Whether you call it Orange Shirt Day or Truth and Reconciliation Day, September 30 is a special time to honour our residential school heroes and to never forget what happened.
We never tire of writing about the kind of bravery it took, back when they were just little kids in a politically charged era that tried to destroy our people in any way possible, as these beautiful little souls were caught in the middle.
Many Onkwehón:we communities were devastated as they lost countless lives, both in the physical sense and mentally, to this atrocity called residential school.
Kahnawake and Kanesatake weren’t hit as hard as some, but we were hardly spared, as the intense intergenerational trauma – a tool the Canadian government and churches used so well to attack us – entrenched itself in our minds.
Today, sadly, some of our own people continue this work of the colonial powers, as they attack for reasons they were brainwashed into believing – blood quantum, dividing our people by community instead of welcoming others to build the nation, religious zealotry, racism, and a healthy dose of anger and jealousy that comes from being backed into a corner with no way out.
We inherited such darkness from colonialism and things like residential schools, that it can be hard to see just how far we’ve fallen from the way we once lived.
It sickens us to think of the crimes committed against our children that were never brought to justice – of pedophile priests, nuns, and other clergy living out their lives after they destroyed so many others.
We get so angry knowing many literally got away with murder, and have since passed away to escape any kind of comeuppance.
On this day, we celebrate the ones who fought to come home and the ones who never made it, but we also remember those who were allowed to do this, backed by both church and state, as sick and twisted adults watching over such beautiful and innocent children.
There are still many things we have to sort out regarding residential schools, and that includes a team that should look like the ones they have formed to go after Nazis – even many years later, after they tried to hide as cowards across the world.
Searching the grounds of these former schools should be a priority of the Canadian government, not just allowing the Kays of the journalism world to wear their white privilege around their necks and deny any child, in any of the schools, was ever really harmed.
You see, there is a movement afoot to completely deny residential schools were bad, and just like denying the Holocaust, these miscreants need to see their day in court and be charged with hate crimes.
Continuing the legacy of abuse these days means spreading misinformation that is ultimately meant to shut our people down.
It’s why we get so angry as a newspaper when we see our own people spreading BS that they either know isn’t true (propaganda), or they are too thick to realize they’re being used by people who hate them.
Regardless, the ones who know this was wrong, have a clear head on their shoulders, and want to see justice, well they have to stand up and be counted.
We don’t have many residential school survivors left in Kahnawake, and none in Kanesatake as of last year, so time is of the essence.
Our project Sharing Our Stories is trying to collect as many of them as possible and put them out for all to read and learn from in English and Kanien’kéha, but time is against us.
We must preserve what we can and fight for what’s right, while healing our broken spirits.
It’s a tough task in the best of times, and with all of the other things weighing against us, with a full plate of life on our shoulders, we have to keep going until we can’t anymore.
Today, and every day, we remember all of our heroes who said no, who kept their language, who refused to give in, who laughed when they were expected to cry.
And we will never forget.
Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec.
Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news.
He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications.
Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award.
He was also Quebec Community Newspapers Association president from 2012 to 2019, and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.