As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder


Contact did happen. We can’t change that. But it’s how it happened. It’s how we were treated. That’s what matters. That’s what hurt the people, to have something forced upon you. And that’ll never work. Force your ideas onto someone else, force your culture on someone else, instead of respecting and acknowledging other people’s culture. The government isolated the people. Took away the lands and put people on reserves: “You stay there. You are not to go beyond this line. You are not to go into the white community.”

Our people were wiped out. There was thousands of people on the coast here before contact. And then to have children apprehended, because people didn’t know how to parent children anymore. They lost that so-natural teachin’: how to nurture your children, how to love your children. And telling your children you love them and giving them hugs and … ’cause nobody gave you those hugs when you were in residential school. You didn’t know how to give what you didn’t get.

I recognize and appreciate education. It’s very important. The tools that our children need for the future. To get by, to survive in this world. But at the same time, I stress the importance of remembering who you are, where you came from, and our culture and how rich that was. Just to get rid of the stigma of you were lazy, you were no good, you were worthless. What shame has been put upon our people has been our culture stolen from us. The language stolen from us. That our Nation was destroyed by someone else that came along and made it their business, made it their choice to abuse and destroy our people.

And because our people survived so much in the past, I’m confident that in the future our children will survive. New generations will survive and look back and be proud of who they were, two, three hundred years ago: “It’s my history. That’s our ancestors.” Not to be ashamed of themselves. To be strong.

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