Videos tell women’s stories of intergenerational impacts of Indian Residential Schools

It has been a long time since I’ve contributed to MEDIA INDIGENA, but I don’t feel bad because I’ve been busy with another Indigenous, insightful and innovative project: kiskino mâto tapanâsk: Intergenerational Effects on Professional First Nations Women Whose Mothers are Residential School Survivors.

This Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence initiative set out to understand how the residential school legacy has been passed down through generations of First Nations women. Through a process of personal and collective exploration, each participant artfully created a 2-to-5 minute digital story.

The videos offer profound insights into mother/daughter relationships and the complex intergenerational effects of these schools. They also birth hope, showcase resilience, and speak to the emotional and healing journeys of First Nations women.

Pictured above are the filmmakers, including (from left-to-right) Lisa Murdock, Roberta Stout (myself), Lorena Fontaine, Wendy McNab, Claudette Michell and Lisa Forbes (along with researcher Sheryl Peters). Our mothers were interned at Birtle, Blue Quills, Elk Horn, Lebret, Prince Albert, St. Alban’s, St. Henry’s Mission, Sturgeon Landing, Guy Hill and St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic residential schools.

All of the videos are available for viewing on the Centre’s website.

5 thoughts on “Videos tell women’s stories of intergenerational impacts of Indian Residential Schools

  1. I’ve just finished work to introduce regional hospital and social workers with the concepts of cultural safety. The training was conceived originally as a workshop in cultural awareness but after reading a Maori nurse’s doctoral thesis – the one who came up with the concept of cultural safety – I was convinced that more needed to be done. As Dr. Ramsden noted in her thesis (she died shortly after earning her nursing doctorate):

    “The omission of the colonial history of New Zealand in the basic state education system had led to a serious deficit in the knowledge of citizens as to the cause and effect outcomes of colonialism. Without a sound knowledge base it seemed to me that those citizens who became nurses and midwives had little information of substance on which to build their practice among this seriously at-risk group.”

    Colonialism in all its forms – neo-colonialism, on-going colonialism, past policies to stamp out those very things that make Indigenous peoples different and unique and wonderful – including those residential schools about which your write – is the number one determining factor or “social determinant of health” in our communities. The omission that Ramsden writes about was universal and took place wherever European colonialism took place in the world, including Canada.

    So many of the workshop participants that I observed – bright, highly educated and experienced professionals – said they had never heard about Indian Residential Schools, understood the destructive power of Canada’s policies of assimilation, or had thought about the devastating effects wrought by generation after generation of these policies.

    I hope your videos get wide distribution and support. I hope you send some to local school boards, colleges and universities. I hope the education system in Canada wakes up and decides to serve Canadians properly for a change by confronting this country’s ghosts and ending these romantic, feel-good versions of history that result in mass amnesia and a false sense of nation.

    Sorry for the long comment but I’m in post-contract depression and your post struck me as encouraging.

  2. What in the hell is a Professional First Nations Woman as opposed to a First Nations Woman? Are/were they somehow more special? Shame on you women if you think that education has somehow made you more vulnerable and that you have suffered more that any of the rest of us.

  3. Daniel,

    thank you so very much for my first introduction to Dr Irihapeti Ramsden and for your post. Highly enlightening.

  4. I believe that when the term ‘professional’ is used, it is first of all, meant to refer to years of dedicated training/study in a particular field of study or area of specialization.  The benefit (hopefully) of this dedication, is that the person has gained in-depth-knowledge  within their chosen field which they can and will (hopefully) use to contribute to the betterment of society.  Secondly, I think the term is most often used to refer to individuals who have spent those years of dedicated, in-depth-study, at learning institutions with reputable track-records.  (You wouldn’t want your family doctor for instance to be some quack who bought a fake degree on-line and scammed their way into the health service field, or if you ever needed a lawyers services, you would want them to have a very thorough understanding of the law as  related to their specific field;  again, you wouldn’t want someone to represent you who hadn’t spent years studying law).  Essentially, a professional is someone who has the years of study and training under their belt to be Qualified at what they do.  I believe that there are people who do not have University educations who are equally entitled to be called professionals.  For instance, in our own Indigenous Oral Practices, we have highly trained individuals who have dedicated themselves to years of studying, specializing in various fields.  Again, if you ever needed the services of a particular type of healer or ceremonialist, you would want that person to have been properly and highly trained by ethical, knowledgeable elders – to know what they are doing;  You wouldn’t want to risk anyone’s life going to see someone who really didn’t know what they were doing or who was going to take advantage of you in any way, shape or form – basically, you would want to see a professional. 
    I too took a second look at the title for this video project and wondered, ‘what do they mean by professional ? And I think that the project directors ought to clearly articulate why they felt that it is important to take a look at the healing journey’s of  professional First Nations women – Are there unique problems that professionals face? Quite possibly but that would need to be explained in a curatorial article.  Then we the public could read it and understand and possibly say,”Ohhh, now I get it.  That’s why they just asked ‘professional’ First Nations women to do this video project”.  And all would be good, or at least we could then debate the premise.  
    By the way, I do not believe that just because people dedicate themselves to years of study in a particular field, they automatically believe that they are better than everyone else.  Yeah, we all know someone who acts/behaves that way, but let it go – that’s their problem. Deeply ethical behaviour including humility is something that we can all use a little more of and are personally responsible for. 

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