I've always been someone who spends much time in reflection & this July 1st, is no exception. However, with the events of the past month with the findings of the children's remains in unmarked graves surrounding the Indian Residential Schools in Canada, I'm devastated.
My wise elder cousin Chris, told me years ago that if I wanted to follow this pathway of our First Nations heritage, then the first thing I needed to commit to was to learn about the residential schools. He was very stern about this matter, staring resolutely ahead as he drove us up the canyon to meet with the Chief at the Yale Band, where he believed our grandmother Mabel Angus was from. It was around 7 years ago.
And in my research, there were so many helpful people along the way; from the Sto'lo Nation Geneology department who found Grandmother Mabel in the 1922 Census & was able to add our family into the archives. I found another 100 relatives! And in meanderings around the Fraser Canyon, meeting with my newfound family, elders, bands, taking time to read everything from 21 Things You May Not Know About The Indian Act to Nlaka'pamux Traditional Foods, learning how to make bannock, attending Sacred burnings & learning prayers.
The closer I have become to my origins, the more at home I have become. I am home. I am attending nkshAytkn Cultural gatherings, Storytelling gatherings, learning the Nlaka'pamux language & watching the elder's cheeks curl up into uncontrollable mirth at my poor pronunciation.
I am Thompson River Salish / Cariboo, an Nlaka'pamux speaking peoples, and our family lives in many parts of BC up & down the Fraser River.
The findings of the children's remains has gutted us ~ my grandmother Mabel attended residential school as did all her 9 siblings. So much suffering, so much trauma. Some cousins were 60's scooped children adopted or fostered out, others suffering from poor conditions, raising themselves & yet surviving. There is real intergenerational trauma, struggle and suffering. We are grieving.
I'm here because my grandmother survived. My mother hid our heritage to protect me. I was brought up Chinese & Scottish which had its own set of discriminations. I've been assimilated, I speak the Queen's English.
So today will be a day of reflection, and I will lean into the strengths of my ancestors, returning to my roots, to find comfort in our Nlaka'pamux culture, the language & traditions.