Excerpt

Journey through Darkness toward Healing

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 discord.

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 and assistance.

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 grief.

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!


"[Coming Home] also illuminates the resilience of our people in continuing to strive for a better life …" Chief Donny Morris, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
     
   
   
   
   
 

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