How The Truth of Residential Schools Needs To Be Shared

What I’ve learned about pain and trauma over the past 30 years of listening to individual’s stories is this: it takes a long time to say it and tell the story to someone else. I think the hurt gets stuck inside and the person that has experienced the trauma feels scared of it, but is more scared to let it out. 

This is why it has taken so long to get the stories out. At first, I think the world outside of the residential school experience didn’t believe such horrors took place. Now that hard evidence has been uncovered — with the finding of 215 skeletons of children that went to the Kamloops Indian Residential School  — the truth cannot be denied or ignored. 

Years ago I was facilitating workshops to a group of youth. I showed a DVD on the story of the schools, and other historical traumas that had happened to the relatives and parents of these youth. The feedback that came out of the workshops was powerful. A parent said to me, “Thank you for teaching that to my child.” The child had gone home from the workshop and apologized for the hard time they had given their parent. They hadn’t believed the parent when they did tell their story because the parent had been drunk when they spoke of it. So, the child thought it wasn’t true. Sharing the story helps our youth to understand why their parents have addictions. It seems it’s the only resource these trauma victims have to deal with the pain. In the long run the pain is still very much alive in them and the legacy of the traumas continues on, generation after generation.

It’s time to do more, now, when the people across Canada have been broken open again from the reminder of all the unbelievable violence that was inflicted on these children. It’s very hard to reconcile this part of our history. Healing through validation and providing a safe space to process and tell the story that haunts them each day is essential. We can create this for our people.

My mother never spoke of her rape till she was in her 80’s. We suspected this was part of her story, but she is one who held it inside — too afraid and ashamed to talk about it. 

I’ve been traveling for the past 30 years working in remote native communities, listening to the stories of pain. Many of the ones that have survived the schools have spent time with me to be sure their story does not die with them. Validation, respectful listening and love is part of the equation that is needed to heal the historical shameful events of violence that the generations before us experienced. 

Our mother is 89 years on this earth. She gave birth to six children and did a pretty great job, considering she spent 10 years of her formative years living in the violence and isolation that occurred in these schools. She was determined that alcohol would not be part of our lives, and she stayed true to her convictions. It was important for her to keep her children safe from the traumas. We did not escape it all, and I am blown away by her determination to do her best by her children. 


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I'd love to chat with you about how NVC Training can best meet your needs. I am always looking for ways to touch more lives...creating custom trainings, developing online courses, visiting remote communities, supporting NVC practice around the world. What's alive for you? I'll put the coffee on . . .


Leslie Williamson