The path to healing
Canada is not what man of us believed it to be
There has been constant reporting over the past few years of unmarked graves being discovered. These are graves from former residential schools where we know abuse, neglect, and harm occurred against Indigenous people in Canada. As someone who is not a native to Canada, this part of Canadian history is always something that shocks me.
It’s incredibly upsetting to realize the ramifications of what has been done. Colonialism ultimately breeds generational curses against those that are oppressed and have been oppressed by the system. When you think about how many people lost their lives to residential schools, and the gravity of the situation, it is difficult to get past even as someone who is not Indigenous.
The best way to understand the discovery of unmarked graves is through grief. It is difficult for some of us to imagine already grieving through something when a new discovery then opens up a new box full of more grief. This is what the First Nations communities in Canada have been enduring: being forced to constantly grieve by a system that was built to oppress you, then that same system attempts to apologize to you. But what can truly be done through an apology? It doesn’t take the pain away. It does not take the hurt away. It does not bring the lost lives back. It does not bring the lost cultural practices back. It does not bring the lost traditions back. It does not remove the forced assimilation. It does not hold you and it does not soothe your heart the way a mother would soothe her crying baby. It does not do anything. All an apology does is unearth more pain, and force the re-living of trauma endured by Indigenous people all across Canada.
Sheldon Poitras, ground search project leader for Star Blanket Cree Nation, stated that there have been discussions with AXIOM regarding more miniature core drilling. Poitras emphasized that an area of interest will be chosen and a core drill will be sent down to collect a sample. This sample will thus be tested for DNA.
“In order for us to confirm what it is under the ground, this is the best option that we came up with so that we don’t disturb what might be there. But at least we can determine whether it’s nothing or something.” Poitras told CTV News Regina.
“If we take the GPR [to the cemetery], teach it what to look for in terms of old ground and cemetery, plug that data into our data, we can use the process of elimination to get rid of some of those dots,” Poitras highlighted.
Chief of Starr Blanket Cree Nation, Michael Starr, gave credit to gophers when it comes to unearthing the human remains. “Gophers are the ones who excavated. They brought the remains onto the surface. That’s a form of validation, living with creation, living in our understanding of the animals, and they helped us.” Starr noted. “It gives us an understanding on the work we’re doing, the further work we’re continuing to do. If there are remains here, we’ll probably find them.” Starr went on.
When I first moved here, I was unaware of Canadian history. I first learned about it in middle school, and my knowledge of the nuance of it grew more during high school. I will never forget the day I learned that the Government of Canada had first issued its apology on the matter of residential schools in 2008. That is not that long ago. It took the government all those years to figure out “Gee, maybe a horrible thing happened!” It took until 2008 for an apology to be made. That is absolutely shocking to me, as it should have happened much sooner.
Star Blanket Cree Nation announced their discovery of over 2,000 anomalies at the former Qu’Appelle residential school. It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean 2,000 unmarked graves. There is am ongoing investigation, and more is yet to come. Unfortunately, this means more pain, grief, and tears are on the way. According to CTV News Regina, the leaders of Star Blanket Cree Nation have yet to come to a decision on how to best investigate the 2,000 anomalies that have been found. These were unearthed through ground penetrating radar (GPR) searches on the site of the former residential school.
This search was initiated last fall. It is only now that we are seeing some results. It is important to note that it is not yet over. There is, sadly, still more to come. There are more discoveries to be made, and there will be more updates as this is a developing story.
In the end, all I can say is that the discoveries of these graves have led us into a new beginning; one that is focused on honesty and transparency, one that is focused on the harsh, sad, painstakingly bitter, cold truth. It is incredibly painful; however, it is still important. These discoveries are important for deciphering what happens next, where we go from here, and what needs to be done. This means that we must amplify Indigenous voices. It is important to listen to their stories.
We must listen to understand, not to reply. It is important to continue educating ourselves on history, but also focusing on education from reputable sources, not sources that have been whitewashed, changed, and erased. In a world full of information, it is difficult to figure out where to start. However, once you start, you will be able to see Canada for what it is: a country that has rebranded from its imperialist past in a manner that is self-serving. You will be able to see the truth in its full, ugly and sombre form.