Recently, non-Indigenous Canadians learned hard truths about our colonial history. Truths about the genocide of Indigenous people and their culture through Canada’s residential schools.
We must recognize that our feelings do not compare with those of Indigenous peoples. We need to listen and engage true empathy.
These weeks have amplified feelings and emotions from the trauma Indigenous peoples have experienced at the hands of settlers over hundreds of years.
For some perspective, I connected with Alexandria Jayde Ellens, 21. She is a Barrie resident of Haudenosaunee (hoe-dee-no-SHOW-nee) heritage. Writing and creating art helps her to cope and to heal.
Ellens shared this piece called, “I think we’re all feeling ‘It’”:
“I’m sure you’re feeling something along the lines of confusion and shock. ‘It’ seems unbelievably hard to define, especially when mine differs from your ‘It.’ There’s been no new news to me these past few weeks.
“And, so being so separate from anything I could call a stable community, I feel as if I’ve been consoling those I don’t know, (who don’t) really understand. How could you really? When you haven’t seen or heard the things, or read the things I have?
“I am a little relieved that the truth is slowly coming to light.
“I am incredibly overwhelmed with everything.
“The details I’ve been learning about my own family history, the stories that went untold. Forever passing down old wounds, I’ll never be able to hear about. Isolation, avoidance, assimilation, silence, and an unwavering feeling of inadequacy. People I wanted in my life who were always too far away, physically and mentally.
“Others who questioned;
‘Why don’t you care about our culture?’ As if it hadn’t been shoved down my throat since birth.
‘Why aren’t you smiling? Smile!’ That unlocked the flood gates in my body to unleash the truth that I had already been scathed by this system and the inter-generational shit show it’s caused, at 13.
“But we don’t talk about that. We don’t talk about how suicide has caused rifts in our relationships. How painful every single day can feel. How deeply we all miss the closeness.
“We don’t need to get into everything we ignore.
“I know it hurts. And I do try to smile. So just please implore me, ‘What’s this ‘It’ you refer to?’”
Michèle Newton is an experienced diversity and inclusion speaker. Connect with her.