My daughter called a couple of weeks ago devastated by the finding of the 215 unmarked graves in BC and then the running down of an Islamic family in London, Ont. “What do I do? What can I say to my children?” were her questions. And I? I didn’t know what to tell her, but it forced me to confront those same questions.
The next day on Facebook I came across a booklist of 48 titles which might help me understand the tragedy of the residential schools better. I sent the list on to my daughter and ordered two of the books from the LaSalle library. The first to arrive was Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse, a CBC Canada Reads 2013 Selection. It is a novel, but already has helped me on my journey to understand the reality of the decline of a culture and a cultural way.
“Saul Indian Horse is in trouble, and there seems to be only one way out. As he journeys back through his life as a northern Ojibway, from the horrors of residential school to his triumphs on the hockey rink, he must question everything he knows.”
At the end of the book Saul returns to the elders who had taken him in as a young hockey player and confesses:
“Now I’m just tired of the way I’ve been living. I want something new built on something old. I wanted to come back. This is the only place I feel like something was possible for me. Don’t know what I want to do. Just want to work on the idea of what’s possible.” I wrung my hands together and looked at them. Fred reached over and took Martha’s hand. They smiled at each other. “We hoped you would, some day,” she said. “We all wanted to go out and find you, but we knew we couldn’t. We knew you’d have to find your own way. The hardest part was that we knew how hard your road would be – but we had to let you go.”
“They scooped out our insides, Saul. We’re not responsible for that. We’re not responsible for what happened to us. None of us are.” Fred said. “But healing – that’s up to us. That’s what saved me. Knowing it was my game.”
“Could be a long game,” I said.
“So what if it is?” he said. “Just keep your stick on the ice and your feet moving. Time will take care of itself.”
“I know how to do that,” I said.
“I know you do,” he said.
For me as a white Canadian, I take heart in what Fred said to Saul. “We’re not responsible for what happened to us. None of us are. But healing – that’s up to us.” And yes, it could be a long game. As a start, I want to learn more. I want to be able to give my children and grandchildren a better understanding of the reality of what happened. And I want to take my role, in whatever way I can, in the healing – that part is up to me.