On our way to healing : stories from the oldest living generation of the File Hills Indian Residential School

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Callahan, Ann B.
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The story of Indian Residential schools is a sad one in Canada. The government's policy of assimilating the Aboriginal people into mainstream society began in the early years of the nineteenth century in western Canada. One of the strategies the government employed was through the founding of the Indian residential school. The churches were the "hand maidens" in bringing about this movement. There were many effects experienced by the residents of these establishments. For the most part, the survivors proclaim that this experience was a negative one while few say that the experience was a positive one. The abuses were ofa sexual, physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual nature. Most devastating of all was the deprivation of the Aboriginal culture, particularly, the Aboriginal Spirituality that was carried out among the southern Saskatchewan Cree and Saulteaux people for thousands of years. This thesis will examine the various approaches taken by these survivors to become centred in oneself once again as an Aboriginal person, which is to know one's own identity as a First Nations person. In addition, this paper will specifically examine the perspectives of the oldest generation of those survivors of the File Hills Indian Residential School (FHIRS), Balcarres, Saskatchewan of this experience and if returning to or renewing of Aboriginal Spirituality was a means of healing from the residential school trauma. They found it difficult to conceptualize the term, "healing"; instead they preferred to discuss their post-schoolyears in the manner in which they carried on with their roles as caregivers of their families with a great deal of love and compassion. They have striven to provide a favourable life for themselves, their families and their community. Many of these people were very happy to participate in the traditional ceremonies openly and expressed the thought that the return of these ceremonies was a good way to go. These survivors choose not to look back but to look to the future.