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We Must End The Cycle Of Trauma In Indigenous Communities

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ATTAWAPISKAT
Chris Wattie / Reuters
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Sometimes we have to go backwards before we can go forwards. As we absorb the devastation of suicide in Attawapiskat, this is definitely one of those times. In fact, in so many ways it is critical to work backwards to find understanding on how we arrive at the places we do.

For over 150 years, with the oft stated goal of "taking the Indian out of the child" and making them like their jailors, indigenous children from Canada and the United States were incarcerated in Indian Residential Schools. And to this I can only shake my head and say congratulations, this was a job well done! How far away can anyone get from the "love and care of a mother" than the brutality those children experienced?

Canada is not exempt from turning a blind eye to the social, physical and sexual abuse children from all backgrounds continue to suffer.

Every single child sent to those schools spent as many as 12 years being demeaned, beaten, raped and experiencing multiples forms of violence most of us have never even thought of. Then, and this is the significant point of the entire discussion, they were released and expected to go out into the world, form healthy relationships, raise healthy children and lead productive lives. Or were they?

Children globally have remained the most vulnerable population and even though we have learned trauma will continue to happen, and happen again in various forms when it is not acknowledged or treated, we keep exposing kids to physical, mental, emotional and sexual violence. Canada is not exempt from turning a blind eye to the social, physical and sexual abuse children from all backgrounds continue to suffer.

In the indigenous community of Northwest Ontario the continuing legacy of abuse by the now infamous Ralph Rowe, continues to drive the very young and the deeply damaged towards the only kind of ending they can effectively conjure up and reach; self imposed death.

Here in this darkness we find the reality of an unrelenting legacy of colonization, marginalization, unresolved grief and trauma.

The neurological implications of any kind of violence, physical, sexual, psychological, on the human brain has been researched and repeatedly confirmed by science. The reverberations we are witnessing in places like Attawapiskat, Pikangikum and so many other communities are direct reflections of trauma unresolved, untreated, and unacknowledged.

Indigenous Elders have shared how we can look at and see the reason we call this continent "Turtle Island" and when asked what lays beneath the turtle, they will tell you "there are turtles all the way down." A powerful spiritual lesson and an apt image for the layer upon layer of impact upon these besieged communities. There is the obvious, but there is also the hidden and omnipresent reality of a multiplicity of violence we are not, perhaps willfully, comprehending.

Here in this darkness we find the reality of an unrelenting legacy of colonization, marginalization, unresolved grief and trauma. Yes, there are turtles all the way down here too. We are witness to the effects over and over again, so why have we not learned, why can we not speak?

When you look you see the immediate needs of proper housing, power and water security, food security, and the visible reasons for a deadly giving up. We have to acknowledge there are other things swimming in this sea of despair. It is incumbent that we as an entire society understand the depths of some deeper realities, visible and invisible, and initiate the kind of dialogue that will keep all children safe.

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