Prince Rupert, BC
I wrote this because I feel that residential school is still around in its own toxic way. I wanted to show that I see the impacts of the abuse on our ancestors endured in today’s generation and the generation before me through my own experiences, in hopes that others would see it too if they don't already. This was a hard piece to write because of how personal it is, but I feel like it would dishonor my family and people not to tell the story honestly in all its vulnerability because they were not the only ones to go through it. This is a common story and the phrase that is repeated in my story is a phase many native kids grew up hearing. I believe that once an issue has been acknowledged the process of fixing it can begin.
My Ngi'its (grandma) was a survivor of residential school. I
didn't know her because she died of cancer before I
was born but I hear her sometimes in my mom, or I
like to think I do. My niyaayu (grandpa) has always told me my
mom was just like her mother, the way she looks and speaks.
he would say,
(which means "beautiful")
" strong but angry from her past that haunts her"
I fell once,
when I was five I fell off of my Barbie bike and I
scratched my knee and my mom said to me ( not for
the first time)
" quit your crying, or I'll give you something to
cry about. "
So I did, every time.
And it might seem like a small -maybe even common thing-
but to a young me dredging up that amount of
self-control to appease my mother and stifle the pain,
whatever it was, was always a traumatic event.
I'm 20 now and my best friend points out that she's
never before seen me cry.
" I just don't like crying in front of people."
"Why is that?" she asked.
I shrugged, uncomfortable.
“It’s ok to cry you know, it's a release of something so
that there's room for healing " she smiled.
" Ok, wise guy " I laughed,
and that was that.
But with age comes new perspectives, along with a
drive for understanding, and ignorance will not escape
it's fatal fate of discussion.
So I asked my mom about it, having noticed that I've
never seen her cry before either. I asked her why we
are like that and she tells me " there could be lots of
reasons, but your grandmother used to say to me;
‘quit your crying or I'll give you something to cry about.’
and I think hearing her say it to me every time I was hurt
or upset really ruined my ability to express my pain
in front of others...she wasn't an empathetic woman,
your grandmother, and she didn’t make idle threats.
It wasn't her fault though; they used to hurt her in
residential school. Really bad, and every time she cried
that's what they would say to her,
‘Quit your crying or I'll give you something to cry about.’
they would beat her regardless of if she cried or not. I
guess it's just something that got passed down, I didn't
I'm sorry for saying it to you"
I felt the age old anger my niyaayu referred too, I heard
the ghosts of the men and woman who beat the joy,
culture, and power out of the children two generations
Quit your crying.
After that day and conversation, ( more or less the
same conversation held by my mother with her
mother) I will always wonder what else in my life is
a result of my grandmothers abusers and the abuse
she suffered that lead to things like alcoholism, drug
addiction and poverty. All of these things my mom
has witnessed and now I too have struggled with. Will
my children be consequenced and affected by the
white men who raped, pillaged and murdered their
ancestors. Will they hear their voices too?
“I'll give you something to cry about.
I'll give you something to cry about.
I'll give you something to cry about.”
No, it ends with me.