Apology

I am feeling pretty weepy this week. Whenever I read or hear another news story about Harper’s apology to former residential school students, I find myself getting emotional. For me, it’s about more than how First Nations people were treated, although that was certainly horrific enough. For me it raises broader questions about how it is that we humans have the capacity to be so cruel to one another. Where did that trait come from, and how can we get rid of it? I am reminded of Colin Wilson’s book “The Mind Parasites”, in which a kind of mind cancer was sucking everything good from the human spirit. But I digress…

The broad strokes stories of residential school victims are fairly well known, so I won’t go into all that now. But here in the Yukon, you can see the devastating results every day. You also can’t help but be in awe of the strength of a growing number of people who are managing to pull themselves out of such a deep dark pit.

It’s difficult to hear people talk about ‘lazy, drunk Indians’ (yes, I still hear some of that in this country). There is no doubt in my mind that I would have slit my wrists a long time ago had I been subjected to the horror and sorrow that some First Nations people have. To find myself as one of only a handful of survivors in a village that had been hit by smallpox, to have my home and livelihood taken from me, to be ripped from my family at age 5 and taken to a place where I was beaten for speaking my own language and practicing my own customs and rituals and where I was sexually and verbally abused: why wouldn’t I turn to a bottle or a needle or a razor blade to make the pain stop?

Below is a photo that was on the front page of yesterday’s Whitehorse Star. It’s a picture of the woman who adopted Joe, listening to the Prime Minister make his apology. It just breaks your heart…

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