·  Statement

Living Next Door to Genocide

I grew up on a farm near the Marieval Indian Residential School, near the Cowessess First Nation, in Saskatchewan. My family lived there until I was 17 years old. I have fond memories of rural life, of picking rocks and threshing grain, alongside my family. I was raised Roman Catholic and attended a local school where my friends and I were taught by nuns. We bought fish from our Indigenous neighbours, who caught them in nearby Crooked Lake and the Calling Lakes and they worked the farm land with us in the busy times.

The news of the discovery of 751 unmarked graves near that Marieval “school” fills me with profound grief and makes me reflect. Where I spent my childhood years working, laughing and learning with my family, generations of Indigenous children were treated with cruelty and separated from their families, including in their deaths.

The abuse and misery weren’t hidden away. Governments and churches were so arrogant and confident that their genocidal policies were right that they didn’t hide their crimes. Settler families didn’t ask questions or didn’t know their Indigenous neighbours well enough to hear about what was going on at the residential “schools.” While many Indigenous parents and children resisted, oppression and discrimination led to fear, and fear led to silence.

No matter how hard it is for non-Indigenous Canadians to face up to the awful truth of the Indian residential “school” system, things are much, much harder for Indigenous families and communities. Their grief and their healing must be at the centre of all we now do to continue the necessary work of reconciliation.

Ken Neumann
National Director

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