This is from pages 37-38, the opening paragraphs of the chapter entitled "The History" [footnotes omitted]:
It can start with a knock on the door one morning. It is the local Indian agent, or the parish priest, or, perhaps, a Mounted Police officer. The bus for residential school leaves that morning. It is a day the parents have long been dreading. Even if the children have been warned in advance, the morning’s events are still a shock. The officials have arrived and the children must go.
For tens of thousands of Aboriginal children for over a century, this was the beginning of their residential schooling. They were torn from their parents, who often surrendered them only under threat of prosecution. Then, they were hurled into a strange and frightening place, one in which their parents and culture would be demeaned and oppressed.
For Frederick Ernest Koe, it started when the Anglican minister and the Mounted Police arrived with a message that he had to leave his parents’ home in Aklavik in the Northwest Territories that morning. “And I didn’t get to say goodbye to my dad or my brother Allan, didn’t get to pet my dogs or nothing.”
The day she left for the Lestock, Saskatchewan, school, Marlene Kayseas’s parents drove her into the town of Wadena. “There was a big truck there. It had a back door and that truck was full of kids and there was no windows on that truck.” Larry Beardy travelled by train from Churchill, Manitoba, to the Anglican residential school in Dauphin, Manitoba—a journey of 1,200 kilometres. As soon as they realized that they were leaving their parents behind, the younger children started crying. At every stop, the train took on more children and they would start to cry as well. “That train I want to call that train of tears.” Florence Horassi was taken to the Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, school in a small airplane. On its way to the school, the plane stopped at a number of small communities to pick up students. “When the plane took off, there’s about six or five older ones, didn’t cry, but I saw tears come right out of their eyes. Everybody else was crying. There’s a whole plane crying. I wanted to cry, too, ’cause my brother was crying, but I held my tears back and held him.”
The arrival at school was often even more traumatizing than the departure from home or the journey. Lily Bruce’s parents were in tears when they left her and her brother at the Alert Bay, British Columbia, school. At Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta, Vitaline Elsie Jenner fought to stay with her mother. “I was screaming and hollering. And in my language I said, ‘Mama, Mama, kâya nakasin’ and in English it was, ‘Mom, Mom, don’t leave me.’ ’Cause that’s all I knew was to speak Cree. And so the nun took us.”
Nellie Ningewance was raised in Hudson, Ontario, and went to the Sioux Lookout, Ontario, school in the 1950s and 1960s. “When we arrived we had to register that we had arrived, then they took us to cut our hair.” Bernice Jacks became very frightened when her hair was cut on her arrival at a school in the Northwest Territories. “I could see my hair falling. And I couldn’t do nothing. And I was so afraid my mom … I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was thinking about Mom. I say, ‘Mom’s gonna be really mad. And June is gonna be angry. And it’s gonna be my fault.’”More to come.