“We decided to find a way to love again,” Susk.Boarding school survivors say long marriages
Warning: This story contains distressing details.
This is a story about one of the oldest Indian boarding schools in Canada, but it is also a love story. This week, 91-year-old survivor Therese Seesequasis agreed to share this story in memory of thousands of children across the country who never had a chance to find this love because of school deaths or disappearances.
Therese Seesequasis remembers everything she danced with her future husband Kenneth for the first time in August 1941.
“It was a waltz. I was only 12 years old at the time. I was very nervous,” she said.
Therese, Kenneth and other St. Michael’s Indian boarding school students returned to their hometowns of Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation in central Saskatchewan for the summer.
When the music ended in the community hall and their family took them home, Therese and Kenneth rarely met in the next few years. He works every summer. In schools, separation of men and women is strictly enforced.
Abuse recorded in school
The extreme deprivation and abuse suffered at St. Michael’s have been documented and described: Former NHL player Fred Sasakamoose And many others. In 1910, an Indian agent reported that 50% of all enrolled students died of tuberculosis, a disease exacerbated by unsanitary and crowded conditions in schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission compiled a list of 3,200 children known to have died in Canadian boarding schools. More than 100 of them attended St. Michael in Duck Lake, about 90 kilometers north of Saskatoon.
The committee’s report stated that these names are only “partial records” and the actual number may be much higher.
In 1996, more than a century later, St. Michael’s became one of the last boarding schools closed in Canada.The school building is gone, but dozens of soft toys and children’s shoes are left on the grass The remains of an estimated 215 children were found Take the Kamloops Indian Boarding School in British Columbia as an excuse.
Therese said this painful history must be revealed and remembered, but people also need to hear voices about resilience and love.
“I don’t like talking about this now. It’s too emotional. I promise myself that I won’t talk about Saint Michael this time. I’m cured,” she said in an interview with CBC News, wiping her tears off her cheeks .
Four years after the first waltz, on August 7, 1945, Therese and Kenneth met at the Prince Albert exhibition in the Sask region.
Teresa wanted to try the roller coaster, but she didn’t dare to go alone. She noticed a group of children from Beardy’s nearby and asked if anyone would like to sit with her. Kenneth agreed.
The journey was much faster than Therese expected. The long ruffled skirt was on her face.
“I held the bar in one hand and tried to push my skirt down [with the other hand]. It will not fall. I was thinking,’Gosh,'” she said.
They got out of the car. Neither of them mentioned the skirt, and each went back to their circle of friends.
A week later, Therese and Kenneth met at the wedding. They danced again and agreed to be boyfriends and girlfriends.
“I told him I have always been obsessed with him. He said,’Me too. You are a doll.'”
Therese has one year of school, and Kenneth has graduated and works at Beardy’s. He said he would wait for her.
Over the next eight months, when Kenneth and his family came to the school to visit their siblings, they occasionally caught sight of each other. They are not allowed to talk to each other.
Learn to love again
Therese finishes his studies and returns to Beardy’s. The eight years in Saint Michael had an impact on her and other students. Although this school is only 10 kilometers away from Beardy’s school, her Kerry culture seems very remote and almost unfamiliar. She believes that her parents don’t love her.
“I know that’s not true, but that’s what we thought. Kenneth did the same. In school, we lost love.”
Kenneth has been waiting for her. The following year, they met each other before they got married on February 10, 1948.
“We decided to find a way to love again. We promised each other that we would take it back,” Therese said. “We are poor, but we say our love is enough.”
They got closer and closer, began to trust each other and formed a family. A few years later, there were only good jobs in the community in the school, and they went back again. She is a cook and he is a maintenance worker.
Many years later, their four sons and four daughters formed their own family. Therese and Kenneth stay at Beardy’s after retirement to help take care of their grandchildren.
At their 25th wedding anniversary dinner, Kenneth had to confess in front of family and friends. He told the story of the roller coaster and admitted that he took a sneak peek when she tried to fix the skirt.
The couple became caregivers in the community and raised 29 children from other families over the years.
A few years ago, Kenneth was diagnosed with cancer. In October 2017, only a few months before their 70th wedding anniversary, Therese visited him for the last time in a nursing home. He asked her to make another promise: If a child needs you, you will never refuse. Teresa agreed.
“It is difficult to lose a partner. But we have a wonderful marriage,” she said.
“We strive to be honest and solve problems, not quarrel. We always say that we must love each other because we have lost too much love in school.”
Today, the couple has 24 grandchildren, 69 great-grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren in addition to 8 children and 29 children from other families.
Relive the painful past
Last week, one of the grandsons came to Therese’s home. He drove her to the old St. Michael’s ruins and told her about the discovery in Kamloops.
“I can’t speak. I think someone puts a hand on my throat,” she said.
A few days later, Therese and dozens of other boarding school survivors participated in an exciting ceremony on campus. “How could this be? How could they be?” she said.
As Therese and other survivors across Canada coped with grief, she said it was important to share her story.
In the community centers of Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation, a bag of tobacco and baked goods is placed on the table to show respect and interview etiquette. Therese’s daughter Emelda Seesequasis has always been with her.
Therese and Emelda said that they are just doing their best to plan a healthy path for the family.
Emelda said she knew her parents had always loved her, but she never heard them say it. Emelda also attended St. Michael’s College and couldn’t say these words for many years.
“My kids would say that to me, and I can only say,’Me too.'”