Last night’s Learning from Knowledge Keepers class was intense. It was difficult. It was challenging. And it was inspiring. Horrific stories, experiences, and histories were shared, juxtaposed with the most tremendous resilience, strength, wisdom, forgiveness, and love, to which one could ever bear witness.
I had a hard time sleeping last night, and I suspect that I was not alone in this. I kept hearing Clark Paul’s powerful and eviscerating words in my head, and kept feeling the deep emotions of it was like to stand there, close to him, bearing witness to his pain and suffering, but also to his strength and his love. To say it was humbling, to say it was an honour, to say it changed me to hear those stories is a vast understatement.
I said last night that Clark tells his story with such courage and grace. He is a true warrior of the heart and the mind, and his strength of spirit is an utter privilege to be near. How does one honour a man such as Clark, and the many others who, like him, experienced unimaginable pain, suffering, and injustice?
There are no words to express what Clark, and thousands of others, went through in the Residential School System, and there is no way to ever fully articulate the gratitude that we have for Clark, and people like him, who are sharing their stories and reaching out beyond the hate, unimaginable pain, and terrifying suffering, to educate and to ensure atrocities like these never happen again.
What I would like to do, though, as a small token of gratitude, to Clark and to others, is share the words and responses from the Learning from Knowledge Keepers family that poured in from across the country and internationally during the class. They are beautiful, powerful, and full of love and support.
Together, they begin to tell a collective response to a truly shattering history and legacy in this country – one that continues on through intergenerational trauma, through on-going mental struggles, through the daily battling of pain and demons, through the many ways in which Survivors and their families must cope each day. They also tell a story of strength and solidarity, of people tuning in, connecting, learning, and being transformed.
So Much History:
So Much Outrage:
So Much Emotion:
So Much Power:
So Much Gratitude:
So Much Hope:
Sending Out Gratitude
Our deepest gratitude to Michael R. Denny and Karen A. Bernard, who ended the class with so much heart, sharing, and knowledge and who, unexpectedly, were brave enough to share their own experiences. Wela’lin. And of course, who introduced many to the continued atrocities being perpetuated on Survivors through the Indian Residential School Independent Assessment points system.
Special thanks also to the wonderful folks from Eskasoni Mental Health who provided support in the audience for this difficult night and challenging subject matter. Daphne Hutt-MacLeod, Jannine Paul, Arnold Sylliboy, Norma Gould, Billie Jean Morrison, Michael R. Denny, and Karen Bernard – words cannot express our gratitude to have you in the class, supporting us all, and for the work that you all do, daily, to ensure that the pain and suffering from the legacies of the Residential School system are mitigated.
And to Michael R: your singing was healing, moving, powerful, and emotional. Wela’lin for sharing your talents with the #taliaqCBU family, and for helping us reconnect and to heal.
Remember: there are always supports, always people to whom you can reach out. Be kind and gentle to yourself. Take good care. Reach out as needed, and draw strength from those you love and those whom you love.
Thank you to all who showed up last night and listened. Truly listened. And who witnessed the power of one man’s story, and allowed that story to change you. To quote Thomas King: “Don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.”
Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada Reports
Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Response to the Release of the Truth & Reconciliation Final Report
Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat
** Originally published on Cape Breton University’s Blog