Naujaat, Nunavut, 70
W WE WERE LIVING at our outpost camp near Naujaat, fishing, ready to move to the land to do some caribou hunting, when a boat came with a Roman Catholic priest and a government agent. They came to pick me up and forced me to go to Sir Joseph Bernier residential school in Chesterfield Inlet. I was 11. I was wearing sealskin boots. I was in residential schools for six years. It was a very traumatic experience. I had been trained to be a very good hunter and trapper and fisherman, a true-natured Inuk. I left a little Eskimo boy and the same day I became a little white boy. We were sexually abused. We had a loss of culture, loss of language, loss of tradition, loss of Inuit skills. In 1987, I was an elected member of the Northwest Territories legislative assembly and my now late friend Marius Tungilik asked me to take a look at getting the government to establish a public inquiry into residential schools. I took it on immediately. I wanted to see the Roman Catholic Church apologize, the government apologize. I was the first person to come forward and ask for that. Finally, finally, we are moving in the right direction. But residential schools are not only Indigenous history. It is Canadian history. All Canadians must practise inuuqatigiitt ia rniq, which means living with each other in peace and harmony. I’ve been promoting it for 10 years.
I left a little Eskimo boy and the same day I became a little white boy.
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