For most of my life as an educator and as an adult I have viewed childhood as a magical time in a person’s life but saw its ultimate purpose as being a process of development into adulthood; specifically, a process of children transitioning into happy, contributing members of society and the global community. Perhaps because we live most of our lives as adults, and my job has been about educating children, I think I saw childhood as largely about leading to something else.
As a father of young children, for now at least, my view has changed where I no longer see childhood as about where children are going and who they are becoming but about celebrating childhood for the moments they are; these moments being most importantly an end in themselves. In doing so, I recognize that for some children, childhood is perhaps the pinnacle of the human experience. Seeing children in my school skip down the halls, seeing my own children smile over the littlest things with bigger and more genuine smiles of joy than I see in that of adults, reinforces that view.
Which makes the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School so tragic. When every life is precious, it is hard to grasp the immensity of the tragedy of the deaths of so many children. And it spurs the thought, even in the ‘best-case’ scenarios of the residential school experience, the early lives of so many more residential school survivors, children, isolated from the love of their parents and families, and deprived of their cultural connections, is a tragedy that again is hard to grasp. The devastation of families living without their children, without their paramount purpose, is a hurt so deeply felt by so many that it cannot be understood in sum by any one person.
Which makes the terrorist attack of Sunday night in London, Ontario, with the deaths of four family members and the survival of a nine-year-old boy who is now suddenly living in a very different world so heart-wrenching.
For the last several weeks, when my kids have come to me after scraping a knee, or sought shelter from the thunderstorm, or leaned in for comfort over really nothing at all, I have been so grateful that I am there for my kids and I am saddened that so many children and their parents have been denied that comfort; that opportunity to love and be loved.
So as educators and parents in the midst of processing these events ourselves, and in roles to help children learn about these events in a way that can help them grow up to shape a world that is safer for all, where diversity is valued and celebrated or at a minimum tolerated by all, what can we do?
The BICS Indigenous Education Committee (BICS educators and parents) stands with all those in pain and with all those trying to take personal actions for change, and we recommit ourselves. Below you will find a list of resources, ideas, and actions that can help move from the potentially immobilizing focus on the tragic truths of colonization and racism to supportive actions. We hope you find this list helpful and please feel free to add your own suggestions by replying to this post.
Resources, Ideas, and Actions
- For a wonderful video from author Monique Gray Smith (author of You Hold Me Up) on how to talk to your children about Indian Residential Schools and the recent discovery of the remains of children in Kamloops, please click here.
- Consider supporting survivors of Residential Schools (some ideas are shared in the video from Ms. Gray Smith) and those impacted by the legacy of the Indian Residential School system.
- For a video from an Indian Residential School survivor, Chief Robert Joseph, explaining the history of the Residential School system, click here.
- For information (print) about how to talk to children about Indian Residential Schools from the North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response, click here.
- The 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are here.
- For information about the St. Paul’s Residential School (North Vancouver) and St. Paul’s Residential School Memorial, click here.
- To help understand the tragedy that occurred in London as a hate crime from the North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response, click here.
- Consider going to the Vancouver Art Gallery Memorial or the UBC Reconciliation Pole to pay respect to victims of residential schools and reflect on their impact.
- Consider joining our BICS Indigenous Education Committee; please contact BICS Principal Scott Slater