An interview with Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George
But George said it's not really the same. "That genocide ended, but it's still ongoing here. It didn't end," she said. "The objective of the government of Canada has always been to kill my people."
Last week, it was announced that a delegation of federal ministers would be traveling to British Columbia to try and win First Nation opponents over on pipeline proposals. I told her I thought it was interesting timing for the ministers to come during Truth and Reconciliation Week and I asked what she thought of this.
George said, "It tells me that the people in charge of the administration of Canada cannot be trusted. "They’re putting money ahead of the people, of all living things. When I was very little, my dad said to me, 'If you take fish out of water, you take a life. If you chop down a tree, you take a life, so you be appreciative and use every bit of deer or fish you take. And be appreciative of that life.
"We’ve always only taken what we’ve needed," she said, "and that was with respect for all living things. The people who are in power in Canada have lost all touch with what it’s like to be a human being. A human being has respect for all living things." She said that to her, people at Kinder Morgan are liars and murderers if they condone what is being done to kill plants, trees, animals and people who depend on having a clean environment.
"It’s not if there’s a dump, but when there’s a dump out here," she said, turning her gaze to Indian Arm. "Then we’re going to be breathing poison, the plants are all going to die, the fish are all going to die and we’re going to all die. They don’t clean up after there's an oil spill, it’s up to the people. They move on to the next place. They should just get over their addiction to oil."
What about her, I asked. Would she be prepared to stop using oil and oil-based products?
"There’s other energies available," she said.
A punishing education at Indian Residential School
Like all the other children on the reserve, Amy George was forced to leave her parents when she was six-years-old. She was sent to live at St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, which was run by the Sisters of the Child Jesus nuns and the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
"She was really beautiful, really extremely beautiful," George said, recalling the pain of being separated from her mother. "She could be so comical sometimes.
"Whatever she would say to me especially in a group of people, they’d be laughing. She was really kind and she loved loved loved us. And she was wise. "My brother told me years later that every time they brought us back to residential school, she’d cry all the way home. And she said to my brother that it was just like she could look down the beach and still see all the brown bodies just running and having so much fun, 'and now it’s more quiet than the grave now, so quiet, no more kids.' "
Although St. Paul's was also in North Vancouver, the authorities forbade parents to visit their children and George said that she could recall a mother coming to pick up her child at the end of the year only to learn for the first time that he had died months before.
Established in 1881, the school housed children as young as four years old and as old as seventeen.
The teachers were all nuns.
“The sisters spoke among themselves and with the priest in French when the children were to be excluded from knowing what was being spoken about. The children were never allowed to speak or use their own languages and were punished for doing so as they were often mistaken for ‘making fun’ of the Sisters," text on the Vancouver Foundation's website on Indian Residential school explains of St. Paul's.
All of the ‘chores’, the cleaning, cooking and laundry were done by the students under supervision of the Sisters. The regimen of discipline was extremely harsh: