My generation is born of parents who were taught to hate themselves because they were Indian (all First Nation people). They were ripped away from their homes and put into the residential schools or they got to continue to live on their reservations and go to Indian day school. Regardless of which education system the mandate was the same: remove the Indian from the child, using whatever methods necessary to drive that out of them. Beatings, sexual abuse, shaming, name-calling,physical and emotional abuse, even killing. Ours parents came out of that system having learned one thing: to hate. Hate the whites, hate the religious, hate the Indians…most of all, hate themselves.
So that is what they did. And that is how all of us were raised. Hatefully. Angrily. Shamefully. By our families and society.
Then, we in turn used drugs and alcohol to dull the pain of our heritage. We are just now starting to learn back the ways of our ancestors. The connection to the land. To each other. To forgive, but never to forget.
As a young girl I used to get mad every time someone told me I was just like my mother. Now, at the age of 60, I understand what they meant.
My mother went to Indian day school. Her reaction was to become extremely angry and self-destructive. At the age of 15-16, in 1941-1942, she managed to run away, even though it was against the law for an Indian to leave the reserve without written governmental permission. No one knows exactly what happened to her to make her so angry, mean and spiteful, but whatever put that fear in her eyes was mighty powerful. She made her way to the big city, worked as a maid in a hotel, married my father, had kids, and so on. She made our lives a living hell, similar to the one she had.
My reaction turned out to be the same as hers. I was angry, full of fear and hate, and shame, with very little self-respect. I turned to drugs to numb the pain. It didn’t work…I could still feel the pain, so I stopped the drugs. Stopped the partying and the self-destruction. Been healing ever since. That’s a long time to heal, 35-40 years. Still not done. I forgave my mom, it was not her fault. But I am still not able to forgive myself? Quite possibly.
Mom never healed, she died full of fear, hate and anger. She never found her peace. She never reconnected to who she was before they changed her.
I hope to be different.