No guilt. No blame. Just residential school survivors telling their stories. Just listening and giving them space. That was what took place at the recent Truth and Reconciliation forums held in Vancouver and Victoria.
On Wednesday, February 12, Sooke will be having its own Truth and Reconciliation evening assembled by Awareness Film Night and Edith Newman. After a traditional welcome by T’sou-ke Chief Gordie Planes and Elder Shirley Alphonse there will be a short film called Kuper Island: Return to the Healing Circle. Following the film two residential school survivors will talk about their experiences there. The film’s producer Peter Campbell and artist Carey Newman will also be in attendance.
Kuper Island Residential School was called ‘Alcatraz’ because it was on an island off the coast of Vancouver Island. For almost a century hundreds of Coast Salish children were sent there where they were forbidden from speaking their native language or seeing their parents and were forced to deny their cultural heritage and instead adopt the Anglo-Christian language, attitudes and beliefs. They often endured physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Some died trying to escape on logs across the water. More died later, trying to escape their memories. In the film Kuper Island: Return to the Healing Circle, filmmaker Christine Welsh and producer Peter C. Campbell join survivors of the school 20 years after its closure as they begin to break the silence and embark on an extraordinary healing journey.
Following the film two former residential school residents, Alex Nelson and Belvie Brebber will speak about their experiences being removed from their homes as small children and thrust into the residential school environment.
Alex went to St. Michael’s school in Alert Bay, run by the Anglican Church and Belvie went to the Kuper Island school discussed in the film. Alex will accompany his talk with a slide show.
Elder Shirley Alphonse will bring healing words to the occasion and offer smudging to anyone attending. (She will explain what smudging is for anyone who doesn’t know.)
Carey Newman will present his healing art project Witness Blanket (www.witnessblanket.ca).
It is well past time to bring the residential school chapter of B.C. (and Canadian) history out of the shadows and into the light. Everyone is invited to join this Healing Circle as a speaker or as a listener. It will be held at the EMCS theatre from 7-9:30.
Donations will be accepted to cover costs.
Keep updated at www.awarenessfilmnight.ca