BAR­NEY WIL­LIAMS

Tla-o-qui-aht First Na­tions, Bri­tish Columbia, 78

Canadian Geographic - - THE SURVIVORS CIRCLE -

Isosoald­mere,i I WAS FIVE and a half when I was taken from my grand­par­ents’ home on Opit­saht Is­land, B.C., and sent to Christie Res­i­den­tial School. It was two miles from my home. I didn’t get back home un­til I was a teenager. My brother, who was four years older, and my sis­ter, who was three years older, were at the same school. My brother knew that I was be­ing raped by one of the men who worked there. There was noth­ing he could do. It broke his heart. The first time I was raped, I was so in­jured that I had to go to the in­fir­mary. They didn’t even send me to the hos­pi­tal. They just dealt with it there. I was al­ways afraid. I would hear foot­steps in the hall and I thought that pe­dophile was com­ing to get me. I was 75 when I fi­nally con­quered my fear of sleep­ing in the dark. I said: “OK. You’re safe. Noth­ing is go­ing to hap­pen.” I’m proud of the fact that I still speak my lan­guage [Tla-o-qui-aht] flu­ently. When I got to the school, they told us we couldn’t speak our own lan­guage. But we didn’t un­der­stand English. They had a wedge of wood. If we spoke our own lan­guage, they would shove it in our mouths and leave it there for seven or eight hours. No food. No wa­ter. That was our pun­ish­ment. Things peo­ple would never think of. On Novem­ber 14, I re­ceived an honorary doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria. Who would have thought that lit­tle boy, ripped from the arms of his granny, raped and beaten, would be get­ting an honorary doc­tor­ate? This is my time.

I was 75 when I fi­nally con­quered my fear of sleep­ing in the dark.

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