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The Papal Visit

Trigger Warning: IRSS, Papal Visit, death

This past Sunday, the Pope arrived in Edmonton, Alberta to start what has been described as a ‘penitential pilgrimage’ across Turtle Island. For some Indigenous People, his visit represents an act of repentance that will hopefully support healing for those impacted by the legacy of Residential Schools. For others, the energy and expense of supporting such a visit incites feelings of sadness, frustration and anger. Anticipating the arrival of the Pope can be deeply upsetting for survivors and their families.

I wanted to check in with my dear friend, Kim Good of Snuneymuxw, to see how she was doing, and to let her know that I was thinking about her. Kim is a survivor herself, and attended both Port Alberni and St. Mary’s Indian Residential Schools. Kim shared that she is doing okay, and wished to share her feelings with you today.

“As the pope arrives on Turtle Island, I am restless, anxious, and thirsty. Restless wondering why such a human being would set foot here. This person represents an organization that wiped out and desecrated many children who were my people.

I am anxious because I nearly was one of those children. Port Alberni Indian Residential School is currently being searched via sonar for children who succumbed to the violent behaviors of the church's horrendous acts. I've been holding my breath waiting for the announcement of the findings. I am restless and waiting.

I am thirsty, at times the anxiety is so great that my mouth becomes so dry.

To those pursuing allyship, please know that this is a very difficult time for us. If we bring up sensitive, horrific topics, there must not be speculation or suggestions for resolve. It is best to listen in the quiet, painful places. Simply listen to us. We don't even know if the children buried at these ‘schools’ were buried properly, or if children were in caskets. My point: listen. If you feel you must comment… then validate, don't assume. We are fragile and hurting.”

As this week unfolds, I’m reminded of the teaching to ‘walk softly’. Many Indigenous people are experiencing a heightened level of anxiety, pain and stress, and may be easily triggered. In my practice, this may present as individuals appearing unsettled, restless, or distracted. I might see an increase in cancellations and no-shows. If these kinds of behaviors do transpire, I will demonstrate kindness, support, and understanding. My door is always open and ready whenever people are ready to access my care, or for an ear to listen.

Please consider donating to organizations that support survivors. Here is a link to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society:

For counselling support:

* Indian Residential School Survivors Society: 1-800-721-0066 or 604-985-4464

KUU-US Crisis Line Society:

* Adults and Elders at 250-723-4050; Children and Youth at 250-723-2040; Toll-free at 1-800-588-8717

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