Before we wrote the Finals, as a class we brainstormed what we thought the story of Socials 10 was. To different people in the class, what we got out of this course varied. Even though we learned the same things, what we did out of the classroom in our own time may have also affected the ideas which we valued the most from this semester. When the class was asked to complete the following sentence, “The Story of Social Studies 10 is about___,” there were plenty of different answers such as self-reflection, independence/dependence, equality, sacrifice, and creating Canadian identity. Personally, I felt the word I chose was progression, meaning how we learn from the past and create the future.
For my Socials Final, I decided to present a Historical Life. Obviously, it would be extremely difficult to include every topic we learned throughout the course in a 5 minute short story, so instead, I decided to base my story on the PLO B2 (the interaction with Aboriginals) since I felt I learned the most about this particular learning outcome. I wrote the story from two different perspectives: one of the nuns running the residential school, and one of the Aboriginal children. I thought it would be interesting to explore two very different points of view, one being the common and modern perspective of the Aboriginal child, and one being the older and rarely visited perspectives of the nun. I wanted the nun to represent the old way Canadians used to see things, and the child to represent the current way Canadians see this same issue. At the end of the story, the child character reflects on the treatment Aboriginals have received, and questions the possibility of progression in the future of Canada.
Without further ado, here is my Socials Final.
I remember the six year old little girl in the brown dress. I remember how her body trembled as we grabbed her by the hand and sat her down on the old wooden chair at the back of the class. The glint of the scissors in our hands reflected in our eyes, and she burst into tears as we clenched a handful of her coarse, black hair and removed it in a snip. She was squirming, trying to escape our grasp, but we just held her tighter. Snip, snip, five inches gone. Snip, snip, another five. Snip snip, there goes the rest of it. The hair drifted towards the ground, where a pool of tears awaited. Her shrieks echoed in our ears, but we blocked them out, ignoring them until they were simply a whistle in the breeze. This had become easier over time; the more we trained ourselves, the easier it was to push away any lingering emotions. After all, we were doing God’s dirty work. It was not our duty to judge whether the punishment was too harsh. God had selected us to civilize these Indians and teach them how to become Canadian.
I remember the first night the children came. The Prime Minister wanted to help those poor souls. Their bodies were stained with the pigment on their skin, and their minds were stained with the unsophisticated ways they thought of as their culture. We were told to scrub away the Indian from their bodies and tame the Indian in their minds, so we did as we were told. For the sake of abusing them? No. To assimilate their uncivilized culture? Yes. We needed to teach these children how to become one of us, one of God’s children. Repetition is one of the best ways to drill a principle into the mind. After a few years of this, they should be able to understand and appreciate who they should be, what they should do, and who they should serve. It just takes time and discipline. Someday, they will understand. After all, we were sent to teach them, no matter how many lives it would take.
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I remember the nuns in the flowing black dresses. I remember how their brittle hands grabbed mine as they dragged me down towards the closet to attend to my own wounds that had been ripped open in various places by the belt. The whistle of the leather echoes in my mind, followed with a snap as it connected with my shoulder, a cry ripping from my throat. Their arms moved fast, trained to jump out and strangle my body as I tried to run, similar to how so many children had done before me. Of course, I was not fast enough, and so they locked me up. Whether it was because I had struggled or if they simply enjoyed watching my misery, I am unsure. Either way, the confinement definitely worked to shut me up.
Do you hear the trees scream as people saw them down, shred them up, and press them into pieces of paper, identical to the rest of the stack of perfect white sheets? Do you hear them? I believe you do not, the same way you do not hear my people scream as you scrub us down, beat us up, and try to press us into replicas of your idea of the “perfect” people: white people. Trying to crush our traditions until we are nothing other than another one of your other perfect, white sheets of paper. Thinking, speaking, acting, you believe that your race rules the world. Even if the physical wounds heal, the sound of the whip will leave a deeper scar in my mind.
Sometimes I wonder what life will be like when my body becomes far too frail to be of any use for the future generations. Or at least if I survive that long. But hey, I’m not dead yet so there’s still time to dream. Will my chair creak as I slowly rock back and forth, humming to a tuneless melody from my memories? I wonder if my bones will creak, the same way the rocking chair would as it groans from being worn down by the test of time. Will my voice ever be heard? Will my grandchildren ever smile? Will our nation sprout like a flower from the ashes of our past and prosper as a place filled with love, acceptance and kindness? I wonder what this place we call our home can be. In a country with so much diversity, will they continue forcing their ideas of the “perfect” culture on others? Or will Canada learn to accept and appreciate differences and progress from then onwards?
As more belts beat my spirits down and more water burns lessons into my brain, I cannot help but wonder. Will our nation move forward and learn how to accept and grow? Like a flower in the ashes, ever growing, ever thriving, ever progressing? Or is our nation like a rocking chair— using time and energy, but never getting anywhere?