In an effort to make their voices and needs heard, Kahnawa’kehró:non Indian day school survivors participated in an engagement process initiative on Wednesday, November 10.
Responding to an invitation for claimants of the Indian Day Schools (IDS) Settlement, 14 community members took part in the event, which sought to gather input on how to best administer and implement the $200 million legacy fund earmarked for survivors and their families.
“In order to reflect the needs of the up to 200,000 survivors and their families in communities across Canada, they wanted to hear from these survivors themselves about the gaps in services and needs,” explained Kahnawake’s Indian Day Schools Settlement coordinator Louise Mayo.
Officially launched this August, the McLean Day Schools Settlement Corporation (MDSSC) is a national non-profit organization mandated to support and commemorate day school survivors.
Named after the late Garry McLean, a day school survivor from Lake Manitoba First Nation and the lead settlement plaintiff in 2018, MDSSC is in charge of supporting initiatives through the administration of funds assigned under the day school survivors settlement agreement.
The projects survivors are being encouraged to provide their input for will fall in four areas of support: healing and wellness, culture and language promotion, commemoration, and truth-telling.
Mayo expressed that the group, who met at Tewatohnhi’saktha, represented a cross-section of participants from the four themes established by MDSSC.
“I had people who work in language and culture, education, community services and mental health awareness, as well as other community members and elders,” explained the coordinator. “To have this cross mix made the process very empowering.”
Starting in September, MDSSC began to host regional community engagement processes across Canada. At these events and through an online guiding questionnaire, survivors have the option of sharing their feedback with the non-profit corporation.
“Because our community is so large and that we have so many survivors in our community – roughly 5,000 people – I asked for us to set up a separate engagement event,” explained Mayo.
“At the end of the day, we had such an amazing experience and such wonderful feedback from the two groups.”
During the event which ran from 10 a.m. to past 3 p.m., elders held the opening and closing ceremonies, participants shared ideas in split groups, and the MDSSC board of directors introduced themselves and the engagement process.
“The common theme for us was that we all now are starting to understand that we are as a community living in trauma,” expressed Mayo. “Through education, awareness and different programming, we all want to meet the levels of needs where people are at in their healing process.”
Furthermore, the group identified a shared interest in accessing increased traditional services within the community, enhanced language program options and more language immersion availability for youth.
When the engagement process drew to an end around 2 p.m., participants were invited to stay for an aftercare session offered by mental health workers.
To have this support system available to survivors is crucial said Mayo.
“What is happening with most of us in our community is that bringing up our past of attending school has retriggered and retraumatized many many people,” explained the coordinator.
“Being a survivor myself and with my background in the mental health and addictions field, I know how critical it is to have these supports in place.”
Although places were limited to take part in Wednesday’s event, Mayo is encouraging survivors across the province to register for the Quebec English-speaking First Nations virtual engagement event scheduled for Thursday, November 18. An event dedicated to French-speaking survivors will be held subsequently on November 19.
On November 18, a total of 35 spots will be available to Kahnawa’kehró:non, with an additional 65 places for participants from other communities who wish to sign up.
As the event takes place in less than a week, Mayo is inviting both Kahnawake members and Kanehsata’kehró:non to contact her for any assistance at 514-793- 0662 or email@example.com.
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door