Residential schools affected many lives, and the healing continues. A Conestoga graduate is working locally to create programs that help with the healing process for survivors of the residential school system.
“We have lost all of our culture, identity, voices, language, ceremonies, traditions, child rearing practices, connection with the land, our animals, laws, education system, our justice system and so on,” said Amanda Trites, the Native Criminal Court/Family Court Worker and Gladue Writer at The Healing of the Seven Generations located in Kitchener.
Residential schools operated for more than 100 years across Canada, with the schools’ final closure in Saskatchewan in 1996. During that time, there was abuse; children were taken away from their families and stripped of their Indigenous culture.
“The residential schools took away so many of our rights as people, and have left us all harmed, broken, lost, and disconnected that there is a cycle of trauma that needs to be broken,” said Trites, a graduate of Conestoga Colleges bachelor of Community and Criminal Justice with Honours program, where she was mentored by the colleges manager of Aboriginal services, Chief Myeengun Henry.
Since the closure of the last residential school in 1996, some programs have been introduced to deal with the trauma and mental illnesses caused by the school experience.
The Healing of the Seven Generations (H7G) is a First Peoples’ centre that focuses on the importance of self-help approaches and the importance of First Peoples’ history. The centre offers youth programming, court supports, food supports, material supports, support for seniors, and cultural programming.
“I have been able to impact people’s lives in a positive way, and I have been able to impact systems such as the justice system and child protection in ways that have encouraged change in policy and procedures,” said Trites.
Groups have also formed to bring necessities such as food, and clothing to families. A Facebook group called Act of Kindness and HG7 have teamed up to help the Indigenous community.
“Various items have been donated like food, gift cards, baskets of items, money and clothing to spread kindness to random people,” said Crystal Grandmond, a volunteer for the Act of Kindness group. “We have even helped with the Fire Keeping at HG7.”
The importance of encouraging change is a huge part of the healing process and local groups are creating programs to foster that healing.