The Toronto Star reports…
“The massive final report of the inquiry into horrors of church-run, government-funded native residential schools should just be the starting point for improving how we teach our history, First Nations community members say.
“It’s about awareness,” said Andrea Chrisjohn, board designate of the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre. “Education is really critical.”
“It’s all about education,” said Paula Whitlow, museum director of the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford. “Racism still exists. We still deal with it every day in some form.”
Chrisjohn, Whitlow and Gordon Peters, Grand Chief of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, all said that the effects of residential schools are still felt widely in First Nations communities.
Education is an essential starting point to making things better, they said.
“You can’t have Canada built on a foundation of lies,” Peters said. “That’s what Canada is right now. They teach these lies to the children.”
The commission calls the residential system nothing short of a “cultural genocide” and concludes that students who were forced to attend were often “prey to sexual and physical abusers.”
Police and other first responders, as well as students, should be made aware of what happened at residential schools, Chrisjohn said.
Improved education must also include teaching respect for treaties and Native languages, Peters said.
The museum where Whitlow works is beside the residential school that Six Nations children were forced to attend between 1828 and 1970.
She said she found painful that there’s not even a known number of how many aboriginal children died while attending such residential schools.
Many were buried in unmarked graves, far from their homes.
“There’s no real number,” Whitlow said. “The records are hidden or destroyed.”
Whitlow said improved education must also include learning about thousands of reported missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“I’m a woman and I’m First Nations and I feel like I’m a target,” Whitlow said.
Whitlow said the museum where she works is dedicated to teaching the truth, with the hope that it provides a foundation for building something positive.
“All we do here at the museum is present the facts,” she said.
She said it’s important for children to learn that First Nations people were treated differently.
That included not being allowed to vote, become lawyers or leave the reserve without the permission of an Indian agent.
She said histories of the War of 1812 often omit the huge contribution of First Nations allies of the British.
“All these veterans who fought and died in the War of 1812, their reward was to have their kids sent to residential schools,” Whitlow said.”