For the past three days, victims of the residential school system and their families, have been gathering at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers to shed light on what was kept in the dark for far too long. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to provide a safe haven for the voices of all those whose lives were impacted by residential schools. The process of healing and forgiveness is always a long one. I hope that this step has been a healthy and fruitful one.
The following is one of two excerpts I would like to share with you, from a story I named, "Common Ground". It's about a young Métisse who finds herself on the banks of the Red one day, just across from these very forks where aboriginals and whites meet tonight ...
. . . Amélie deftly escapes the kitchen from the side entrance, careful not to let the door slam behind her, relieved to have avoided her father’s eyes. She hates seeing him this way, feeding himself drugs to quiet his demons. (When she was little she called them the “men in black”, but she recently promoted them.) She knows that it’s better to pretend she doesn’t see. It’s safer this way.
Amélie’s long black hair glistens in the bright, near summer sun. Sketch pad and charcoal under arm, she makes her way to the riverbank. Leaning against the old oak, she stares off at the river as the beams strike the water like a painter splashing colours onto her own personal canvas.
Ever since Pauline and her family moved to Saskatchewan, she finds herself spending more and more time alone. Amélie knows she doesn’t fit in, her eyes nearly as dark as her hair, her skin neither black nor white. When Pauline was around, she sometimes thought of herself as an apple, white on the inside and red on the outside, you know? But since her best friend left, she’s felt red all the way through. Is it my imagination or is my skin really getting darker?, she wonders as she scratches into her arm with her nails, looking for white…maybe maman forgot to tell me something when we had that talk..?
What is certain are the whispers that wander her way as she walks down the school corridors. She hears words like ‘half-breed’ and ‘indyun’ coming from the soon-to-be junior high students. She didn’t know those were bad things, but she has long ago learned that nothing good is ever whispered.
If Pauline were here, she’d know what to do…what to say. She always does. There is no one to talk to now, especially not about her redness. Lucie, her younger sister, has been blessed with blond hair and blue eyes. And her father, well… Oh no, look at the sun! I’m late for supper again. Mom’ll be so pissed!
. . .