Monday, February 16, 2009

Tearing Down The Building

The man in the photograph is Ray Guno from New Aiyansh. He was an inmate at the Port Alberni Indian Residential School from 1961 to 1964, and the other day he traveled all the way from his home in Nisga'a territory, the Nass Valley, to help tear the place down. My old friend Wawmeesh George Hamilton reports:

Hefting an eight-kilogram sledgehammer in his weathered hands, Guno plunged it into the building’s outer husk three times, uttering the names of former students with each swing: Allan Clayton. Dan Guno. His late brother Larry.

“This was more therapeutic than any counseling or treatment centre I’ve tried,” Guno said.

In a separate essay, Wawmeesh writes:

I thought about my parents, who attended the school in the 1930s. They never lived to see this day. My father died when I was six, and my mother last December.

My mother only spoke about one residential school experience: seeing children rummage through the garbage for something to eat. The abuses wrought in the schools were universal though, and I imagine they never escaped it.

I took a couple of planks — one each for my parents — and placed them on the fire.


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