Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 63 > Page 55 - Selections from Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi'kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia - A New Book by Isabelle Knockwood

Page 55 - Selections from Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi'kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia - A New Book by Isabelle Knockwood

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1993/6/1 (928 reads)

which I don't remember eating and one of the fxirnace boys carried Teresa away. People said, "They're taking her to the hospital." When she returned months later, she showed us her hand which was badly scarred. She explained to us that she was in physiotherapy and eventually we saw her regain the use of her fingers. For a couple of weeks after the accident the mangle was not used, until one day we walked in and Pi'jkwej happily announced, "The mangle is fixed." During the eleven years I was a student at the Residential School, at least four other girls were maimed because they got their hands caught either in the mangle or in the dough mixer in the kitchen. Years later, when researching this book, I came across the official ex? planation of one of these accidents which Father Mackey had 'par- ently not bothered to report. When the Department of Indian Affairs queried a hospital bill resulting from Christina Nicholas having caught her hand in the mangle, Father Mackey responded that she got caught in the machine because she was trying to warm her hands on the mangle. No one questioned how her hands could be cold working on a steaming machine in a hot laundry. No mention was made of the fact that the emergency switch was too high for the children to reach, or even of the fact that some girls were so small they could not see over the top of the machine, or the fact that the laundry itself was a sweat shop. Most important of all no one questioned leaving twenty girls below the age of sixteen alone to operate heavy machinery. No safety device was ever installed in the eleven years I was there and no safety education was given. IF THE REWARDS WERE MEAGRE and slow in coming, the pun? ishments were plentiful and swift. By the early 1950s the school's reputation had spread throughout the Native conmiunity, so that on many reserves, "Don't do that or you'll be sent to Shubie," was a standard threat to children. The school was so strongly associated with punishment in children's minds that those who were "sent to Shubie" as a result of their family circumstances constantly won? dered what crime they had committed. For many of them the school's reputation as a place of punishment proved all too accurate. Throughout botii Father Mackey's and Father Collins' regimes the biggest crime was mtming away. Runaways were brought back in a cop car by the RCMP. Their heads were shaved and they were kept I DON'T REMEMBER ever receiving any rewards from any nun for anything I have ever done except for the laundry. I helped in the laundry and the nun there was very good to me and every morning she would give me one piece of candy or chocolate. She just did it I think from the goodness of her heart and I always did my work whether I re? ceived a reward or not. I think the Sister | was trying to get a good relationship based on good terms • 'love, respect and I admiration which I gave her. When I went to visit her, she was eighty years old exactly and she was so glad to see me and she just cried and held out her arms and I went into them and we hugged each other and our tears mingled. I went to visit that Sister because of that friendship established many years ago. I saw the favorites and pets get rewards of ribbon, candy, bread and jam, medals and holy cards. And to children who never received presents at Christmas time those things meant a lot One thing I can say about the Sister on the girls' side is that she let me have skates when I was fifteen, one year away from going home for good. During summer vacations, she tried not to be as mean as during the school year. She held back her anger and didn't scold as much. She let us get away with little things like sleeping in. They took us to Grand Lake once. We had to pick blueberries. When we had a bowl full of berries, she rewarded us with candy • 'a B.B. sucker • one candy • a B.B. sucker. I have to think really hard to remember the rewards. Rita Joe, Mi'kmaw poet in the dark broom and soap closet, sometimes for several days and nights. They were strapped and fed only dry bread and water. In one case, the boys were tied to a chair and left there for two days. I WAS THINKING OF NANCY LAMPQUIN who was sent to the infirmary after receiving a severe beating from Wikew (Mi'kmaw name for one of the Sisters). I was about ten years old and I was sit? ting in the refectory opposite Nancy who had her back to the two Sis? ters standing up front. We had spinach that day, which I liked but OWEN fTHE r SAVOY THEATRE CAPE BRETON'S FINEST CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE FITZGERALD K '93 summer highlights 423 Charlotte St, Sydney, N.S. PHOTOGRAPHY, 562-2321 Portraits, Weddings, Industrial, Cape Breton Scenes, Passport Photos in 10 min.. Industrial Video I.G.Tax Services Quality Tax Preparation • Fast and courteous service • Special rates for seniors • Year round tax service 350 Charlotte Street Sydney, Nova Scotia 564-8800 The Cape Breton Summertime Revue June 24,25,26, & August 26,27,28 Lennie Gallant July? Festival on the Bay "Ther Music Man" July 18,19,20,21, 'g? 22,23,24,25 The Alexander Brothers / August 14 OH TH''' ''"'' Williams ' • 'r • "The Show He sSrringF''i'**""'' Never Gave" August 19 & 20 SAVOY THEATRE BOX OFFICE HOURS MONDAY to FRIDAY • 12:00 NOON to 5:00 P.M. FOR RESERVATIONS CALL: 842-1577
Cape Breton's Magazine
  View this article in PDF format Print article

Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to the PDF version of this content. Click here to download and install the Acrobat plugin
Acrobat Reader Download