Whenever you get there you realize too quickly you don’t belong there, these people who look exactly like you cannot understand you and you can’t understand them.Read Raquel Simard's Think Back
Garden Hill First Nation
Raquel performed this poem for a poetry slam that we had in the school...it asks the listener to think back along a timeline of a residential school survivor...one who lost family members, lost the ability to feel welcome or at home. It acknowledges the impossibility of 'getting over it' as so many ignorant Canadians might suggest.
Think back! It’s 1932, you’re three years old being hastily carried into the woods in your grandmother’s arms– what’s the danger?
Think back! It’s 1933, you’re four years old and ripped from your hysterical, screaming mother’s arms– “but she’s my baby!”
Think back! It’s 1934, you’re five years old and locked into tiny shackles and marched fro your reservation.
Think back! It’s 1935, you’re six years old; the nuns are washing your hair with acid, your skin with bleach – you’re only burning because you come from the Devil.
Think back! It’s 1936, you’re seven years old and your head is shaven to cleanse you, to you this means your parents are dead.
Think back! It’s 1937, you’re eight, you dream of wearing moccasins instead of shoes that make your feet blister and bleed, two sizes too small.
Think back! It’s 1938, you’re nine, you are never allowed o hug or kiss your siblings– It is forbidden.
Think back! It’s 1939; you’re ten and the man who claims he is from God puts his hands underneath your nightgown.
Think back! It’s 1940, you’re eleven, you must fight for food like an animal and you must fight for survival.
Think back! It’s 1941, you’re twelve and you hear your best friend screaming from the whips in the next room; you can’t help her.
Think back! It’s 1942, you’re thirteen and they are injecting you with another needle.
Think back! It’s 1943, you’re fourteen and you can’t remember your real name anymore– only Mary.
Think back! It’s 1944, you’re fifteen and you can’t remember your mother’s voice, your father’s face – what does Miigwetch even mean?
Think back! It’s 1945, you’re sixteen, you are allowed to go home– where is home exactly?
Whenever you get there you realize too quickly you don’t belong there, these people who look exactly like you cannot understand you and you can’t understand them.
But you recognize a face, you run and collapse into your mother’s arms, sobbing.
Think back! It’s 1946 and your uncle is being chased by scary men in red coats– “where are you taking him?!”
Brandon Institutional Hospital Fall 1946, your family receives a letter that the healthy seventeen year old boy in their care had passed away– only a month after being forcibly taken.
Think now, it’s 2014, his great niece is 17 and we still hear our 78 year old grandmother say;
“What happened to Josia? What did they do to him?”