The following example scripts are from some of the videos presented in The Stories section of this site.
My Journey into Motherhood
Digital Storyteller: Lorena Fontaine
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Sara, I was keenly aware of the impact the residential schools had on my life. I thought to myself, I don’t know how to be a mother. What am I going to bring to this child’s life? I know very little about my people’s history, I don’t know how to speak my language. I was terrified to bring a child into this world because I didn’t think I had anything to give a baby. I think a part of me was afraid that someone would see right through me and recognize my inability to be a mother and then they would take away my child. This is the story of my journey into motherhood. After the shock of my pregnancy wore off, my instinct told me that I needed to have Sara at home. The first battle I faced was that home births were not yet legal in the province I was living in, so the doctors refused to see me after I informed them that I was contemplating a home birth. I had to pretend I was going to deliver my baby in a hospital in order to obtain the services of a doctor. After I did a bit or research on midwifery, I arranged to have two Aboriginal midwives present during my delivery. It was legal in Manitoba to have a baby at home if there were two certified midwives present. After I made arrangements with the midwives, Sara’s birth fell into place. Two weeks prior to her due date, my partner and I packed up our car and drove to my mother’s place. We spent the next fourteen days walking amongst the trees and the rocks that surrounded my family for generations. The land seemed to wash away any fears that I had about the birth. On Sarah’s due date, one of my midwives requested a sweatlodge ceremony. Sometime during the sweat I started to have contractions. After 12 hours of hard labour I didn’t think that I was going to be able to deliver Sarah on my own, I felt so weak. Then I noticed a picture of my grandmother hanging on the wall. The image of her standing beside fourteen children gave me the burst of energy I needed. I thought to myself, if my grandmother could give birth fourteen times, I could get through this one. Right before Sarah was born, my aunty put out tobacco for the sacred journey we were experiencing. My mother was the first to hold Sarah. She greeted her in our sacred Cree language. Then the cedar water that Sarah was bathed in was poured along the side of the house to connect her to the earth. A few days later, Sarah’s placenta and umbilical cord were buried on a sacred place on the reserve so that she would always be connected to our territory. Sarah’s birth was extremely political. She was the first child to be born in my community in over fifty years. I learned that the birthing process resides in the collective memory of Aboriginal women in my life. The residential school experience did not destroy that part of our life.
nikâwiy ekwa niya
Digital Storyteller: Wendy McNab
Running was my screams, my loud voice, my ideas, my arguments, my joy, my truth, my conviction, my chaos, my thoughts, my quiet, my cocoon, my cheers, my madness, my soft voice. Looking for you? Looking for me? Looking for each other. Finding you. Finding me. Finding each other. “Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from their home, families, traditions and cultures. Indeed sought, as was infamously said, ‘To kill the Indian in the child’. All were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities” (Excerpt from The Apology, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 2008). The darkness inside my heart and soul moved outside of my body to become my self-comfort and my self-embrace. I learned to laugh at myself. I forgive myself for the mistakes I make. I’m not bad. I’m not horrible. In a garden of fresh smelling flowers sits a young lady with dreams and aspirations in a world full of chaos. She does not quiet her thoughts, she gratefully screams her arguments and ideas in deafening blasts of truth and conviction. Does she see her beauty? The soft, quiet one who resides within the blooming rose, in the sweet-smelling perfumes and protective cocoons of the soft petals.
Mary-Lou and Me
Digital Storyteller: Lisa Forbes
This is a story about one of the ways someone survives, the way someone copes. It’s also about what assimilation looks like, a picture of success. My mom as a young woman in Birtle, where she went to residential school. She’s an Indian, but she wore the new culture well. Where did she keep the part of her that was her cultural heritage? There are two parts of my mom, the girl who got her education and became a young woman in residential school far from home, a place where she would never live again; and the other, a cultural Indian woman from the reserve, who loved her family, did traditional sewing, had a Mooshum. She left one part of who she was; her life became something else. She married my dad and they made their own life. She tried to create a perfect family. Here is the family they made, the life she worked for. She coached our teams and made our clothes. We had music lessons and sports. She drove us in the dark winter mornings to sport practices. She sewed costumes and clothes into the night. In the day she went to her work family, dedicated, hard-working. Files home every night. Working too much. Working to death. My mom made bead-work and researched Indian, Métis and settler history. She sat on the board at the Friendship Centre. This was her heritage; I didn’t take part in this. My role was to study hard, be a good girl, achieve. My mom made my high school graduation dress painstakingly, with attention to every detail. Made to be beautiful. Made to be perfect. I wore the dress when I graduated. She stood by. My dad cried and hugged me, told me he loved me, that he was proud. I have a memory of my dad’s love in that moment and I have a beautiful dress. Would I rather have her, in all her imperfections, alive? Or gone? I am my mother’s daughter. I am an extraordinary worker. My coping mechanism is socially acceptable, praiseworthy. There would be no praise had I said, “I am an extraordinary drinker.” I do many of the same things she did, but I fight them.
I Am My Mother’s Daughter
Digital Storyteller: Lisa Murdock
I really admire my mother. She’s the most resilient person I know. My mother is a residential school Survivor. For eleven of her childhood years, she endured unthinkable crimes that no child, no human being, should ever have to experience. Unspeakable sins aimed at stripping away her natural-born identity. For eleven years, my mother remained shackled amidst the strictest of physical punishment, the cruelest of mental anguish, and the loneliest of abandonment. For eleven long, lonely years, and for almost a generation after that, my mother had survived more pain than I could ever begin to describe. If there’s one thing that I’ve come to realize, it’s that I’ve been deeply affected by this pain that my mother carries. Sure, there’ve been many happy, fun and exciting times in my life, but there have also been some not-so-good times. Painful times that I, like my mother, tried to keep hidden in the back of my mind, in the depths of my heart. No matter how hard I try to forget, I’ll always remember those saddened times, times of being locked out, being alone and forgotten. I’ll always remember the times of being cold and tired. And I’ll always remember all the times I’ve been worried and afraid. My mother doesn’t talk about the tragedies she survived as a child, just as I don’t talk about the aftermath of her harrowing experiences. The ever-revolving experiences that were passed along to me and that inherently belong to my children and to their children after that. And although she has tried to bury her horrific experiences in the far reaches of her mind, in the deepest parts of her soul, I can still see her pain, I can feel it. You see, I am my mother’s daughter and I carry her pain in my heart.
Digital Storyteller: Roberta Stout
When terrible things happen, my mom says “kaya apa sapih” – which in Cree means “look forward and move ahead – don’t look back”. This is the story of how I had to look back to find my way forward. It is how five years ago, I willingly chose to attend the residential school where my mother was interned five decades earlier. And as fate would have it, where I nurtured my first pregnancy. Three generations of women walled within the educational institute of Blue Quills. It is fall, takwakin ekwa. The time of year when leaves begin to blow and all the little children march back to school. E-kiskinohamatocihk. And what do I know of my mom, little Madeleine’s, experience when she was marched off to school? On the rare occasion, she has spoken of those 36 consecutive months. She has talked about second hand love – witnessing with her little girl as her grade 3 teacher waited longfully and lovingly for the arrival of her RCMP boyfriend. She remembers painful separation – wishing she could embrace her brothers who were just across the room from her, but untouchable – unreachable. She recounts chronic loneliness – 36 consecutive months without the warmth of her beloved mother – okawiya. Crying until her nose bled as she watched her parents pull away in their horse drawn buggy after the only visit they would make. And how could these experiences not have had roots and branches of effects? Part of going back to little Madeleine’s residential school, kiskinohamatokamikohk, was to piece together a childhood that is rarely remembered or talked about. I ate in the same small cafeteria as she would have, sit in classrooms which once served as dormitories and wander the corridors where the children marched two by two. Coming from a two room sod home, this place must have seemed like a giant monstrosity. Big, cold, foreign. Amidst these walls, little Madeleine learned resilience and became the vocal child leader. Studious and smart. Spaces and experiences which shaped my mom, which shaped me, which shape my daughter. And my mother’s words stick of resilience stick with me: Get along, get through, get out. And now as fall returns and my own daughter marches off to school, decorated in full childhood innocence, I must withhold a deep and irrational fear that she will, like little Madeleine, be taken away from me for 36 consecutive months. Maka kaya apah sapih – I let this go, I look forward and I move ahead.
Walking in a Good Way on Mother Earth
Digital Storyteller: Claudette Michell
Four generations ago, my grandfather Tawapasim carried a drum for the people. The spirit of the drum is what guides me on my healing journey today. When the Church came, the drums were taken away and thrown into lakes. My ancestors now were forced to believe in religion, which has its basis in fear. Even though this occurred, the spirit of the drum was still there. It witnessed many forms of destruction to our families. These were in forms of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical abuses. Several years ago, my son-in-law brought me a drum that was water-damaged. A woman friend of mine helped me to rebuild the drum. The name of the drum is “Walking in a Good Way on Mother Earth”. She is a grandmother spirit. I was told of a prophecy, there would be seven drums. When the women come back to the drums, the healing would begin. Women everywhere would begin to take back their spiritual power. The heartbeat of these drums would also help people to understand the destruction that is occurring to Mother Earth. The women need to come back to the drum. This will help them in their healing. We need to believe that her heartbeat will be the healing energy that will help our families and Mother Earth to heal.