LISTOWEL – Christin Dennis had to have an unthinkable conversation with his two sons.
The topic has been discussed in many Canadian homes since the weekend and most certainly one that will leave a nasty taste in your mouth: the discovery of a mass grave.
But this mass grave wasn’t in a foreign country, nor was it because of a war or a significant sickness from the distant past.
This mass grave held the bodies of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three years old, whose deaths had not been documented by the Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., beside where the bodies were found.
Dennis is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop, a practice that continued to remove Indigenous children from their homes and communities, be adopted by non-native families, and be brought up without their culture, similar to residential schools.
His sons, Seth, 17, and Sam, 13, are the most important thing in Dennis’s life, he told Midwestern Newspapers in an interview. Having to have this conversation with them was difficult but necessary.
“I stopped them this morning, have you heard the news?” he said. “My oldest son says, ‘Yeah, I think I know what you’re going to say. It’s about the children.’”
He proceeded to tell the boys about what happened, and he said, “I broke up. It was just so hard to tell them that and to let them know that these were little kids.”
The Dennis family joined an online movement that had people putting teddy bears and tiny shoes or moccasins out on their front porch in honour of the 215 fallen children.
Christin, whose Anishinaabe name is Ghehuquot, meaning Fast Moving Cloud, is a member of the Chippewas of Sarnia. He was taken off reserve and adopted to a Caucasian family. He has used that experience to teach others and share the knowledge he has acquired in his lifetime.
“Words can’t describe how I feel other than being really angry and very, very sad for the children, knowing that the horrors that they must have lived through,” he said.
“I got to tell you, though, I’ve had a lot of mixed emotions with the Catholic faith and especially reading something about the Pope not wanting to take responsibility. You know, our dead are not going to leave it in the past. Our ancestors are not going to leave it in the past.”
Dennis hopes to use his current status as a knowledge keeper working with the local Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board to help bring about the change that is necessary to try to move on from such an atrocious event.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times