A Red Deer Indigenous woman says many families still carry the trauma of former residential schools. (Photo via City of Red Deer’s Facebook)

A Red Deer Indigenous woman says many families still carry the trauma of former residential schools. (Photo via City of Red Deer’s Facebook)

Opinion: Red Deer Indigenous woman talks about pain, trauma and grief after 215 graves found

Recently, we wrapped up a coming of age ceremony for a young woman in our community.

As always, women young and old circled up to impart teachings, talk about lessons learned, and most importantly, let five young women in attendance know just how precious they are to us.

Two of our community Kokoms (grandmothers) were there. They sat off to the side, gently speaking Cree, their words as soft as the hugs and cheek kisses they gave us, when we greeted them. As we all talked, the young girls, fidgety at first, tugging at their skirts, instantly settled when the Kokoms spoke.

Many of us were emotional when we had taken our turn speaking with the five young girls. But in the safety of the circle, when our Kokoms cried, we instantly knew their tears were holding something different.

We wept with them. Mine were hot tears with sticky anger.

Both of these senior women had been taken out at the knees as they learned more and more about the 215 little children – memories long packed away after much healing arose again. How unbelievably sad they had to live it again.

One of the attendees recalled how they took her to residential school – how they loaded them onto cattle trucks with no seats – some as young as three or four years old.

Cattle trucks triggered all of us. I am trying to process some pretty intense feelings. I’m crying easily at random times of the day and even more at night.

Two hundred and fifteen children’s graves were discovered in Kamloops, B.C. recently.

Many broken families still carry the trauma of these schools and some people still can’t understand why so many struggle with addiction.

Sometimes the pain is so hard, so intense, you will look to anything to take the pain of the generational trauma away, or at least dull it for a little while.

“Why can’t you guys all just get over it now? Isn’t it time?”

Can’t count how many times I’ve heard that.

We won’t get over it. The original trauma of a destroyed family keeps spilling over into the next generation.

It’s part of Canada’s history that picks away at the settlers serenity. Rust spots on a fancy white car.

Change the curriculum all you want, remove words from your pieces of paper, but it’s still going to be there – getting rustier and rustier until it all falls apart.

215. The little bones whisper the names of many, many more.

Theresa “Corky” Larsen Jonasson is an Elder and an Indigenous advocate in Red Deer. Larsen Jonasson received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Women of Excellence Awards.