Journey through Darkness
OUR NISHNAWBE ASKI ANCESTORS
were once proud, strong and free. They lived off the resources
of the land that provided for their needs. They loved their
children and passed on the traditional teachings from generation
to generation. There was no child abuse and neglect, and
there were no child welfare agencies. Helping one another
and sharing were basic ways of life. With the coming of
the European immigrants, their lives were disrupted and
everything was lost, including their children.
When the fur market declined
and our ancestors’ work had no more value, the white
man took conscious steps to remove us from our land and
take away access to our resources. Through the Indian Act
and the Treaties, the foreign government made laws to control
us and restrict us. Our people were confined to small tracts
of land, so that we were no longer free to travel, hunt
and fish or trap according to our ancestral traditions.
Thus, we have lived as prisoners
in our own land.
The government had high hopes
of assimilating us into the new society. Prime Minister
John A. MacDonald said, “Ultimately, within a few generations,
there will no longer be any Indian reserves, there will
no longer be any Indians and, therefore, there will no longer
be any Indian problem.”
Thus, we live with intense anger.
As part of the government’s
scheme to deal with the Indian problem, our children were
stolen and placed in residential schools. There we grew
up without our mothers’ love, our fathers’ instruction
and our Elders’ guidance.
Thus, we live with a deep emptiness in our hearts.
Foreign missionaries showed us
a new spirituality. We embraced Christianity and gave up
our traditional spiritual practices and medicine ways. Some
of us are now devout Christians and find peace through our
beliefs and we want to travel on that road. Others believe
that Christianity has stolen our traditional spirituality
and are working to reclaim the traditional ceremonies.
Thus, we live with tension and
When the residential school experiment
failed, the government built federal day schools and forced
us into permanent communities. We left behind the hunting,
fishing and trapping and daily connection to the sacred
land that had nourished our people since time immemorial.
Thus, we live with being displaced.
Our people turned to government
assistance for survival. We have paid a high price for this
assistance through the loss of our independence and having
to live according to the terms of government rule. Governments
provide meagre amounts of support for us, under complex
and inconsistent rules.
Thus, we live in frustration.
We continue to struggle to build
viable communities within our traditional territory. The
Treaty promise of sharing the resources of our land has
never been fulfilled. We have stood by as our lands have
been flooded, mines built and forests decimated. Multinational
corporations exploit our resources with government support
Thus, we live in desperate poverty.
Government intervention undermined
our traditional leadership, and the residential schools
destroyed our families. Educators abused our children physically,
sexually and emotionally. They took away our languages.
Alcohol has exacerbated our sorrow.
Thus, we live in despair.
As a result, many of our own
people have been violent toward others, have abused the
children, and have taken their own lives through suicide.
Thus, we live with sadness and
This is the context in which
the Tikinagan Child and Family Services’ dream of establishing
an Aboriginal child and family services agency emerged.
Our leaders had the foresight to envision a new strategy
to keep our children with us, to bring home those who were
lost, to rediscover who we are as parents and grandparents,
and to build homes that are safe and secure for the generations
of children to come.
Today we are immensely grateful
to the Elders and Chiefs who created the vision and who
have led us along the path to building our own child welfare
agency. Their support has given everyone at Tikinagan the
strength to carry on through difficult times. We also give
thanks to the many past and present employees, foster parents,
and Board members who have given so much of themselves to
serve the children and families, making Tikinagan what it
is today. We look forward with gratitude to those among
us who will take Tikinagan forward and who will lead our
people on a new journey of hope. May God bless all of you
and your families!