Residential children speak out

Jan DeGrass/Arts and Entertainment Writer / Staff writer
February 14, 2014 01:00 AM

Sarah Jane Baptiste (nee Sarah Jane Jefferies), on the left side second row up, is the grandmother of Sechelt's Candace Campo. She is seen here with her residential school classmates.

The Sechelt Nation invites you to join them for a matinée showing of the film We Were Children at Raven's Cry Theatre this Saturday, Feb. 15.

It's a powerful documentary that candidly depicts the experiences of many First Nations children who were removed from their homes and separated from their families to attend residential schools.

Directed by Tim Wolochatiuk and written by Jason Sherman, We Were Children tellsthe true story of Lyna Hart and Glen Anaquod, told in their own voices. (Anaquod has died since the film was made, but Hart is still alive.) They were removed from their homes at the ages of four and six, as were so many First Nations and Indigenous children in Sechelt and throughout Canada. Their narrative is woven into the film.

Whether they were incarcerated in the schools or coerced into attending as day scholars, these children were forced to adapt to a strange, threatening new world in Canada's Indian School System.

"It's the full range of human expression, from horror to absolute beauty in how these people have healed," said Nancy Denham, one of the presentation's organizers.

Though Denham is not First Nation, she grew up attending a Catholic high school where many of her fellow teens had been through the residential school system. She has since taken part in dialogue circles that bring together Natives and non-Natives.

"We've grown quite a community of people on the Sunshine Coast learning about our past," she said.

Candace Campo of the Sechelt Nation, also a presentation organizer, offered her family's experience with residential schools. A photo of her grandmother standing in a line up of solemn students behind a seated Catholic priest tells a sad story.

This will be a day of information, Denham notes, sharing the truth and celebrating the resiliency of the survivors. The educational articles and information that will be available are an integral part of the day's activities. It's the hope of organizers that this challenging past can bring better awareness and understanding of history and the long legacy of the residential school experience.

There are also issues regarding day scholars at the schools that are as yet unresolved. Day students attended the same residential schools where many students suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse, but the day scholars have been exempted from the federal apology and are not eligible for compensation packages.

We Were Children is presented at the Raven's Cry Theatre in Sechelt from 1 to 4:30 p.m. A candlelight ceremony and prayer song opens the presentation at 1 p.m. in the foyer and the 82-minute film follows that. After the film there will be a panel discussion of about an hour before closing remarks and prayer.

Admission is a requested donation of $5 to $10 and all proceeds from the film will go towards the Sechelt Residential School Day Scholar Survivors Fund.

Though the event is open to the public it is not recommended for those under 16 because of its content.

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