POLITICS

Symbolic boat to aid healing of Residential School memories

08/09/2012 12:16 EDT | Updated 10/08/2012 05:12 EDT
Former students of Indian Residential Schools recall being taken by boat away from their homes in Saskatchewan's north.

The Lac La Ronge Indian Band built a replica of the type of boat that was used for the trips that transported youngsters to schools.

"Sometimes it wasn't too good," local elder Elizabeth Charles said of the experience. "We were already lonesome by the time we got to the first portage there in Stanley Mission."

"We didn't like it," Helen Visintin, another elder, recalled. "Most of us used to cry."

The replica boat was on the water Wednesday as part of Truth and Reconciliation events to aid in the healing of the negative elements of the Residential Schools era.

Tom Roberts, a retired broadcaster and now a Residential School support worker, said while the policy was aimed at providing youngsters with a mainstream education, many children had trouble leaving home for months at a time at a very young age.

"A lot of us did get an education, that's the good part," Roberts said. "It's the way it was done back then. Kids were taken away from their families at the age of 5, 6 and 7."

Plans were set for the symbolic boat to be burned in a special ceremony on Thursday.

According to officials with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, about 150,000 children attended Indian Residential Schools over the years.

The commission, which is part of an overall agreement reached to settle claims relating to the policy, has been holding hearings and other events.

Thousands of survivors of Indian Residential schools have been sharing their experiences of loss of culture and mental, physical and sexual abuse at the institutions.