Eagle Feather News Breaking Trail
- John Cuthand | January 15, 2022
The remarkable healing power of kindness and caring by everyday people
Many First Nations people who have lived through the residential school era find it very difficult to express affection and so fail to fully nurture their children as a result. They love their children but are unable to express it. Children seldom receive praise and many parents don’t or rather can’t see this as a problem. Some families even become a collection of strangers with each carrying their own burden of hurts. It’s not a character flaw nor is it based on culture but rather it is a learned behavior from a dark source. The residential schools were designed to oppress despite being described in often lofty colonial terms. The painful cruel impact residential schools had on children was often but not always, passed on to their own children with varying degrees of devastating results.
An extreme example is crime. Saskatchewan has the highest crime severity rate in Canada. It also has the highest murder rate with most victims Indigenous people killed by Indigenous people. Indigenous people are ten per cent of the provincial population but represent seventy six percent of inmates in provincial correctional centers. The figure is even higher for Young Offender Centers. Combine this with other miseries and the result is a devastating toxic brew.
There is no minimizing nor sugar coating what has been described as cultural genocide. The residential schools in biblical terms sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
There are very important exceptions which offer a hopeful path to healing. There are those raised in the same painful dysfunctional environment which creates criminals but who did not become criminals. The question is why. A study was done where many of these people were interviewed. They all stated the same reason. They had someone who believed in them. This could include a school teacher, a coach, a mailman and seemingly insignificant others. They did not know how important for these youth their kindness was. These mentors were a point of light in darkness, something to hold on to, something to grow from no matter how insignificant it may seem. These youth did not become buffalo running with the herd tumbling over a cliff.
The important lesson from this example is how everyday people can make a big difference toward the healthy growth of young people. It can be as simple as encouragement and seeing the good the kid may not be able to see in themselves and reflecting it back at them.
So much has changed in so short a time both for the better and the worst. A powerful emerging healing movement is being largely led by those who were once crippled by colonialism themselves. Deprived children now have mentors and heroes. The old honorable culture is returning. Indigenous people no longer look at the floor in the presence of non-Indigenous people but are now seeing eye to eye with power. The once arrogant residential school administrators and abusive staff are now scurrying rats finding places to hide.
A change is coming slowly painfully but there will be no returning to what was. A little kindness, a little caring and love for others can and is making a big difference. Most people don’t realize how small gestures of kindness and encouragement can help love starved youth find the good within themselves and others.