I am a parent that believes in telling my children the truth. I don’t shelter my girls from the evils of the world, and I tell them the truth as much as I deem appropriate for their age and understanding. I do not consider these painting too explicit for them. If you do not agree with me, then keep your opinion to yourself. I will educate my children on reconciliation in ways that I, their loving mother, believe will help them grow into compassionate, well-informed, and responsible Canadian citizens.
It was our first time visiting the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary. I knew that Kent Monkman’s exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resiliencewas on display, but I did not inform the girls what it was about. I wanted to see their reactions, without any of my influence.
When we arrive at the painting, The Scream, I watch them closely. It’s graphic. The RCMP, priests, and nuns are ripping children from their parents arms; I can feel the agony of the parents and siblings being torn apart. I hear the crow overhead cawing amongst the screams, and crying – confusion and panic fill the painting. I hear the dog barking defending its fallen Master and I see the older kids running for their lives. There is a lone RCMP standing calm, feeling justified with his shotgun. Is he going to shoot the parents that refuse to give up their children? Is he going to shoot the children that run? Why does he need a gun against defenseless women and children?
My four year old is sucking her thumb with her Claire bag in-hand. We came from our back-to-school shopping at Cross Iron Mills that morning. My eight year old looks close at the mother being held back by two RCMP officers, her hair is being ripped from her head, while a priest carries off her child still in diapers.
I ask, “What is this painting about?”
My six year old, the most introverted and pensive of all my girls’ replies, “residential school.”
“How do you know?” I ask.
“Because you told us about it before. Kids were taken from their mommies and daddies,” she states.
“How does it make you feel?”
“Sad,” she replies, “I wouldn’t want to be taken from you or daddy.”
When I view this painting from my perspective as an adopted child, and I insert myself into one of the children in the painting, I ask my burning questions that I longed to know the truth of: Why did they give me up? How did it happen? Do they still think about me? What did I do wrong?
When I view this painting from my perspective as a Metis mother of three girls, and I insert myself into one of the parents of this painting, I ask myself: Who gave them the authority and permission to take my child(ren)? What choice do I have –get shot or beaten so my child is alone? Why are they taking my children? Creator please help me?! HELP ME!
From a modern perspective I morph the priests, nuns, and RCMP into social workers, and government bureaucrats in Canada’s foster care system. Dr. Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada and activist for First Nation children in care has labelled the child welfare system as the modern form of residential school. According to this CBC article, Where the kids are: How indigenous children are over-represented in foster care, “Aboriginal children ages 14 and under represented 7% of all children in Canada in 2011, yet they accounted for 48% of all foster children in the country.”
In an Amnesty International interview Dr. Blackstock states “I would argue that we’re going to see many of those same harmful effects in this generation of First Nations children that we saw in residential schools if we don’t stop what we’re doing right now and make sure these kids have a proper chance to grow up with their families because that’s where they learn their cultures.” She ends the interview with “reconciliation means not having to say sorry a second time.”
I watch my three blonde-haired, blue-eyed (their father is Dutch) girls examine The Scream. They will never be the kids in this painting. I also know I don’t want them being the ones saying sorry to the kids in this painting. They have the truth of what happened, they have parents that teach them what the world is capable of, both the good and the bad, and they have compassion in their hearts.
* Glenbow Museum offers Free First Thursday Nights. Free Admission from 5pm – 9pm on the first Thursday of every month. Presented by Servus Credit Union.
* Yellowknife’s Prince of Wale’s Northern Heritage Center had an exhibition, My Residential School Experience by Fort Smith born artist, Robert Burke that portrayed his personal journey and healing process. We visited it June 2016.
Season 2 Women Warriors Podcast: Healing
When I first approached my Elder with tobacco to ask for a blessing for Season 2, with the theme of healing, she told me to careful. She wants me to be very clear that we do not offer Elders teachings or spiritual healings in our conversations. I am abstaining from talking about any specific Indigenous ceremonies or teachings. Also, the Elder was clear that I ask for as many resources as possible for my audience to access after listening to our conversations. There will be resources for healing located in the show notes and I will dedicate a page on the website for listeners to access.
I am excited to announuce my list of guests for season 2. In addition, my collaborator, Dr. Sonja Wicklum and I will do a special podcast introduction to how Women Warriors was created, results from last year’s research and our future plans for the program.
Dr. Carrie Bourassa – Scientific Director, CIHR –Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health.
Jean Cardinal – Dene Wellness Warriors, only Indigenous therapist in NWT that is certified by Health Canada to do counseling, residential school survivor, faciliatator of a New Day Program, NWT’s only healing program for male perpetrators of domestic violence.
Nancy King AKA Chief Ladybird – First Nations (Potawatomi and Chippewa) artist.
Carly Morton – First Nations Psychic Medium. Specialize in readings that connect people with passed loved ones.
Patrice Mousseau – Ojibway entrepreneur, Founder of Satya Organic Skin Care.
Juanita Lindley – First Nations Founder of Keepin it Real Addictions Services. Inspiring individuals, families and communities to heal from intergenerational trauma through social media, counselling and inspirational speaking
Dr. Karlee Fellner – (Cree/Métis)|Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Indigenous Education Counselling Psychology, University of Calgary.
Dr. Jennifer Leason – (Saulteaux- Métis Anishinaabek Kwé), Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary. Specializes in maternal health in Indigenous communities.
Helen Oro – Fashion designer/producer, Helen Oro Designs Inc.
Jannica Hoskins – Metis, independent filmmaker (founder of Fallen Feather Productions). Dating Indigenous men/intimate partner violence.