Updated: Sep 29, 2022
September 30th 2021 is designated as a day we honour the children who died and the survivors of Canada’s Residential School system which ran from 1828 to 1997.
A system created to assimilate Indigenous children into Colonial culture and society, saw children forced to attend school in institutions where they were deprived of their Indigenous culture and families. The recent discovery of several mass graves on site of some of these Institutions, indicate that thousands of Indigenous children died and were buried on site in mass graves. Inhumane truth! Some survived the schools and moved on to adulthood, traumatized and affecting generations of indigenous people to come, in various ways, including psychological, socioeconomic and environmental.
Culture shapes human behaviours and the way a person sees the world they live in. Although culture is dynamic and is influenced directly or indirectly when exposed to other cultures, individuals need a culture they ascribe to and own. When people are deprived of their culture, they lose their sense of belonging and are unable to connect effectively with others. They are socially isolated, feel no one cares, and are unable to identify with larger groups. Consequently, low socioeconomic status, hopelessness, depression, anxiety and the desire to die become increasingly problematic in such populations.
A person stripped of his/her culture has low self esteem, a negative worldview, mistrustful and feels rejected by others.
The Residential School system left a legacy of intergenerational or psychological trauma for Indigenous population including indigenous youth. What do indigenous youth today, think of this historical event? How does this event affect them, emotionally and psychologically? How deeply connected are they with indigenous culture, including interaction with Elder healers? Statistics Canada report suicide rates in Indigenous youth as 6 times higher than the national average. This is noteworthy. Youth need to express or vent their angst, because self- expression empowers people to become resilient, confident, improve quality of life and mental well-being. Our mental health youth journal is a tool for psychological self care and provides a medium for venting in a safe private space, while working to find one's true self.
We commemorate this day by remembering the children who died and survivors’ tenacity, by endeavoring to learn more about Indigenous peoples, their history and culture. Support and engage with them, and focus on our similarities instead of our differences, as we move forward.