Did They Search For The Children?

A 1931 photo of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. PHOTO BY NATIONAL CENTRE FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION

I am haunted. Haunted by the image of a mother desperately trying to find her child.

I am burdened. Burdened by the stories buried beneath generations of denial.

I am bewildered. Bewildered by the truth that we are not standing up as a nation, standing with the Indigenous community, decrying these acts of genocide and demanding we start listening, deeply, to the stories so that we stop repeating history, again and again and again.

And I am saddened. Saddened by so much loss. So much abuse. So much.

____________

I awoke this morning with a question on my mind. “Did they search for the children?”

Because I know, if it had been one of my children who had gone missing, run away, taken, the police, the community, my family and friends would have banded together and never stopped looking until she was found.

And sadly, I know, that didn’t happen. Sadly, I know, no one listened when the mother of one of the 215 undocumented deaths cried out, “Help me. My child is missing!” Sadly, I know this is true.

Calgary Herald Article, May 21, 2021 – Why so many children died at Indian Residential Schools

______________________

Did They Search For The Children?
by Louise Gallagher

When they discovered
they were gone,
when they realized
their bed was empty
did they search
for the children?

Did they send out a call
for volunteers
to come
band together
with the police and school administrators
and community members
and the parents whose tears 
could not stop falling
as they searched 
desperately
the long tall grasses
that surrounded the school
in a frantic attempt
to find their child
gone missing in the night.

Did they search
or did they already know
it was too late
the child was gone
forever
buried
beneath the black
earth covering
their tiny, fragile body
still
forever more.

And when the mother came
knocking, knocking, knocking
at the door
her body awash in a river of pain
did they bring her inside
and wrap their arms around her
and tell her how
how this had happened
what had gone wrong
how sorry and ashamed and horrified
they were that her child
was lost
and that they too
would never stop
searching 
for answers
never stop searching 
for her child
forever more.

Or did they slam the door
on her dirty Indian face
leaving her to wander
inconsolably
in the rain and the sleet and the snow
under a hot burning sun 
along the long dusty road
leading away from the last known place
where she had seen her child
enter
that dark day
the police and the Indian Agent
had come
to steal her child away.

Did they slam the door in her face?
Did they turn their backs on the mother
and whisper amongst themselves
how they would never tell
anyone
what had happened
to the child.

These questions
these remains
these stories
of two hundred and fifteen children
found
buried
deep
beneath the black soil
surrounding a school
where children were taken
from their loving families
so the ‘Indian’ could be beaten out of them,
these questions
these remains
these stories
they haunt me.

And I imagine a mother
grasping for her child
as the police tear the wee one out of her arms
and I see Auschwitz and Buchenwald
but I do not see
my Canada

Oh my Canada
we have lived with these stories
burning
deep
buried beneath
the dark soils
of this land
eating away at our nationhood
and still 
we do little.

And I imagine it happening to me
while my daughters were young
or my daughter’s children 
and the children of her friends
right now
being forcibly taken
so the Canadian can be beaten out of them
and I wonder
would we ever recover?
Would we ever 
get 
over 
it
as so many suggest
those who lost their children
and their culture
and their language
and their land
must do
now?

And I wonder
can we ever recover
from our past?
Can we ever wash away
our shame
when we know now,
as they knew then,
we cannot bring
these children back.
They are gone
forever.

20 thoughts on “Did They Search For The Children?

  1. LG,

    Inexcusable horror. The reality that some kids might have died of natural causes and the schools wouldn’t know how to contact parents would be the slimmest and slimiest excuse. What is more shocking, when you think about it for a little while, is this was just ONE residential school. It would be naiive of us to believe it was the only one where that kind of heinous activity might have happened. In total, over 130 residential schools operated in Canada between 1831 and 1996.

    Without knowing any of the ‘why?’ answers, the Government of Canada MUST now search 130 sites.

    The indignity of mass graves, cover-up, and hiding those horrors for a day let alone decades is a despicable add-on to a legacy of horror. While blame sure belongs to the operators of residential schools, the blind eye of the government owns the responsibility. The government of ‘then’ and the government of today are the same – they are the government of all Canadians, all parties, and we all must own responsibility.

    We already knew the residential school operators (Catholic, Anglican, and United Churches) were responsible for many atrocities – and their collective heads must hang low now.

    All Canadians deserve dignity.

    All Canadians need to speak up for and defend those who are treated so egregiously.

    Thanks for your article, and poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a horrific tragedy that is unfortunately all too common. At least the Canadians are admitting to their culpability and to the fact that this happened. We Americans have yet to do this in a fully open and honest way and I hope theses actions will be noticed around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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