Thursday, December 8, 2011

Attawapiskat


My first teaching assignment was grade 5 in Dawson City, Yukon.

I had a student named Terry.

He seemed like a nice kid, but he didn't come to school.  If I remember correctly, he showed up for a few days at the beginning of the first term and that was it.

Eventually the band/school liaison  person, a quiet native woman named Margaret, and I went to Terry's house to talk to his mother.



The house was much like the Attawapiskat homes we see on TV except that Terry's mom and about a half dozen other native women were sitting in a grim line against the wall waiting for us.

I was so overwhelmed by the anger, resentment and hatred in that bare, dirty room that I simply informed her in a shaky voice  that her son was not attending school.

There was no reply.

Wordlessly Margaret turned and went back outside and I stumbled after her.

  

Terry never came back to school.

Ever.



Recently Christina Blizzard wrote an article about Attawapiskat that appeared in Sun media newspapers.  Public outrage has been rolling across the country ever since. 



Young children dropping out of school, drinking putrid water, living in unheated shacks  but with giant TVs.

Unfortunately it isn't a new problem and don't kid yourself, it isn't just happening in Attawapiskat.



We can call for decent housing, fresh water, new schools. Like the NDP we can insist that the army go in and make things right. We can hold inquiries. We can blame the government, the band members, the chief, the financial advisers or the man in the moon.

It doesn't matter.

 The truth is, there is no solution.

Not one that will be found by the likes of us.



The way out will come from the Native people themselves.

But won't be easy and it won't be quick.



We need to stand back and listen.



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