Journal of my truth and reconciliation adventure to Pelican Narrows
Noah has given us permission to share his journal. He and his dad David went to TRC community hearings in Pelican Narrows in northern Saskatchewan in the winter of 2012. David’s reflections are in a separate post.
By Noah Kim-Cragg, age 8
I found out I was going to Pelican Narrows on Thursday last week. My dad asked me to go with him because he thought it would be educational. I knew we were going to a First Nations reserve. I thought it would be exciting and fun to go. So I said I would.
We left in the car on Sunday, February 12, 2012 after a skating party with my church friends. We wondered if we would see the Aurora Borealis on our way North. We also wondered how cold it would be up there. It was bright when we left. We stopped at Burger King for supper in Prince Albert. On the way out of Prince Albert my dad took a wrong turn and we had to take a slightly different way than planned.
It soon became dark. The road was flat and straight. The stars were beautiful.
Dad talked to me some more about why we were going to Pelican Narrows. Dad said that the Canadian Government wasn’t treating the First Nations very fairly. They sent First Nation kids to residential schools, separating them from their parents. At the residential school they lost their language and their culture and they could not learn manners and discipline from their parents the way I learn it from my parents. Many kids got sad and lonely and started bullying others. The church helped to run these residential schools not knowing it was wrong.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is all about the Church and Government asking for forgiveness. The First Nations people are talking about how they are hurting. Tomorrow we will go to the meeting in Pelican Narrows and listen to them.
We made the last turn off the highway onto a dirt road. Then we turned again to come into Jan Lake. We drove up to the hotel. We got out of the car and looked at the sky. We saw thousands and millions of stars. The hotel was old fashioned looking. First I thought it wouldn’t be very cozy to spend the night but I think I was wrong. They have Wi-Fi and the beds are poofy!
Last night it took me a long time to get to sleep. I had to get used to the bed. And it was very noisy. There were radios, TVs, and sounds of people laughing. When I woke up, though, I felt fine and wasn’t tired.
When I got up I woke Dad up. Then I got ready to go to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Pelican Narrows. We got in the car and drove over bumpy roads for about an hour. When we got to the Peter Ballantyne Reserve there was a whole bunch of dogs, mostly huskies. One group of dogs was together with one husky biting another dog in the back. That dog being bitten whined terribly. I felt scared and sorry for the dog.
When we got to the school where the TRC was taking place we had a little breakfast. There were granola bars, apples, oranges and pudding. After breakfast we heard a bunch of stories about the residential schools. Most of the stories were told in Cree. Dad got some ear phones that provided translation. I remember a story told by a man. He got hit by a minister (priest) in the face and wrist. The stories I heard made me feel kind of angry and sorry for the people who were telling them.
About supper time we went for a walk across the school grounds. There was a lot of snow. The trees and forest looked fresh and beautiful.
The best part of my day was coming to a new hotel. It is way better than the last one. Tomorrow we are going to have to drive 1 1/2 hours to the TRC.
I slept very well last night. The place where we stayed was comfy and cozy. I woke up at 7am. Dad was already awake. I ate an apple as we go ready to leave. The drive to Pelican Narrows was long. Just as we arrived in Pelican Narrows I barfed. I barfed because I was playing on the computer while we were driving on a bumpy gravel road. Dad stopped the car and came to my side to clean up.
When we got to the school the TRC had already started. I felt weak and my stomach hurt. My dad spoke to the Commission. He said he couldn’t imagine if someone had taken me against his wishes. He said the way North and South Korea were separated was kind of like Aboriginal and White people are separated in Canada. Then he sang a song about bringing people together. I was with him, sitting beside him. I felt shy and worried because I was in front of a lot of people. When we came and sit down people came to talk to my dad. I just waited.
The other stories were the same as yesterday. Lots of stories of being hurt and abused. People applauded before and after the speaker spoke. Some speakers tried to keep their voice normal when they were about to cry. The TRC room smelled like the burning grass (sweet grass). I didn’t listen or pay attention as much as yesterday. I was feeling sick to my stomach and I was tired.
We left around 2:30. We left earlier than we planned to avoid coming back really late. On the way back I waited ‘til the road wasn’t bumpy then played computer.
I am at a restaurant write now writing this with my dad.
When we left the restaurant we filled up the car and headed home. Dad said to keep my eyes open for the northern lights. We got lucky. First they appeared very faintly like vertical clouds. Then they got stronger. Dad stopped the car and we got out to get a better look. It wasn’t like the northern lights you see on posters or billboards. They looked like a wide arc almost like a green rainbow across the sky. Not much was moving. We got on the road and started for home again. When we got home I got big hugs from my mom. Sophie, our dog, also was happy to see us. And we all went to bed. I was tired.
Thinking back on the whole experience what I remember best is tears from the people telling their stories at the TRC. Images of roaming dogs and snow are what I remember of Pelican Narrows. The most impressive thing that happened was my dad singing. What I learned is that Stephen Harper said that he was sorry in 2008. By the 1930s more than 80 residential schools were set up all across Canada. The residential schools were trying to teach First Nations people how to become English or European.
If I get a chance to tell other people about this experience I would like to tell them that the TRC is a very sad and thoughtful time. I think we are doing this to say sorry for residential schools. The First Nations and Métis people are telling us how hurt they were. It makes me feel good that people are apologizing and that the apologies may be accepted. Seeing the northern lights was a thrill for me.