Childhood Thieves – The Residential School System

Imagine!

A frightened child sits beside you, her hand clasped tightly in yours. Silent tears stream down her face, clouding her otherwise golden brown eyes with a pool of grey. She is voiceless. Despite her heartbreaking pleas, you cannot help her. She must go.

Sitting on the damp bench, you wrap your arm around her quivering body and wince as you look at her grief-stricken face – the same sweet face that treenourished your soul for the past six years. Images of her inundate your mind, cascading from one scene to another. The day she was born was your happiest ever. You planted a tree in her honour that year. Will it continue to grow in her absence? You recall how easy it was to soothe her then. You’d hold her in your arms and sing sweet lullabies, the very ones your mother once sang to you. But who will comfort her now when she’s lonely and scared? Will they care for her when she is unhappy or sick? What if she’s hurt? What if she’s hungry? You panic. You try to restrain the fear that is taking over.

You close your eyes and pray. Please take care of my baby. Oh hush, you mustn’t let her see you cry, or she will surely realize your comforting words were nothing but lies.

70b141c03a68de3794d94b7c1ce75c2fIt will not be alright when they tell her she must abandon her birth name. It will not be alright when they cut off her braids. It will not be alright when she feels homesick and is denied her brother’s embrace. It will not be alright when she wonders why you cannot be there on her birthday or why she has to miss grandpa’s 70th. Time will surely not fly. But you do and say what you must, for the choice is not yours.

The cruel rain continues. They will come for her and you must let her go. You gave birth to her but somehow you do not know what is best for her. You raised her, nourished her, taught her, but she is not yours.

A van emerges from around the hills, slowly making its way up the road. She squeezes your hand, a final plea. Ihandn just a few moments the scent of your hands will be all she has left of you.

“Please Mommy, I don’t want to go”.

A kiss, a hug and a swift smell of her hair, your heart is in pieces, yet you pry her hands out of yours. You try to sound sensible when you know nothing you say or do will ever be so.

“I will see you in the summer, my sweet rose,” agony overwhelms you as you watch her climb aboard, sobbing and confused. Why is mommy letting this happen? What did I do wrong? Doesn’t she love me anymore?

Untitled-1You are numb. You wave when all you want to do is shout at the world. That is my baby disappearing into the thick mist.

You continue to stare long after the van disappears behind the hills. Surely this must be a horrible dream, a nightmare.

You look around. All is still. You pick up the discarded doll and hold it close to your body. You weep for the child they thieved from your home.

Imagine!

Lora Rozler


It was a few months ago that my friend and colleague, Michele Parkin, enlightened me with one of her picture books, Shin-Chi’s Canoe by Nicola Campbell. I had reached out to her a few days prior when I sought an Ojibway translation for a picture book I was working on at the time. As always, she was more than happy to help and the discussion that ensued left me wanting to learn more about the Aboriginal people’s struggles. Knowing my passion for children’s literature, Michele kindly offered her book.

I brought the book home with me the same day and as I read it, a sense of rage began to build. My children happened to be playing in a nearby room and and all I remember feeling is deep sadness for those families whose children were taken away from them, stolen from their home, their culture, their life. There was something about the the way the story was told that touched me deeply. As a mother, the thought of having to endure something so horrific is beyond comprehension. 

I’d like to share an article I read online, written by Erin Hanson, a researcher at The University of British Columbia. It beautifully articulates and captures the effects of the Residential school experience on the Indigenous people. You can visit the article by clicking the image below: Continue reading

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Words on a Limb Interviews Maureen Fergus

543233The air is crisp and chilly in Winnipeg as fall descends on us. We had a unique opportunity to sit and talk to one of our favourite picture book authors, accomplished writer and mom, Maureen Fergus.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in Winnipeg, she has lived quite a journey to arrive at her dream of creating multiple picture books, several young adult novels, including a wildly popular fantasy trilogy. She admits, that in spite of all her achievements, the one thing she values is most is the recognition of her many readers and fans.

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Maureen spoke to us over the phone from her beautiful home, apparently full of treasures (more on that below), in Winnipeg where she lives with her husband, three children, a hedgehog and the family dog Buddy, affectionately known as Sir Barksalot – handsome fella, no?

Here is her story. If you are a young writer, there is plenty of gold in this river.


Welcome Maureen, it’s a privilege to speak with you today. What kind of kid were you , how much of it has stayed with you?
Maureen at 4I’ve never been asked that, that is an interesting question. I was very studious, I liked school, I was a perfectionist. I loved a good laugh, I thought I was hilarious, that certainly hasn’t changed. The perfectionist thing mellowed a lot once I had kids. You sort of have 2 choices when you have 3 kids in 3.5 years. You can continue to try to be a perfectionist and go off the deep end, or you just relax a little and except that not everything can be in its place all the time.

But in terms of the way I think and I approach situations I think a big part of that has stayed with me. In fact, I can go back and have a very clear memory of who I was at 4, how it felt to be 4, how I saw the world at 4. I can see that vividly, even at the ages of 7 or 11. This really helps me as a writer because, when writing picture books or books for middle grades or for older teens, I’m not thinking from the outside looking in, I’m thinking what a kid would do or think. I really try to put myself back in that place to write.

Do you have any creations from when you were a child?
I actually have one story that I wrote when I was 10 or 11. It was about a super pickle that goes to Ottawa and becomes a member of parliament. I was just a rambling sort of story. As a young girl, I never really wanted to be a writer, it was never my objective. I was always much more interested in science and math. I did love reading – I would keep a journal, keep up with out-of-town friends through snail mail.

I remember one other story from grade 7. I had a perfectionist teacher. Every week we had to write a story and my goal was write one that would get a 10/10. So, I wrote a story making fun of how strict she was. I wrote about me turning over the table, kicking the garbage can and how Miss Shanks got really upset. Funny enough it was a piece of writing that most closely resembles what I’m writing 20 years after. I got 10/10 for that one – the only 10/10 she gave out that year, it appealed to the perfectionist in me. Fortunately, she pushed me to get in touch with the voice of the writer I was going to become. It wasn’t a moment where I suddenly recognized I was going to be a writer, but looking back now, I realized it was the first moment when I really tapped into what that voice was going to be. I would like to go back and let her know that, even though I did not know it at the time, she had a pretty profound impact on my 20 years down the road. Continue reading