THE SUR­VIVORS CIR­CLE

Six mem­bers of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion’s Sur­vivors Cir­cle and one mem­ber of its Gov­ern­ing Cir­cle share glimpses of their res­i­den­tial school ex­pe­ri­ences

Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - As told to Alanna Mitchell

Six mem­bers of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion’s Sur­vivors Cir­cle and one mem­ber of its Gov­ern­ing Cir­cle share glimpses of their res­i­den­tial school ex­pe­ri­ences

F FOR MORE THAN 150 YEARS, Canada took In­dige­nous chil­dren from their fam­i­lies and forced them into res­i­den­tial schools. More than 150,000 chil­dren in all. Their hair was shorn. Their languages out­lawed. Their fam­i­lies for­bid­den to visit. Dis­ci­pline was un­yield­ing. Abuse ram­pant. It was an ef­fort to scrub the In­dige­nous from the child, to erase their cul­tures from the na­tion. In 2009, Canada’s Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion be­gan col­lect­ing ev­i­dence on what hap­pened in those schools. When the com­mis­sion com­pleted its man­date in 2015, it gave birth to the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Housed at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba in Win­nipeg, it’s the per­ma­nent home of the thou­sands of hours of tes­ti­mony, mil­lions of gov­ern­ment and church records, pho­to­graphs, art, ar­ti­facts and other ma­te­ri­als the com­mis­sion col­lected. To en­sure the voices of those who en­dured res­i­den­tial schools would con­tinue to be heard, the cen­tre set up a Sur­vivors Cir­cle, which meets four times a year to ad­vise the cen­tre’s Gov­ern­ing Cir­cle. All six mem­bers of the Sur­vivors Cir­cle and one mem­ber of the Gov­ern­ing Cir­cle (Eu­gene Ar­cand) re­counted some of their ex­pe­ri­ences to Cana­dian Ge­o­graphic. As they spoke, all re­lived some of the trauma that has shaped their lives. They did it de­spite the pain, be­cause they want other Cana­di­ans to know the truth.

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