How the trauma of previous generations of boarding schools continues to tear apart indigenous families

Warning: This story contains some details that may be painful for readers.

Catherine Crow Eagle was a little girl in the mid-1930s when she was forced to enter Sacred Heart Boarding School of AlbertaThe physical and mental trauma she experienced has never disappeared. Many years later, as a mother of 10 children, Crow Eagle saw that all her children were forcibly taken away by childcare institutions and fostered.

There was only one Adam North Peigan, her youngest. He didn’t see his family again until he grew up. This loneliness creates a new cycle of despair, including attempted suicide, drug and alcohol abuse.

Those days are now behind North Bacon. Looking back on his family history, he saw the continuing impact of so-called intergenerational trauma. The last boarding school in Canada closed in 1997, but the abuse suffered by students in it has had a lasting impact on the physical and mental health of generations.

For North Peigan, an aboriginal in BC recently revealed that preliminary findings from ground penetrating radar indicate that approximately 215 children at the scene The experience of a former boarding school made emotions surge.

57-year-old North Peigan, a member of Piikani Nation in southern Alberta, said: “Personally, I have been very struggling, and in the past few days, I have been having a very difficult time. Try to accept this.”.

Watch | How trauma is passed on from generation to generation:

The trauma experienced by boarding school survivors not only affected the physical and mental health of a generation, but also passed on to their children and grandchildren. 2:31

North Peigan, who now lives in Edmonton, was one of thousands of Aboriginal children taken away from their parents in the 1960s and 70s. Exclusive news from the sixties.

His siblings were transferred to foster homes and institutions and lost contact with their family and inheritance. Then the cycle continues.

North Peigan said: “My anger and resentment towards my parents is really very destructive. It put me on a heavy, heavy, heavy drinking road, and I ended up on the streets of Vancouver.”

Adam North Peigan in the picture experienced the effects of intergenerational trauma during his growth. (Alberta exclusive news from the 1960s)

Intergenerational trauma was first discovered in the children of Holocaust survivors. Researchers also noticed its impact after the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia and the Rwandan genocide.

Amy Bombay is an Ojibway researcher and an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She studied The trauma of boarding school has spread Passed on from generation to generation. One of her studies found that children whose parents go to boarding schools are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts during adolescence.

“We know that stress and trauma are bad at any time in your life, but when it occurs in the early stages of all your systems are still developing, it will especially have long-term effects,” she said.

The biological effects of trauma

A person’s body manages stress by releasing cortisol, which in turn causes the release of blood sugar. Mumbai said that childhood abuse may disrupt this lifelong stress response, leading to persistently high cortisol levels.

It may cause high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain and heart disease. Chronic stress It also increases the risk of depression and mental illness, and it also reduces a person’s adaptability and immune function.

Mumbai said that without traditional family support, such as love and stability, trauma will continue.

“This does not give these families any time to take advantage of protective factors that could protect them,” she said.

Amy Bombay, an Ojibway researcher and assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, studied the impact of intergenerational trauma among indigenous people. (Courtesy of Amy Mumbai)

According to Dr. Shannon McDonald, the Acting Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Indigenous Health of British Columbia, this kind of trauma can take many forms in a person’s life.

She said in Tsawout First Nation near Victoria: “Your parenting ability and your ability to cope with employment, relationships and all of these things will be affected.”

Dr. Shannon MacDonald, Acting Chief Medical Officer of the Aboriginal Health Bureau of British Columbia, said trauma can affect a person’s life in many ways, such as raising children and coping with work. (BC Aboriginal Health Bureau)

MacDonald said a terrible discovery, such as the one announced in Kamloops last week, rekindled the trauma.

“It’s like tearing a band-aid from an old wound. It just becomes a new experience again.”

“It takes 5 to 6 generations for primitive wounds to heal”

For Suzanne Stewart, professor of public health at the University of Toronto, this topic is both personal and professional. Stewart is a member of the Yellowknife Aboriginal People and is the director of the Wacker Biness-Blythe Aboriginal Health Institute at the university. Like Bei Bacon, her parents also suffered from the trauma of the boarding school. She was taken away and raised by others in and outside the foster home-this had a huge impact on her becoming a mother herself.

She said: “My children have to face this sometimes crazy and sometimes unstable mother, because I don’t have parents, because they go to boarding school.”

To this day, according to Stewart, the smell of bleach will leave many survivors with bad memories, and they are forced to use it to clean the school. She herself does not like to attend the parent meeting of her four children in a non-indigenous school because it can also cause negative emotions. She said that this cycle will take a long time to break.

“If it is not mediated by the current ongoing trauma, it would take about five or six generations to heal the original trauma of a family or group of people.”

Healing journey

For North Peigan, when he reconnected with his mother as an adult, his journey of recovery began. She began to share stories about the abuse she suffered in boarding school. In the last few years of her life, he began to understand its profound impact on her and him.

Adam North Peigan’s mother Catherine Crow Eagle (right) poses with her sister Louise English. North Peigan believes that this photo was taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s. (Courtesy of Adam North Peigan)

“Once she can share with me her experience and the trauma of returning home after graduating from boarding school, I will be able to truly overcome my anger and resentment towards her,” he said.

Bei Bacon hopes that his and other people’s stories will help future generations. Today, he is the national chairman of the Hope Heritage Foundation, an organization that aims to increase awareness and understanding of the boarding school system.

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said last week that preliminary results of a ground penetrating radar survey on the site of the former Kamloops Indian boarding school indicated that there were about 215 children’s remains at the scene. (Andrew Snucins/Canada Press)

The truth about the Kamloops incident awakened the emotions of Canadians across the country. Bei Peigan hopes that the dialogue and actions that are taking place will not end.

“We are good people,” he said.

“We are not people who experience social problems and addiction problems. There is a reason for this.”

North Peigan re-established contact with his mother as an adult and learned about the abuse she suffered at the boarding school. (Alberta exclusive news from the 1960s)

Anyone affected by the boarding school experience and those affected by the latest report can receive support.

A nationwide Indian boarding school crisis hotline has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can call the 24-hour national crisis hotline: 1-866-925-4419 for emotional and crisis referral services.

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