Recognition of lost birthdays at TRC brings survivors closer to reconciliation
If each residential school survivor in Saskatchewan missed just one birthday
then more than 15,000 birthdays were celebrated at the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission Sunday night.
The TRC provided cake, glow sticks, songs and cheers for all of the survivors who were never able to celebrate their birthdays while attending residential school.
The recognition meant more than just a day of birth.
"Holding this cake ... I don't remember having a birthday," said Bernadette Neapetung, a survivor.
She was at the TRC with her brother George. Both were sent to residential schools.
"It's been a lightening of a load that I have carried for the entirety of my life as a matter of fact. To be able to give a voice to that little boy inside of me and to let all of those things go," George said.
The stage had been filled with children of the same ages the Neapetungs were when they were in residential school.
"I didn't know how small I really was at that time ... And it brought me back. It touched me where I have never been touched before, where I never allowed anything before," George said.
They said that often at residential schools they felt very alone but being with other survivors and celebrating a crucial part of childhood was inspiring.
"I'm not alone, at residential school you felt so alone. You thought you were the only one going through this pain," Bernadette said.
As the TRC began its closing ceremonies brother and sister said that they would walk away from the commission stronger people.
"I'm walking away with a hope for my children and my grandchildren. I'm proud to be a First Nation's woman," Bernadette said.
"I'm taking my life ... I'm going to work with that with my grandchildren back home ... I bring some more freedom for them, freedom for choice in their own lives," said George.