Scholars, lawyers, and governments will no doubt weigh in on whether or not the residential schools experience in Canada officially constitutes a cultural form of genocide. In the meantime, it is important to create a cultural and intellectual climate in this country that is flexible and sensitive enough to recognize the depth of suffering experienced by traumatized people and their children without ranking it on a destructive hierarchical scale.
As Cree youngsters in the north, we are taught the tradition of how to walk on the land and in the bush -- with each foot fall carefully and quietly placed so as not to disturb the food sources that have always meant the difference between thriving and starvation. When young people began returning from residential schools, it is fascinating that what struck those who lived off the land the most is that these "students" had to be taught how to walk all over again. Not with the harsh heel strike they had learned in the towns and cities but with the gentle foot fall of their early childhoods.
After six years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada held closing events from May 31 to June 3rd, and issued its executive summary of a report which will run to six volumes, and will be translated into six indigenous languages. The summary itself is 388 pages, and while not exactly light reading, it is incredibly accessible and well-written. Unfortunately, despite incredible media attention and a plethora of opinion articles on the issue, it has become abundantly clear that many people talking about the TRC summary have not read it.
Local First Nations leaders are appalled by the news that the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs did not spend $1 billion