Seepeetza talks about the constant state of fear she lives in: fear of the devils beneath her bed, fear of the dance “instructor” who uses violence to train her girls into smiling while dancing, fear of Sister Kerr who uses judo on her students when they aren’t working fast enough, fear of the bully Edna who only sees Seepeetza’s biracial genealogy .. and the list goes on, further isolating her at the residential school.
My first reaction to this book was that of incredulity: this must be a work of fiction. The way the children were treated at that school is inhumane. It is riddled with stereotypes: the clergy not being so holy and drunken Aboriginals. Both of these things I know as no representative of the whole, yet there is a scary sort of honesty in the details. Sterling has based these entries on her own experiences and history shows that they are closer to fact than fiction yet I still find it difficult to reconcile to brutal racism and deprivation these kids were forced to endure .
Dion writes of the “perfect stranger” connection many Canadians claim in regards to Aboriginal peoples. (Dion, December 2007) I never felt that was my position so strongly as I did reading this book. Reflecting upon the injustice done to Aboriginals leaves a hollow spot in my heart, but the epiphany of what was done to their children threatens to bring tears to my eyes just as surely as the 2012 December massacre of children in their school. (The Associated Press, 2012) “What kind of people have we become that we would allow children to be killed in our streets?” cries Betty Williams in response to the bombing death of Irish children in 1977. (Hogan, Accessed 2013) Why was there such an outrage at this, yet decades earlier no one said a thing about the systematic dehumanization of Aboriginal children as they were forced to attend residential schools or face the wrath of the law? Episkenew writes of the limited choices of Metis men who “doom their families to a life of relief workers, fear and starvation; if they break the law, they doom their families to a life of police, fear, and shame.” (Episkenew)
If these students are the parents of school age children today, what kind of thoughts and impressions about school must they hold? Teachers would love to see more involvement of parents in their student’s education, but how do you initiate conversation with someone who came from this sort of background? This line of questioning leaves me with one frightening thought: It’s almost as if they are refugees, but they never managed to escape their own country.
Dion, S. D. (December 2007). Disrupting Molded Images: Identities, responsibilities and relationships - teachers and indigenous subject material. Teacher Education, 329-342.
Episkenew, J.-A. (n.d.). Socially Responsible criticism: Aboriginal Literature, Ideology, and the Literary Canon. Creating Community: Canadian Aboriginal Literature, 52-68.
Hogan, L. (Accessed 2013). A Different Yield. Reclaiming Indigenious Voice and Vision, 115-123.
Sterling, S. (1992). My Name is Seepeetza. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
The Associated Press. (2012, December 15). Connecticut School Shooting 2012 Facts. Retrieved January 17, 2013, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/15/connecticut-school-shooti_n_2306678.html