As spiritual people, with an understanding that we, too, are tied to the land, all of us here at Spiral Moon mourn the deaths of children whose graves have only recently been found at a few schools in Canada…and we mourn for the children whose graves are yet to be discovered, both in Canada and the US.
There were more than twice as many residential schools in the US as in Canada, and their history is just as challenging. Records show that about 1/4 of children never came home…but in many communities, the oral tradition says it was closer to half.
As an Indigenous person, I’ve known about residential schools, or “Indian boarding schools” for about as long as I can remember. My great grandparents attended one, as did my grandmother’s sister (who was actually a cousin they adopted when her family died in a cholera outbreak). We always thought my grandmother hadn’t attended one, because the stories she told us were ones where she lived at home and walked to the day school (and walked home for lunch), but it came out in the last few years that after her mother died, she was also sent to a residential school because her father didn’t really know what to do with a small child, after spending much of his childhood in an abusive situation at a school two days’ ride from home.
Their stories, sanitized for small ears, still told the impossibly awful situations they endured – so awful that they did not teach my grandmother any traditional knowledge, hoping to spare her from their fate. I don’t think she was any less traumatized by school than they were, but she also had their trauma to deal with.
We will be making plans for some sort of vigil or prayer service in the near future. Stay tuned for details.