I’ve been reading Michelle Good’s book, Five Little Indians, which centers around indigenous young people taken from their families and forced into residential schools in Canada. While the work is fiction, the events ring true to actual experiences from that atrocious historical practice. It’s incredibly well written and beautiful, but it’s also difficult to read. The pain and trauma that these young people carry is unimaginable.
Residential schools in Canada were compulsory for native children from 1894 to 1947, though the practice of removing children of indigenous descent from their families lasted much longer. The goal of these schools was to remove the “Indian” from these children and replace it with Euro-centric assimilation. The families of these children were not allowed to be in contact with them, and it removed them from learning their culture, language, and history. If students expressed their native culture, they were severely punished.
While the last of these schools was finally closed by 1996, the effects remain. Generational trauma and the impact of having generations of culture disrupted still affect Indigenous Peoples. You can read more about the residential schools here.
So why would I read about such a violent and oppressive system? Because I must.
It is not enough to know of the residential schools in Canada or the mission schools in the US. I need to hear people’s stories—both those of triumph and those of heartache. I am, without a doubt, a person shaped by white supremacy. Unless I ACTIVELY work to rewire my brain, I will perpetuate the harmful systems that support white supremacy. So, again, it’s not enough, reading a book. But it is a part of an intentional practice that helps me do the work it takes to be transformed—little by little, bit by bit.
I hope you’ll join me in doing intentional things to renounce white supremacy.