In 1937, Agnes N’Yallie was born to Harriet and Joseph N’Yallie. Like so many other children from our reserve, she was loaded onto the bus and taken to LeJac Indian Residential School. From there, once she reached a certain age, she was once again loaded onto the bus and taken to the Kamloops Indian Residential School where anthropologist, Dr. Sarah Beaulieu, of Simon Fraser University located 215 small graves in May 2021. With the children gone, the reserve went quiet, and her parents, like many others, used alcohol to drown out the loss of their children. There was nothing they could do to help themselves or their children.
At Indian school, she suffered all kinds of abuse and would eventually develop epilepsy from a brain injury she sustained while in the care of those who identified as Christian. Her younger sister, my Aunt Virgie, was beaten on the side of her head with a tin cup because she spilled her water. Aunty lived out her life deaf in her left ear. Two of their sisters never made it home. One died from meningitis and the other drowned when she fell through the ice at a nearby lake.
My mother eventually married my dad, who was of Irish-Scottish descent, causing her to lose her treaty rights. Together they had six children and over time, their marriage broke down. When this happened, she was unable to return home. She had given up that right when she married a white man, and it was not returned to her even in divorce. In those days, Indigenous people were not covered under human rights laws in Canada, so she had no hope of taking her children with her, even though she wanted to. She made her way to Vancouver, one of the only places that a non-Indian, non-white, non-person could hope to find a place to live and work, Hastings Street. Some time later, the building she was living in burned to the ground with her in it. I was just four years old when I lost her forever.
She disciplined and parented her children the same way she had been parented in the residential schools. All six of her children suffered intergenerational trauma from either the discipline she doled out or from the abusive treatment we received once we were apprehended by government officials for little more than being Native. This is now referred to as the sixties scoop. We survived in different ways and some of us survived more than others.
Some of us denied our heritage and chose spouses from the dominant Canadian society. Others survived by burying our heads in books. Others survived by believing the lies our foster parents told us about one another and about Indians in general; ultimately, we adopted their views. Some of us threw our siblings under the bus to elude victimization by our foster parents. Some of us ran away and turned to lives of crime and addiction. Some of us turned to Jesus, but sometimes, Jesus only heals so much this side of heaven. Some of us were never fully able to pull ourselves out of the bottom of that bottle.
For me, my life is much like a puzzle piece when the entire puzzle is put together there is just one piece left that comes from a different puzzle. It just does not fit in this world. In many ways, I have been assimilated. I do not know my own language or many other aspects of my mother’s culture. I am both Indigenous and Christian, both European and Tse’khene Indian. I fit neither here nor there. And this, no matter how many times I turn the other cheek, still hurts. Our only hope is the hope we have in Jesus. One day, he will heal every wound and dry every tear. The lion will lay down with the lamb, and the colonizer will lay down with the colonized.
The lion will lay down with the lamb, and the colonizer will lay down with the colonized
North American society has largely benefited from breaking down the Indigenous people of Turtle Island. Our people still suffer from the actions of the dominant society. As Christians, we need to do better, but that will require a recognition that Indigenous people of Turtle Island have our own culture and we do not need to be like the dominant Canadian society’s culture. We might be broken, but Jesus uses broken vessels too. We can no longer benefit from trampling the Other. We can no longer harm children because they come from a different society. We can no longer refuse to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We can no longer refuse to turn the other cheek. We should love others just as Jesus first loved us, forgive others just as Jesus forgave us.
As Christians, there is no room for hate, no room for division, and no room for attitudes of superiority. Jesus said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:43-48).
Then let the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of this land pray for one another with haste.
Written by: Agnes Mastin
Originally Posted at: https://dojustice.crcna.org/article/pray-one-another-haste