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Blackbear 07-27-2005 02:05 PM

First Nations look for ways to forgive ..
 
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FROM: CANADA.COM NEWS NETWORK WEBSITE

_http://www.canada.com/news/national/story.html?id=10bc7779-27ba-49ae-956f-337
c40d1c3b9_
(http://www.canada.com/news/national/...f-337c40d1c3b9)

First Nations look for ways to forgive during residential schools conference
Terri Theodore Canadian Press

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


VANCOUVER (CP) - He's the leader of the First Nations Summit, and well know
for his role on aboriginal issues. But for seven years at a northern British
Columbia native residential school Ed John was known only as No. 34.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 1,200 at a residential schools conference he
asked who else remembered their numbers. Hundreds in the crowd put up their
hands and called out their designated numbers. The only other names John
remembered being called by caretakers were "savages" and "dumb Indians."
The three-day conference brings together those who endured the residential
school process, First Nations leaders and experts to talk about the political
agreement on residential schools the Assembly of First Nations signed with the
federal government in May.
Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell welcomed delegates, but apologized for not
using his own native language, saying that was beaten out of him while he
attended residential schools.
"I think back to all the injustices done to our people. The laws, the
legislation that's been passed. . .to take the Indian out of the Indian," he said.
"The strength of our forefathers amazes me. We're still here. We're still
Indians."
During much of the last century, about 100,000 children between four and 18
years of age lived in residential schools in every province but New Brunswick
and Prince Edward Island. At least 86,000 former students are still living.
Most of the schools were shut down in the 1970s.
Campbell said the schools did a good job of brainwashing the children.
When he and his friends would go to a cowboys and Indian movie "we cheered
for the settlers, because we savage Indians were no good. That's what we were
taught."
In the keynote address Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine laid out
a series of conditions that need to be met to allow the remaining natives
who were forced into the schools to forgive.
"With an honourable settlement, the conditions will be created for
forgiveness," he told delegates.
"If we can forgive, and we must, the historic relationship between First
Nations and Canada can be healed."
Fontaine said the horrendous physical and sexual abuse and the attempt to
erase First Nations culture at the schools must never be forgotten.
But he warned that First Nations must "take the burden off ourselves so we
don't place in our the shoulders of our children."
Fontaine called for a national truth-telling process so both natives and
Canadians can learn of the "tragic chapter" in Canadian history.
He also wants a national apology from the prime minister to all of Canada.
"We're not talking about a statement of regret. We're not talking about a
statement of reconcilation. . .we're talking about a full apology presented to
the survivors."
In May, the federal government appointed former supreme court justice Frank
Iacobucci to recommend a compensation plan for all former students.
Fontaine praised Iacobucci during the speech, calling him a "gentle soul,"
and said the assembly would make sure Iacobucci served them well.
The assembly suggests a $10,000 lump sum payment and $3,000 for each year
spent in the schools for every survivor.
He said the agreement is about much more than just money and compensation for
severe sexual and physical abuse.
"This is about reconciliation. This is about balance in our lives. This is
about having the confidence that we need to move forward," he said. "It's about
forgiveness."
The Canadian Press 2005


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