And No One Listens

I watch a flock of geese huddling around their children at the edge of the river. Four adults. Many goslings.

The river flows fast. Swollen with spring run-off from the mountains and the rains of the past few days.

It is not safe for the babies. The adults keep them on shore.

And I am reminded, as so many things do these days, of the remains of 215 children found beneath the lands of a former residential school sanctioned by the Canadian government and operated for decades by the Catholic Church on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

Those goslings do not need to be taken away from their parents, or even kept away from the river. The parents are seeing to their safety. It is their nature.

And as I walk slowly home along the swollen river, its roar drowning out the traffic travelling across the bridge above, as I listen to the birds chirping in the trees and the geese hissing as Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I pass by, I think of the women who would come to the homeless shelter where I worked, their eyes swollen, their bodies battered as they struggled to find a way back to who they were… before.

Before… the settlers and his assertions their ways were better came…

Before…. their schools and assimilation and attempts to ‘kill the Indian in the child’…

Before… the church and its doctrine arrived…

Before… the government took away…

...their lands, their way of life, their history, their traditions, their culture, their language, their homes…. Their children.

In a tweet on May 27th, Prime Minister Trudeau called it, “a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.”

In the House of Commons on June 3rd, Nunavut member of Parliament Mumilaaq Qaqqaq stated. “Colonization is not a dark chapter in Canadian history. It is a book that the federal institution continues to write,”

“Foster care,” she said, “is the new residential school system.”

Is is also a gateway to homelessness for far too many.

According to Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey, 20% of the homeless population in Canada is comprised of youth between the ages of 13-24. In a given year, there are at least 35,000-40,000 youth experiencing homelessness. Of that number, over 30% are Indigenous. Research also highlights that over 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness in Canada have been involved with child welfare services, including foster care and group homes. Over 52% of children involved with child welfare services are Indigenous.

In her comments in the House of Commons, Qaqqaq also said, “We are tired of living in someone else’s story and refuse to continue to have it written for us.”

She’s right. This book we’ve been writing… It’s not a story I want to keep reading. Keep hearing. Keep living.

It’s time we stop writing it so that Indigenous peoples can write their own book.

____________________

I wrote the poem below for all the women who were never heard when they called out for their missing children and were never heard.

And No One Listens
by Louise Gallagher

She cries out for help
	Again and again
	Where are my children
	Where have they gone

No one listens
No one hears

She walks the trails where once they gathered berries. Together
She trudges through the fields where once they played. Together
	
She keeps searching. Searching. 
	Calling. Calling. 

Their names become a symphony of anguish 
Their memory an unending refrain of pain
Their missing a cut too deep to be washed away by her tears
she searches for a way to drown them beneath the burden of the grief
that flows as deep as the river upon which she once paddled with her children. Together.

She talks to the priest who has promised her soul salvation
She talks to the man the government has sent to help her and her people
assimilate into the ways of the settlers, ways that are foreign to her
ways that do not ease her suffering.

Their words do not bring her salvation
Their words do not ease her pain
	It is God’s will
	It is His way
	It is the law
	It is our way.

And she keeps calling out for her children
She keeps calling out for help
until one day she too is lost
Lost
To God’s will
and His Way 
to our way
the way that has taken her children
the way
that has catapulted her life
into an unending liturgy of sorrow, pain and suffering

She cannot escape
the missing of her children
of her way
her People’s way
the way of the land
and falls

She lies on the sidewalk now
of a city she does not know
in a way that has erased all memory
of who she was
before
before they took her children.

She is broken 
apart
separated
from her people
the ways of her ancestors
her children, missing
her voice, lost

She no longer calls out through the pain she cannot heal
the stories she cannot tell
the memories she can no longer remember.

She no longer cries out her children’s names
She no longer calls out for help

And no one listens.
No one hears.

15 thoughts on “And No One Listens

    • Thank you Mary for opening your heart to this sadness and for being present within us. It is so very, very challenging and heartbreaking.
      And thank you for leading me back to your website.
      Reading your words, looking at your beautiful art, has helped soothe my soul. Thank you. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think one of the challenges Mark is that it is not up to us to ‘fix’ the future. We must create space for Indigenous peoples to lead the way.
      And yes, no child can wait for a future fix.

      Like

      • While it needs to be lead by the indigenous peoples it is also up to us to fix our own biases and elect representatives to Parliament that will take the actions required.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely Bernie. Resmaa Menakem, who wrote My Grandmother’s Hands, talks about how when he does ‘diversity’ training, he does not mix bodies of colour with non-colour. It is not his job to heal nor to educate white people – that’s their work. His work, as is the work of all bodies of colour, is to do their own work around healing inter-generational, systemic trauma.

        Like

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