While residential schools have cast a thick pall over aboriginal peoples and culture, it appears it is slowly lifting.
Youths were forced away from their parents, not allowed to engage in their culture or language and subject to abuse, leading to negative effects among generations of First Nations, but contemporary youths in Nanaimo seem to be persevering.
Ariel Gaudry, a single mother of Cree and German descent, was affected by the vicious circle. Her paternal grandmother was in residential schools for 12 years, which affected her ability to parent her father. Gaudry said it “trickled down” to her.
Gaudry admits to using marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine and said she acted out against her family. She also lost custody of her children.
Gaudry said she felt systemic racism as a result of residential schools from government agencies.
“It’s hard for older generations to look past those things and not see someone as a statistic and more as an individual,” said Gaudry.
“We need to find ways to reweave the social fabric that has been so damaged by residential schools” Doug White at #RMattersYVR
— ReconciliationCanada (@Rec_Can) May 31, 2015
At the time, she didn’t understand she was facing addiction and considered her behaviour normal because all of her peers were experiencing the same thing. She began to wonder about things she wanted to offer her child and had a moment of clarity. Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre offered assistance.
“The ministry became involved with us and that’s when I was like, ‘OK, there are things we need to work on,’ and so we did counselling. I worked with counsellors around that, so I wouldn’t ever want to go back to those things,” Gaudry said.
Entering her second year at Vancouver Island University, Gaudry is eyeing a career path as a family support worker or an addictions counsellor for pregnant women.
Similarly, her father is now a social worker, while her grandmother is giving Truth and Reconciliation speeches in Saskatchewan.
“We’re all very proud of the … family, for doing all of those things,” said Gaudry.
She said it’s nice to see her family coming together to bring awareness.
For a related story on the success of aboriginal high school students, please click here.