Dealing with Residential School:
by Elizabeth Bear
I was sent to residential school in 1958 when I was six, and would continue to return every September until 1968. During that ten years, I was with my parents for twenty months. That's less than two years. The only reason I was able to get away from Guy Indian Residential School was because I was expelled for my bad behaviour.
Please read my story with the understanding that I am now an adult using healthy corrective resources in my healing process. Also visualize my experiences as the child that I was. My intentions are to help you understand me. I have had to include the past with my present experiences as part of my history that needs to be healed and I have to deal with the four aspects of my being--physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual--and how they were affected by violence throughout my life.
My first year at the residential school included myself and two hundred other girls. There was absolutely no room for taking care of an individual's needs. I would experience feeling lonely and abandoned by everyone.
I really missed my family and wanted to be with them. I would often cry and be told by the nuns that I "should not cry," that crying made me "a weak person." I would witness other girls going through the same experience and some would be punished for their crying. I would see them getting the strap on their bands and told that they now had reason to cry.
My PHYSICAL SELF would be hurt so many times throughout the years. I cannot even begin to tell how many times. I learned to ignore the physical punishments that caused my physical pain. As I would be getting strapped I learned how to take myself away. I would stare straight ahead and imagine I was in the forest collecting flowers or watching a mother deer taking care of her fawn, her baby. This was my survival skill to deal with physical pain.
My EMOTIONAL SELF was then affected and I learned not to cry. Later in my adult life I would still not cry and for that was emotionally crippled and would convince people that I was tough would not let anyone know that my feelings were hurt either by their actions or words but I would then hurt them back with my actions or words and mostly in words because I knew that it would have a longer lasting effect on them.
Now, how did I know that? I experienced physical, emotional and verbal abuse repeatedly in the residential school system and I learned this as a child; as an adult I used it in a negative manner because I was hurting inside.