How residential schools overcome intergenerational trauma

Warning: This story contains disturbing details.

A new book explores how trauma is passed between generations in families from the perspective of an Indigenous author trying to heal.

“If there wasn’t a boarding school, my mother would have hugged me and told me she loved me.”

It’s a line from Darlene Isaac’s poem, ‘One Wish’, which tells the story of healing and forgiveness from the abuse she endured from her mother, who was sent to a boarding school as a child. small. The poem is part of her new book, ‘Dear Journal, It’s Me, Little Darlenie.’

“I believe that the Creator put us all here for a reason. And my reason for spending so many years of physical abuse was so that I could write my story and share it to help. others. And that was the ultimate healing tool I needed for myself,” Isaac told CTV News.

Until she left the house, Isaac said she endured terrible abuse at the hands of her own mother, Celina. In one incident that happened when she was 5 years old, she said that her mother grabbed her hair and stuffed a diaper in her mouth. In another episode, she said her mother also stabbed her with a fork after she forgot to boil water to make spaghetti.

“I never told anyone about any of the abuse,” Isaac said. “It’s a shame. I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed of where I live.”

But as a child, Isaac’s mother was sent to Lejac boarding school in Fort Saint James, BC. Isaac didn’t know it about his mother until 20 years after her death from alcohol use. Until then, Isaac had never been taught the history of boarding schools and the prevailing stories of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at these facilities.

“I hated her for the first 20 years when she was gone. I hated her. I can’t speak or swear about her,” she said. “Once I got into my culture, I started learning about all these things and this thing is called a residential school.”

She believes the abuse her mother endured at the boarding school is the reason why she mistreats her daughter. She spoke to an Elder Online who met her mother while attending Lejac Boarding School.

“The woman said, ‘I miss your mother.’ And she said, ‘What was done to her shouldn’t be done to any child.’ That’s when I realized it wasn’t her fault,” Isaac said, trying to hold back tears.

Isaac’s pen became her panacea, detailing her experiences in a diary that would become the basis for her new book.

Part of her healing journey is also thanks to her volunteer work. She won a Global Citizen award for her work and was given a trip to Kenya to help build schools. That’s where she met James Tajeu, a Maasai tribal warrior. Without his support, she said, she would not have been able to complete her book.

“I just encouraged her and told her not to give up. She needs to help a lot of people,” Tajeu told CTV News.

Years after her death, Isaac said she has learned to forgive her mother and hopes her writing can help others who are going through a similar healing journey.

“If I could do it all over again and she didn’t go to boarding school, she would be a great mom,” she said.

If you are a residential school alum in distress, or affected by the residential school system and need help, you may contact the 24-hour Boarding School Crisis Line: 1- 866-925-4419

Mental health support and additional Indigenous resources are available here.

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