My Auntie survived residential school. I need to gather her stories before she’s gone | Inendi

Published 2020-12-22
With a pandemic threatening to take our elders, Sarain Fox gathers stories from her auntie and matriarch, Mary Bell, who holds the family’s history: the legacy, the trauma, the truth. #CBCShortDocs #AloneTogether #Inendi

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“Elders are the most vulnerable to this pandemic and they are our knowledge keepers.”
— Sarain Fox

In Sarain Fox’s Anishinaabe culture, women lead the family. Her auntie, Mary Bell, is the oldest surviving matriarch, and she holds the family’s history: the stories, the trauma, the truth. She is a knowledge keeper.

The Indigenous way is to sit with elders while they live. And Fox’s job, as the youngest in her family, is to carry on those ways.

Mary is a residential school survivor who worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to document the stories of other survivors. And now that she’s an elder, she’s focused on how those stories will live on.

Elders are knowledge keepers, but they are also among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The pandemic is threatening to cut a line of knowledge that has survived for generations. Fox reckons with this tension and her duty to sit with her auntie to document her stories before they are lost.

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All Comments (21)
  • Jason Finley
    The fact that this was going on AFTER WW2 and we knew about the horrors of concentration camps is mind blowing to me.
  • Tasina Hacker
    My grandma was in one of the schools and when she used to fix my hair or cook, she would tell me about it. She told me that if they spoke Lakota, the nuns would have them place their hands flat on their desks and they would hit them with a stick until they bled. She said if I looked at some of her old pictures, I could see the scars. So I noticed them in this one picture. It was of her holding me as a baby. You could easily see the scars on her hands. And I cried. I still cry. I can't believe all these ppl went through this...
  • gimmetheteasis
    I feel like after I graduated high school I had to relearn so much when it came to history. Colonizers were romanticized and we celebrated them when I was growing up. It’s sad that things aren’t being taught how they actually happened. Thank you for this video and the education. ❤️
  • Lovely Mr. Fox
    For her to say that she wasn't sure how much she was be allowed to say when speaking about the government. "Because government will usually make you take this off." Why does our government have permission to control people like this? No words 😟
  • “That’s what they are afraid of… Our spirituality is very, very powerful”
  • Mobile_noble
    The horror these sweet innocent children had to endure is repulsive. The terror that they had to live through is unimaginable. Bless her for surviving and telling her story.
  • Intergenerational trauma is why we need to support indigenous people to this day. It hasn’t been long since the last residential school closed. People and their kids are still affected.
  • unlinedwork
    I'm Canadian and I first heard about residential schools in 2017 as an adult. Someone was telling me about them and I kept thinking, what the hell? In school we learned about the US black history, we learned about WW2, but not about what our own country did.
  • I couldn't help but cry as I listened to your auntie, thinking of my ancestors and yours and the stolen children who were deeply traumatized and killed by the colonizers. May we find unity in our collective pasts, and may there be healing.
  • Kaylee B
    Her story should to be made into a movie, it’s incredible and deserves a platform to share the TRUTH of what really happened on behalf of all Native survivors. Aho 🙏
  • What tears me apart inside is how powerless those children were—no one to save them from abuse. The hypocrisy of those so called believers of Christ got away with all the evil things they did to those children. My heart goes out to all of them. If only I had supernatural powers, I’d go back and saved them.
  • Dj_NYX890
    I'm Australian Aboriginal and I believe, we share a lot of similarities. I hope these stories are shown and accepted more freely. The past defines us and accepting the past is one of the ways of moving forwards.
  • Flying Solo
    I feel so cheated out of my education. How could we not be taught this?
  • Dr. Dad
    Auntie’s testimony of finding infant skeletons in the walls, reminds me of convents in which this occurred. In particular during the expansion of Spanish missions throughout North America. Prayers to all people who suffered these traumatic experience. RIP to my Zapotec ancestors.
  • Ronda New
    I wish I could have collected my grandmother's stories but she didn't want to talk about it. Your auntie is a jewel ❤️ PLEASE collect all of her stories they're so valuable.
  • I cant even imagine being at such an age just 7 years old being separated from your parents and little brother,I cant even imagine all the emotions
  • This has traumatized me and I wasn’t even there. How many evil people participated in this is insane. So many innocent children. Parents pain. So called “good” people did the most evil. 😟
  • My name is Cody. I'm from a reserve in Alberta. My grandfather is a survivor of residential school God bless all our elders and residential survivor's. It's very important to gather as much stories, information from our elders so we can pass them down to generations to come. I would love to travel across the country to reserves talking to all the elders collecting information. Together we can break these cycles of addiction, suicide, shame and hate. I can only do what I can for myself. My own healing. Together we can do anything. May we heal from genocide and trauma so we can be the strong, courageous leaders I know we are. Bless all our native communities. Bless all our women and children. Bless our men. May we rise up and be the loving caring nations we were always meant to be. Much love and respect. All my relations. Hihi
  • aimlesslost
    I don’t know if forced coupling /marriage was sometimes a practice at “Indian schools” . My great great grandma was married straight from her “school “ to an older Dutch man in Michigan . For all I know he was her “teacher “. I really don’t know. The way the story was told to me, it wasn’t a voluntary union on her behalf. She was Saginaw Chippewa. I’ve seen a couple old black and white pics of her . I wish I knew more about her and her experience.