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"Hands up."

With the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation approaching on September 30th, we wanted to prioritize some time to discuss the importance of the day during our September Community Call. So, last Wednesday, we settled in to talk about the importance of wearing orange shirts (do it!), learning the Mentors perspectives on the sale of orange shirts at big box stores (it depends...), and exploring ways in which non-Indigenous individuals can be supportive allies during this time.

Over the course of the conversation, our treasured Mentor Kim Good of Snuneymuxw shared that September is a challenging time of year for her in general, and that witnessing the public's acknowledgement for residential school survivors and their families is a salve for her heart. She shared:

“I am the youngest of ten children, and all ten of us are residential school survivors. For many First Nations, August and September are extremely difficult months because it represents the time that we were taken back to residential school. There are a lot of fights, a lot of acting up, a lot of acting out. These are challenging times for those who haven’t healed, and for those of us who have, it is still a difficult time.” Kim continued, “Kim [Trottier] strives to make this a safe place to share about these things, and it is really amazing to me that I still experience small triggers. We weren’t allowed to say anything or do anything [in residential school] without putting our hands up. So I respectfully refrain from using the hands up function in Zoom, and Kim [Trottier] loves me so I can get away with anything around her.”

Growing up, back-to-school time was always associated with excitement and happiness: new clothes, new school supplies, and the fresh anticipation of a new grade. This time of year has become a sociological and consumeristic event in itself, with stores marketing all the things needed to start the year throughout the months of August and September, and Kim’s words made me realize that I had never stopped to consider how this time of year might impact survivors. I would never have thought for a moment that something as simple as the hands up function on a Zoom call might be a trigger for her. I am so grateful to Kim for her willingness to share these teachings with me, and for aiding me in adapting my behaviors to be more culturally safe, and for giving permission to me to pass this knowledge on to you.

Please note: originally I was going to utilize a painting by Fisher River Cree Nation artist, Kent Monkman, to accompany this text, however I was concerned that the visual nature of the image could be triggering. However, I do feel that the image is unapologetically poignant, and wanted to link it here for those who were prepared to view it. Trigger warning. "The Scream".

In learning,

Kim at Culturally Committed

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