*Content Warning: This post mentions abuse suffered at residential schools.
The recent discovery of the mass graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School site has spurred us to want to engage in conversation about how we can support truth & reconciliation. To that end, we share some thoughts on how to talk to your children about Residential schools. The below excerpt is from our Grade 4 Wonder of Local Geography unit.
Geography demonstrates the interconnectedness of our world: the people, animals, plants, climate and geographical locality and how each aspect supports and influences the others. It is a time of experiencing the wholeness of life and how we all belong together on the earth. It isn't easy to separate Geography from the history of an area, so it makes sense for us to combine them. Your child will have opportunities to take their developing critical eye and apply it to form opinions and judgements around the historically unfair treatment of Indigenous populations in the province/state where you live. As your child is still young and immersed in the feeling realm, we must bring this history in delicate and age-appropriate ways. Stories with perspectives of Indigenous youth are helpful when wanting to relay more adult facts. It is also necessary to remember that there are many years for your child to learn some of the more difficult and disturbing facts around Residential Schools and Reservation life. From our experience as teachers of elementary school-aged children, when choosing what topics to address about the mistreatment of Indigenous people, it is very impactful for your child to hear that many children were separated from their parents, or had their hair cut, and were forced to stop speaking their language and had cultural traditions stripped away. Depending on your child's age and family history, you can decide when it is the right time to address sexual abuse and violence.
HOW WE HEAL FROM THE PAST
Whether one individual has been hurt by another or an entire culture was hurt by another culture, the process of healing is the same. First, the painful action has to be acknowledged. That means that the person/group that made the mistake must acknowledge or admit that a mistake was made. They must admit that they did something that hurt another. This is the first step. It helps the person who was wronged feel better. After the acknowledgment, there is the truth about the situation, the truth of what the action was that was hurtful, and the truth of how it made the person/group feel. From this point, there can be a heartfelt apology. This can make the person who was wronged feel heard. This is an important step. After the apology, the hurt person must find a place to forgive the other. If we hang on to the hurt for too long, it is not healthy. We need resilience to heal. Do you know what resilience means? It's a quality that helps you bounce back from bad experiences. We all face bad experiences from time to time, and we all need the ability to return to our peaceful and happy place. This takes resilience. With all these parts in place, healing can begin.
Share with your child about the steps that your province is taking in the process of healing from this cultural trauma. Explain what stage the province is at regarding fair treatment now and apologizing for the past decisions. What are the challenges, hopes and dreams for the future of your province?
It can feel paralyzing when we don't know what to do to help or to heal. Here are some helpful websites to learn how to be part of positive change.
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