, they need to say sorry though for protecting and moving about the few bad apples.(priests).
The Government saying they are sorry is meaningless. They didn't have a clue of the impact of their decisions at the time and they don't have now. Most of the older generation that did suffer are long dead and gone or have forgiven. It seems to me that many of the new generations just want to be victims and feel the money would solve their pain. We need to understand that very few people wanted to live in the north under the isolated conditions at the time just to help out with a few indigenous peoples. After the federal government took over the school system, most of my junior high school teachers were immigrants from the British Commonwealth (India, England Ireland and other countries) as no Alberta teachers wanted to live up there when they could live in or near a city with a doctor, bank, good grocery store, ambulance and my goodness even Policeman.
The quality of my education suffered because all of a sudden the nuns were not qualified to teach us in 1967 thus I had to try and take lessons from teachers with a very heavy accent and hard to understand and want to move close to the cities as soon as they could. Thank goodness the missionaries were there for the past 300 years. Were they all good? No, but many were wonderful and now that seems to be forgotten.
How many of today's critics have relatives that went up to those communities in those times to try and help? Not many, I bet. The media today is only telling half the story, so I feel we as witnesses have to speak up and speak to the truth. If you want I will take you to a sacred ground where hundreds of people were left in the ramps and trees or lay on the ground when they died. No one but historical memory marked their graves.
Please believe me when I say that the missionaries were not a bunch of evil persons out to kill little children like it sounds in today's media. That is not what I witnessed. The missionaries knew that the ancient peoples of our land could not continue to exist in a nomadic and isolated society, so they tried to educate them and of course change their culture to be more compatible with the conditions of the times. Were they right? Maybe, I don't know, but at least they were willing to try and help.
Like I tell my children, I cannot become indigenous like them but they can become Canadians like me and they are. There are more success stories out there than even you realize. The missionaries did not just throw bodies into the ground. Most were marked by a small wooden cross made by the brothers of the mission or parents of the child. Those crosses are long gone. Sad but true. I can also take you to the unmarked graves of many people that were not indigenous as well if you want. That was the way of the north.
Sorry to ramble on for so long but many things need to be said and if the elders of our society lack the moral courage to say them, we are doomed anyway. Please encourage people to stand up and be heard for the good not just the bad. Thanks and keep writing.Jim Bissell
Eileen Miskolczi Wonderful explanations well, spoken, well said, more people need to read. This and let it sink in, they all know of the terrible situations, this story should be published every week, so every can catch up on the parts that many now a day didn'… See moreBrooks Armstrong Hi Judy I have talked to two teachers here that both were teachers at a residential school and any time the kids had to go back to there community's they would cry because they didn't want to go back because of the conditions they had to go back toGord CureVery well written and of course money does nothing for the past .... just saying you can't paint them all with the same brush for a few bad apples....Sandra Backer Thank you for talking about the complete situation. I like that we are all CanadiansEleanor Allison Enlightening!Cheryl Washburn Very well said and written. Everyone Please Share this article.Lily Briggs Wonder full . GOD HELP THE ONES to heal who need it . Walter Forsyth Wonderfully truthfulBeverlie Regimbald I find most of her comments insulting to say the least and far to arrogant from a white woman who because she herself had no issues (probably because she is white) assumes that money won't t help. As a counsellor in the north I disagree vehemently. Terry Patchett Good to read both sides of the situation.Linda Thomas Interesting. There are always two sides to every story.Brenda Sundin Excellent! The truth!Joanne Stengler Yarham Thank you for sharing. I especially like the part that we are all Canadian. We may all have different ethnic backgrounds, but in the end, we are Canadians.Carol Cochrane That’s a great side that needs to be heard. I’m sure those missionaries were trying to help. It’s a shame a few bad apples can I spoil it. The media only wants us to hear the bad side of the stories. Thanks for showing us the other side.June Kelly That story reinstates a like for clergy who can and should be always helpful to the poor Betty Pylychaty Thank you that was very well written and your absolutely right the media always adds there own untruthful reporting to the publicBarry Tetz Excellent but you will never see this letter in the media
Ellen NielsenThank you for sharing, always two sides.Teddi Moore Very well written. I have spiken to some elders who said they liked the residential school they went too. Said they were fed well and treated well.Corrina Thorogood Well written. I appreciate you taking the time to voice your opinion in gracious and respectful way.Colleen Faryna Very well said and explained. Media is our worse enemy most often. It is so rewarding to have individuals like you to speak the truth of this matter. Thank you for this post.Patricia Weist It’s about time we heard some good about the schools!funny inky the bad experiences only talked to death in the media!you would think that the white man just never died,well I’m telling you there were lots of homesteader families and children died what… See moreDeb Alexandre Thank you for speaking your truth. Please keep sharing. I have a friend who is from the north. He has told me that the school he went to saved his life.
Lucille Nobert Heemeryck These true stories need to be told. It was not all bad. The media and lawyers encourage the spread of bad stories. How much of these writings will make the news or be televised. Sorry to say, but not many. Bad news sells, not the good.Cliff Galey This is so true everybody needs to read this. Residental scholls were on the prairies where i grew up my dad if he wanted a education past the country school house that went to grade 8 he had to go to as you would say a Residental school Yvette Bouchard Thank for ll the comments. As a Grey Nun it is so comforting to read that so many understand that all we did was trying to help the beautiful children and young girls to have an education that would help them further in like.Thank you again for you response to Jim Bessel’s comforting letter. Sr Yvette Bouchard
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