Launching of Book ‘E Natamukw Miyeyimuwin on Residential School Recovery Stories of the James Bay Crees, Volume 1
Greetings to all.
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak at this launching of the book entitled 'E natamukw miyeyimuwin – Residential School Recovery Stories of the James Bay Crees, Volume 1.'
I thank Ruth DyckFehderau for gathering and writing the stories of some Eeyou/Eenou survivors of the Indian Residential Schools.
I thank the courageous individuals and survivors who told their personal and painful accounts of their particular experiences and treatments in the Indian Residential Schools.
The telling and publication of their recovery stories definitely promote understanding, healing and reconciliation.
I am a member of the Cree Nation of Mistissini and I am a "survivor" of Canada's residential school system for Aboriginal children. Like many of my fellow Cree survivors, as a child, without the consent of my parents who had no say in the matter, I was taken away from my family, community, homeland and indoctrinated into a new and alien society and culture. We became victims of abuse. The paternalistic and racist foundations of Canada's residential school system for Aboriginal children led to my loss of family ties, language, culture, identity and pride as an Eenou person.
Based upon my experiences in two of Canada's residential schools for Aboriginal children for a period of thirteen (13) consecutive years, I've concluded that the operation and administration of these residential schools by the State and Church were measures of a coherent policy of cultural genocide pursued by the Government of Canada to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the mainstream of Canadian society. This system was part of a broader process of racism, colonialism and genocide.
The roots of these injustices lie in history.
So often history is presented in a manner that tells the story of Europeans arriving and allegedly discovering North America. Their histories on the treatment of aboriginal peoples are not described as racism, colonialism and genocide. The Eeyou/Eenou perspective has been absent from colonial histories for far too long. The history I was taught was written by the white man for the glory of the white man.
We, Eeyou/Eenou, have our own history and we need to tell and record our history. The telling of our stories and experiences contributes to the development of Eeyou/Eenou history. The publication of this book on the Indian residential school recovery stories makes a contribution to the development of Eeyou/Eenou history.
To conclude this launching, I want to tell my story on what we did, in the early 1970s, with the truth of our residential school days and what we did to contribute to our journey for understanding, healing and reconciliation.
I am one the principal negotiators for the Eeyou/Eenou of Eeyou Istchee in the negotiations that led to the signing of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. I am also one of the ten (10) Eeyou/Eenou signatories of the said Agreement.
Section 16 (Cree Education) of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was negotiated by three (3) Eeyou/Eenou "survivors" of the federal Indian Residential School system…Grand Chief Billy Diamond, Ted Moses and I.
As survivors and negotiators for Eeyou/Eenou of Eeyou Istchee, we decided that present and future generations of Eeyou/Eenou children should never have to experience the abuses and other injustices of the Indian residential school system and racist policies of assimilation of the government.
Therefore, Eeyou of Eeyou Istchee fought hard for the recognition and protection of the Cree right to control Cree education in the modern treaty known as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA).
Pursuant to Section 16 of the JBNQA, the Cree School Board (CSB) which is under Cree control was established and assumed jurisdiction and responsibility for elementary and secondary education and adult education in the Eeyou/Eenou communities. In effect, Eeyou/Eenou took over Cree Education and the schools in the Eeyou/Eenou communities from the federal government. In its first meeting, the CSB declared the Cree language as a language of instruction and Cree culture was introduced into the classrooms. For the first time in Eeyou/Eenou history, the Cree language was permitted and in use in the hallways and classrooms of the schools in the communities. The CSB involves parents in the education of children and in the schools. The CSB renovated and enlarged elementary schools and constructed new elementary and secondary schools in the communities. Consequently, young Eeyou/Eenou children as they begin their education do not have to leave their parents, families, communities and homeland.
In the transfer of the existing schools in the 1970s, the CSB demolished the existing Indian Residential School in Eeyou Istchee.
The implementation of Section 16 of the JBNQA by the Eeyou/Eenou has removed the two past culprits of Cree education in Eeyou Istchee…the federal government and Church.
Therefore, Eeyou/Eenou of Eeyou Istchee through Section 16 of the JBNQA have ended the Indian Residential School System and terminated the application of federal policy of assimilation in Eeyou Istchee…cultural genocide through education in Eeyou Istchee is history!
We eliminated also the application of the Indian Act to the Eeyou/Eenou of Eeyou Istchee. The Indian Act was federal legislation that enabled the Government of Canada to control and dominate the lives of Indians including Education. This control led to the creation and application of the Indian Residential School System. The elimination of the application of the Indian Act to the Eeyou/Eeyou ends federal control and domination of Eeyou/Eenou lives by the federal government.
Furthermore, pursuant to Section 14 (Cree Health and Social Services) of the JBNQA, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay was established so that Eeyou/Eenou can administer services for their recovery and healing.
I strongly recommend the reading of this book by Eeyou/Eenou and other people for it presents the truth of the tragic, dreadful and racist legacy of the Indian Residential School in Canadian history as well as an important part of Eeyou/Eenou history and as told by some Eeyou/Eenou who were victims and have survived the trauma and effects of the Indian Residential Schools.
To the Eeyou/Eenou of Eeyou Istchee who are still suffering from the trauma and effects of the Indian Residential School System, I wish you well on your journey for recovery, healing and reconciliation.
Meequetch! Thank you! Merci!