The New York Times — Tragedies and Triumphs: Canadians Tell Their Family Histories
My mother, Marjorie, was from the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation. She was a street kid and a survivor of the child welfare system. She moved 15 times between the ages of 5 and 18 between group homes, orphanages and convents with abusive nuns. It wasn’t that my grandmother did not love her. Like my mother, she was also a street kid who became a serious alcoholic as a way to deal with the violent genocide she experienced as a result of the Indian Act and institutional disruptions caused by residential schools and child welfare.
Although we often talk about people having choices, in the 1930s in Canada, indigenous women were not even considered human under Canadian law. How sad is that, especially because we are descendants of Sitting Bull, who is one of the most revered leaders in North America.
My mother was one of the first indigenous psychiatric nurses in the province of Saskatchewan. She was an award-winning researcher, a scholar and a social justice warrior who assisted with changing child welfare legislation to support former children in the state’s care and expanding rights for persons experiencing mental health issues.
My father was a Dutch Jew and Holocaust survivor. He was the only surviving child on both sides of my family at the conclusion of World War II. It is for this reason that my life is truly a miracle as a descendant of genocides from different parts of our globe.
Like my parents, I have learned to speak up and to never stay silent in the face of injustice. Indigenous peoples have been on Turtle Island, an indigenous name for North America, since time immemorial, more than the 150 years of colonial genocide that Canada wishes to celebrate. Until the Canadian government stops violating fundamental indigenous human rights, I have nothing to celebrate.
Levin, D. (2017, June 24). Tragedies and Triumphs: Canadians Tell Their Family Histories. The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/world/canada/canada-family-histories.html