In spite of having been aware for decades of some of the terrible things done to First Nations children in residential schools, the photograph in last week’s paper (Coast Reporter, Sept. 6) still shook me up.
My first reaction was being shocked by the glaring visual representation of being violently torn from their own culture, manifested by the uniforms these children were forced to wear.
The next thing I noticed was that most of the children in this picture look like they’re trying not to cry, and even the adult authority figures seem to have found it difficult to smile for the camera, as though they knew in their heart of hearts that what they were doing was unconscionable.
It’s quite ironic that this particular institution was called St. Augustine’s Indian Residential School.
St. Augustine responded to the physical abuse he experienced as a child by embracing the concept of original sin as an adult, making it a point to emphasize that even a brand new baby is a sinner because it wants to be fed when it gets hungry.
Reading the Confessions, one gets the overwhelming impression that Augustine’s eventual adoption of the complex religious doctrine of original sin was fueled by his desire to repair the self-esteem shattered in his childhood (it’s not just me who’s a sinner — it’s everyone), not to mention the beneficial side-effect of transforming his sexual neurosis into a virtue.
I wonder how many of these children grew up to be adults convinced they were “sinners” because of the way they were treated at these institutions.
I suspect that it would be quite an interesting exercise to investigate the childhoods of some of the other well-known purveyors of the concept of original sin, such as Irenaeus, Martin Luther and John Calvin.
George Kosinski, Gibsons