The Shameful History of Residential Schools

Today I am sharing with you a post that I wrote almost 4 years ago. It was the third post I ever wrote, and my first one on any specific content — the first two were about why I was blogging. My third post was titled “Residential Schools – We Can Remember by Wearing Orange”.

On that date of Sept 25, 2017 I wrote about my personal journey into understanding residential school history. Amongst the things I talked about was my ignorance in understanding about the entire residential school period.

This past weekend I read my post again. What I said almost 4 years ago still rang true for me today — we have a long journey ahead of us before we even come close to true Reconciliation over the atrocities committed by Canada during its history with residential schools.

But, what was different for me today was the inadequacy of the title of my 2017 post. We have an obligation to do more than just remember the residential school period. We all have a moral obligation to be active in moving towards true Reconciliation.

Remembering isn’t good enough.

Residential schools were formed after the passing of the Indian Act in 1876.  Their primary purpose was to remove Indigenous children from their families and, thus, remove any vestiges of their culture and language. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin referred to the treatment of Indigenous citizens as cultural genocide.

“The most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record relates to our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization.”

Beverly McLachlin
Tears For The Children – In Recognition of the 215 children identified at the former Kamloops Residential School site
Used with permission from Haida artist Shelly Samuels

Last week 215 children were identified in a mass grave just outside of Kamloops at a former residential school — one of the largest such schools that was ever operated. These unmarked graves represent a stark example of the atrocities committed by a nation against Indigenous children and their families.

There is no hiding from this past — no explanation that makes it less painful for those intimately affected by its existence — no excuses — period.

Today, I am choosing to repost my blog from Sept 2017 — the facts have not changed, but the need to understand and act is even clearer for me today.

This time I am asking you to do more than just remember or reflect on the horrible acts from the past — instead, I am asking you to make a point of making a contribution in moving forward towards TRUE Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples across this country.

So, read the blog again and make sure that you watch the embedded videos that help tell the horrible story of this shameful national past. Here is the post:

Residential Schools – We Can Remember by Wearing Orange (Dave Eberwein, The Power of Why, Sept 25 2017)

We all have an updated to-do list:

  • Become KNOWLEDGEABLE about the history of residential schools
  • BUILD AWARENESS IN OTHERS about this horrible national atrocity
  • ACT in ways that SHARE THE TRUTH as well as BUILD PATHWAYS TOWARDS REAL RECONCILIATION for all Indigenous peoples in Canada.

As a country and as its citizens we own it. And, because of that we all have a moral obligation to do something about it — where past injustices are recognized, acknowledged and truly acted upon.

This is our shared history.

‘Tis the Season for Hope

There’s a certain peacefulness to the holiday season. I love this time of year.

For me, it’s one where I slow my pulse rate enough so I can see and hear the beauty that surrounds us — the twinkling lights that adorn our homes and offices, the peaceful music that fills our main streets, and perhaps even a gentle snowfall that blankets our landscape creating a certain stillness.

I have fond memories of all of these things from my childhood to the present. The holiday season rejuvenates me.

But, this year feels different. Very different.

The sense in our community is one of angst — of heightened anxiety instead of peacefulness. COVID-19 has a way of doing that. It certainly makes sense. We are living in an unpredictable world. Despite all of the prognostications and charts, tomorrow is uncertain and brings a sense of apprehension.

And yet, I continue to believe in our future. I believe in the power of HOPE — the importance of looking towards a brighter tomorrow. Our collective future is built on hope.

It’s what drives us in education — the belief that our efforts will result in a better tomorrow — where our students are taught to be solution finders, creators and innovators. Every meeting we have, every decision we make is focused on building capacity and resilience in our students. What we’re really instilling in them is HOPE. Hope builds belief in oneself and others. It builds character, self-worth and inspiration.

Hope is critical. Hope is essential.

(more on page 2)

My Graduation Speech During a Pandemic

I have previously written about the importance of struggling if we want to strengthen our brains (The Struggle is Real) — that moment in your thinking when it feels like your wheels are spinning and you’re not sure of the correct way out of the mud-pit.

It is a critical moment in brain development where we actually see incredible neural growth and connectivity as the brain works to solve the problem. It’s actually an important time to celebrate.

Well … there was a lot of celebrating that happened while I was preparing this year’s graduation speech. My struggle was real! And it lasted for quite a while, too, I might add.

As I do most years, I begin to think about my speech when the calendar turns over in January. I formulate some ideas and write them down in my notebook. It comes together slowly usually about a week or two before the big event on stage.

This year was completely different. I was having a horrible time deciding on a theme as it had already been an up-and-down year in Saanich … and then came …

… the pandemic.

What does a Superintendent’s speech look like during that tumultuous time?