I feel a heaviness today. I’ve been speaking with many of my First Nation friends and their pain is breaking my heart. 215 children. 215 lives never fulfilled. 215 victims of cultural genocide. 430 parents and 860 grandparents who never knew what happened to their precious loved ones. And we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. More mass graves are out there, waiting to be found.
One of my great-great grandmothers was a First Nations woman. This is something I honour and cherish; a legacy I feel connected to. I wonder perhaps if it is the trauma part of me that joins us across the generations. What did she go through? How was she treated? Was she sent to residential school? Was she abused? I’ll likely never know those answers, but, as I stare at her picture and look in her eyes, I see pain.
I long with all my heart to stop the hurting that is out there right now. The thought of having a child ripped away from you is nothing I can begin to fathom. Do I understand trauma and triggers? Absolutely. But I have never been on the receiving end of cultural genocide, racism, and bigotry. No one has ever judged me because of the colour of my skin. I keep hearing the words “kill the Indian in the child” in my head and it makes me want to vomit. We all knew that these graves existed, and we heard the stories, but now it is staring us in the face and we must confront the reality that is our past.
My history has been traumatic and on that piece of humanity I feel a connection to what others have gone through. We all feel pain. We all experience sorrow. We all hurt at times. But the magnitude of what First Nation people have experienced, and continue to experience, cannot be understood, unless you went through it yourself. If just a tiny piece of us can connect to the human experience of pain and suffering, shouldn’t it be enough to push us to be part of the solution? To be an ally?
I for one can no longer be silent. As much as today was about honouring those 215 children, I also saw how alive and well systemic racism is in our society. It makes me weep but it also spurs me on to be open to the truth, to learn more, to be better, and to always put humanity front and centre. And so, I honour the spirits of my ancestors who lived on Turtle Island for thousands of years. I will embrace this part of my being. I will stand with my First Nations friends and hold space for them to share and be heard. May the finding of these 215 children be the wake up call we all need in order to truly embrace Truth and Reconciliation. All children matter. Miigwech.