My name is Mike Fontaine. I’m from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. I’m the father of three boys and the son, nephew, grandson, great-grandson, of residential school survivors. I’m also the descendant of signatories to both Treaties 5 and 6. When my ancestors signed these treaties I am certain that they didn’t see themselves, their people, or their children, as problems. Certainly, they didn’t see themselves as subject of the horrible scheme to apprehend and indoctrinate their children; and these children were three, four, five years of age. These little ones were taken away from their mothers, their fathers, their grandparents, their families, their people, and their homes. Raised by strangers, forbidden to speak their languages, forbidden to practice their faiths, and subject to abuses of all kinds. And protected by no one. And this happened to generation after generation after generation of First Nation children. All of these malignant things were intended to kill the Indian in the child. To take cultures, to take languages, to take people away from their homes and homelands, and to decimate or destroy a specific ethnic group.
On June 11th 2008 the world saw a First Nation man stand in Canada’s parliament, representing First Nations, to hear the Prime Minister say that Canada was sorry. An admission of responsibility was important in order for those people who were ready to heal then, and who are ready to heal now. An admission that harm was done to them is important. And to do so in front of the world, in front of the country, and in front of the survivors who witnessed from remote locations or from outside and from inside parliament. Finally, it records in history that Canada treated its First Nations no better than these notorious countries that marginalized, subjugated, or eliminated specific ethnic groups from within its borders. It was and is a tragedy, and will forever be a disgusting scar on this country.
It’s not for me to tell anybody’s story or to recite my knowledge of the awful things that happened to people that I love or people that love me. I used a digital story as an opportunity to speak in some fashion about my past, my present, and hopefully the future. But not necessarily my future – the future of my children. The stories are important because it kind of gives some glimpse, however small, of how circumstances changed or shaped the way parents now raise their children, how we were raised, how they were raised.
I’m not a filmmaker, I’m not a poet, I’m not a musician, I’m not a photographer; but I use these things to say that I am angry, and can be angry, and can be sad. I’ve also used the digital stories to say, “I’m sorry” to my children. I’m also using these digital stories to pay respect to the survivors. And I’ve used these digital stories to express hope for a future where the anger finally fades, where the memories become memories rather than effects we deal with. I am and always will be Anishinaabe. I am and always will be proud to be. And I am and always will be proud of all my relations. But most of all I’m proud that we are still here, and more importantly that we will be here forever. Meegwetch.