Dealing with Residential School:
The Healing Process of an Adult Child

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.

The nun would say "Everyone, recite and spell Arithmetic, "so we would say out loud "A red Indian thought he might eat tobacco in church."

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.

L'internat: le processus de guérison

par Elizabeth Bear

J'ai été en pension de six à seize ans. Au cours de ces dix années, je n'ai passé en tout que vingt mois avec mes parents. Ma famille me manquait et je pleurais souvent. Les religieuses me disaient de ne pas pleurer et je me rendais compte que d'autres petites filles étaient physiquement punies lorsqu'elles se laissaient aller à pleurer.

Pendant ces dix années, j'ai été profondément blessée physiquement, mais j'apprenais à ne pas faire attention à mes douleurs. Sur le plan affectif, j'ai également été blessée car je refoulais mes larmes et n'exprimais pas mes sentiments. Mentalement, j'étais aussi conditionnée puisqu'on me répétait tous les jours que les miens étaient des sauvages, des gens sales car ils étaient Indiens. La douleur et les préceptes de la religion catholique dont on me nourrissait de force étouffèrent ma vie spirituelle. Aujourd'hui, je suis sur la voie de la guérison et je veux tirer parti de mes compétences pour aider autrui.

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