Tag Archives: Residential School System

Working It Out Together: Wayne Rabbitskin–The Long Road Home

Prior to colonization, Indigenous men and women treated each other as equals. They had different roles to fulfill but they still regarded each other with equal respect. But at the time of colonization, governmental policies created social dysfunction, essentially crippling the role of the men within traditional communities, even criminalizing their role as warrior within their families.  This has left men without a role to fill and has ultimately disconnected them from the land and their culture.

Throughout this episode we accompany Wayne Rabbitskin, Chisasibi, QC, as he travels his own journey of reconciliation. Wayne suffers from multi-generational trauma as a result of his parents’ experiences at Residential School. Included in footage are his heart felt words of apology for the pain he caused. He admits to alcohol and drug abuse. He also admits to abusing his former wife and destroying his marriage. This form of dysfunctional behaviour is commonly  referred to as lateral violence. Lateral violence refers to acts of destructive aggression against one’s peers rather than bullying to establish a sense of superiority. It is a means to share pain in order to alleviate pain rather than exerting force to create a social hierarchy.

Wayne is now working to end lateral violence in communities. Following his stay in a treatment centre, where he re-learned his role as a man and came to understand that women are sacred, Wayne committed himself to a 1000 mile walk, visiting other communities like his own to share his testimony. His own admissions are acting to expose lateral violence and inter-generational trauma, and allowing others to heal, while hecontinues to make amends for his own actions.

Traditional Story-teller Isaac Murdoch explains that prior to colonization, ” Women were literally a walking ceremony. They were the water carriers.  And because water is our first teacher, our first medicine, it’s the very thing that gives us life there was a high respect of women because of their strong connection of the land.” Because of this there was a balance in order to preserve life for the generations to come. However, with the arrival of the settlers came the arrival of both sickness and alcohol. Since the men were the ones who traded goods, it was the men who fell prey to the effects of alcohol, destroying the accord between men and women. Isaac believes that men must look back to the days before the settlers arrived and reconnect to the traditional ways in order to heal.

Shawn Iserhoff, Mistissini Youth Chief, also shares his experiences on the land and describes how this connection brings humility and harmony to his life, contrary to his experiences in the city.

Having participated in healing circles myself, witnessing the bravery of Mr. Rabbitskin admissions in order to make amends was particularly moving.


Recap: Working It Out Together – Babbeyjane Happyjack

A group of children playing hockey is featured in the cold open of this week’s episode with voice-over provided by Dr. Cindy Blackstock. “In Indigenous communities around the world, children were by far the most important people in the community, and what was done in the colonial process was the clear separation of children from their families.”

Dr. Blackstock reminds viewers that the residential school system not only harmed children, normalizing them to abuse,  but the parents and families left behind by this process lost their purpose for living. She points out that traditionally, “the raising of children was viewed as a communal responsibility; to ensure that they grow up healthy, happy, proud of who they are, and it was the nurturing of the children and their relationship to the land that really defined the cultural perpetuity of our nations.”

We also learn that the current generation of Indigenous children in Canada have less funding for education, health care, mental health programming, and child welfare. They have less access to clean water, and proper housing, and less funding for support services and addiction services than all other Canadians do.

This episode follows the story of 26-year-old Babbeyjane Happyjack, an educator from Waswanipi, Quebec, who is successfully raising her son and two foster children from her community. Babbeyjane shares her own story of abandonment by parents who suffered from substance abuse which resulted in her placement into foster care.  Babbeyjane’s story is not the exception but the rule. In many provinces half of all children in foster care are Indigenous, removed from family and culture.

Gina Metallic, Social Worker and Community Organizer, explains that abuse has been transferred from the residential school system to another governmental agency.  The one system created neglectful and abusive parents which has led to the apprehension of children at an alarming rate across Canada. This epidemic has assumed the moniker “Millennial Scoop,” and currently there are three times as many Indigenous children in foster care than there were during the height of the Indian Residential School system.

This incredibly powerful and yet poignant installment demonstrates  that the systemic neglect, rooted for generations in government policy, demands a conscious decision to recover the traditional purpose as caregivers and “hold ourselves to the highest standard we can, to be stronger than we ever thought we could be for our kids”.

Babbeyjane Happyjack – Fostering Positive Change, originally aired on the 20th Anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, a day that celebrates Indigenous cultures and contributions across Canada and is an opportunity for those of non-Indigenous decent to learn more about cultural diversity across Canada

This episode also discusses the Canadian Human Rights  tribunal , a lawsuit filed by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, that ultimately ruled that the Government of Canada is guilty of discriminating against 163,000 Indigenous children.