Friends, it’s good to hear that some of my old schoolmates and relatives are now due to finally set the record straight on a few long-overdue matters.
A recent issue of News/North tells the story of Dene film-maker Raymond Yakeleya’s plans for a film documentary on the horrors of Grollier Hall.
As a survivor of the place myself from 1959 to 1965, I know well the nightmares Yakeleya mentions, “waking up covered in sweat!’
For at least the 17 suicides we know of, it’s too late to find out what details round out such a story. Then again, the simple fact that a young person would find no other way out speaks volumes about the Canadian residential school system.
For his part, Bishop Jon Hansen, as head of the NWT Catholic Diocese, has at least made it a point to head in the right direction, committing $5,000 to the film project.
For my part, “From Bear Rock Mountain; the Life and Times of a Dene Residential School Survivor” is slated to hit the bookstores in a matter of days. The book has been in the works for five long years.
I had been wanting to do my memoirs for quite a while, especially after writing this column for almost 15 years.
In the Spring of 2014, my niece’s daughter was brutally murdered at home in Radilih Koe/Fort Good Hope. At the same time, I was on the east coast, at an artist retreat, managed by a friend, Lynn Feasey when I heard the news.
As soon as I sat down it all just started coming out. It took two long, painful years of writing and a ton of editing, but this is how it’s done, friends.
Most of my memories come from a time when we were young and innocent, with only one choice; to trust in what turned out to be the “dark, black cloud descending on all Native peoples,” which Yakeleya describes as the Roman Catholic Church.
Most nights you could clearly make out the whimperings and helpless cries of your fellow schoolmates in the rows of beds in the dorm. After a couple of years, I just shut down emotionally.
Now some 60 years later all I talk about is the inter-generational residential school trauma we all go through, as part of my Indigenous PhD Studies.
Like these various projects of Mountain Dene filmmaker Raymond Yakeleya, you make up your mind to do a project and then do it.
Mahsi, thank you.