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


It’s very recent. I think it’s only been within the last ten years, eight years that it was first talked about in our community. And people were very shame-based as well, that they didn’t want to talk to anyone about their abuses. And that’s the reality. And some of them are so angry and hurting, they don’t want to talk about it. They just want to forget about it. Yeah. So I think in my work in being involved with the healing centres, there’s good work being done. These programs are run by First Nations people, and the people that go there to deal with issues come out of there feeling very good about themselves. They feel safe in that environment. Not from the beginning, but they’re there for a while, and then they get to know the others in that same room that suffered the same abuses, so they start sharing and talking. And I see it as – it’s almost like being reborn. They feel good. They can stand up straighter. They can look you in the eye and not havin’ to cast their eyes down because they’re shamed, or they’re ashamed to tell their story. They all share the common story. Maybe different levels of abuse, but it’s pretty much the same. Yeah.

So I’m thankful for those programs that are in place. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not available to everyone, although a lot more people would like to take advantage of those healing programs. But there’s just not enough. There’s a waiting list and there’s not enough resources out there, not enough money. The government keeps saying, “We’re short of money and we don’t know if it’ll be running next year.” So there’s cutbacks – it’s always about cutbacks. Well, I believe that healing has to go on for a lot longer, for many more years, ’cause there’s a lot of people out there – a lot more people that haven’t come through the doors yet. Took many, many years for our people to be beaten, beaten to the ground, pretty much. It’s going to take a long time to learn to get up and walk again, and to deal with their issues. It’s not an easy task. Gonna take time.

Well, I’m a strong supporter of healing and of healing programs, because I see first-hand the suffering, especially when I go to these two different centres that I’m involved in. And I’ve seen the work that happens. And I see the struggle of our people. I see the pain and the hurt and how much they get out of these treatment programs. Sometimes it doesn’t just take the one session. They need to come back again to deal with other issues related to those abuses. So I strongly support those centres. I feel it’s so important. And I feel it’s not going to resolve – it’s not going to bring us our language back, or things such as our own teachin’s, because that’s a huge thing. A lot of people have left their communities and are now living in urban areas. And they’re lost in the system. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in finding out about their culture. But they’ve been away from their communities for such a long time that they’ve pretty much been living in the white man’s world. But that doesn’t mean they’re not hungry to learn about their culture, or their identity, or to learn about history of residential school.

I know off-reserve people living in urban areas – they have their resources, they have Native centres and groups of First Nations people workin’ together. They have their social events and their whatever, powwows and things like that. So I know there’s a lot of work going on all over the place, but it’s in pockets, different pockets, right? But as far as supporting treatment centres, you know Tsow-tun Le Lum Treatment Centre, which is in Nanoose, I’ve been involved in that program for twenty-two years now. And I strongly support that centre, because I’ve seen for myself how much it has helped people. And also with Inter Tribal Health, that have their treatment program over on Quadra Island, and I strongly support that. I feel that is so important. Because the kind of programs they provide there is geared to our people. It’s not just dealing with whatever issues you have or what you’re going through in your personal life to go and talk to a psychiatrist or a therapist or whomever. These programs are meant to deal with a long history of abuse to our people through residential school. And I feel that needs to continue. It really needs to continue for a long time to come. It’s a long ways to go yet.

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