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Growing up at school

July 28, 2012

I don’t remember my first day at school, but it must have been an abrupt change for me.  I do know that I came back home in the afternoon, after school was out.  I even came home for lunch every day when I was at school.  Ted Fontaine’s first day at school was completely different.  For Ted, known as Theodore then, it was a traumatic event.  His parents left him at the school.  They abandoned him.  They had to do that.

I recently read Ted’s book “Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir”.  All of the sudden, his parents didn’t want him anymore.  Strangers in black robes took their place.  He spent the next twelve years living at the residential school, even though his home was within walking distance.

We’ve all heard about the abuses at indian residential schools.  Indeed, there were abuses, including sexual abuses, at this school.  These shaped the little boy’s life, but the worst thing was the sytem itself.  It destroyed his native culture, religion, and language, replacing them with european culture and religion, and the english language.  He learned his place in the world:  always second place.  He learned how to play his part in the system: evading responsibility.  It took him years to recover from that damage to his personality.

Ted’s story has a happy ending, although it took work and pain, and a great deal of living, for him to reach that point.  By all measures, he was ultimately a successful and respected man.

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