CHAPTER THREE: THE LOST YEARS

ADVISORY: Some of the videos on this website contain very sensitive subject matter and may trigger negative memories for survivors and their families. We advise people to use discretion when viewing or showing them.

3.1 After Residential School

After attending Pelican Indian Residential School for six years, and having been abused during those years, Garnet was sent to high school in Sioux Lookout. In those days virtually no one acknowledged the abuse that so many Aboriginal children and teenagers had suffered, so life was very confusing. Some experienced an identity crisis. There was no support to help them cope with the trauma they had been through. In this segment, Garnet explains how he felt when he started high school, at age 13.

3.2 Shame Instilled

In this interview Garnet describes how the government policy of assimilation instilled overwhelming shame in Aboriginal children, primarily by forbidding them to have any connection with (let alone, pride in) their cultural heritage. Remember, the children weren’t allowed to speak their own language, they were told their family traditions were bad, and they were punished constantly. Garnet draws a direct connection between this “brainwashing,” as he calls it, and the sadness, anger, and confusion that followed.

3.3 IRS Effects on Family Life

In 1978 Garnet married Margaret, a non-Aboriginal woman. They had two children soon after their marriage. Garnet explains that as a survivor of the emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuse at residential school, his anger, sadness, and frustration often came out at home. He talks about being an inadequate parent, and an abuser of alcohol. In this video segment he describes how this kind of family stress is common to many Aboriginal families, and is known as one of the many “intergenerational effects” of the Indian Residential School system. He also explains some of the complex issues that exist when one spouse is a survivor of childhood abuse.

3.4 Marriages and Communities Breaking Down

Garnet did not share the secret of his abuse with his wife, Margaret, until a decade after their marriage. This was an enormous burden to Garnet, and put a colossal strain on the relationship. He paints a picture of how that kind of stress, combined with the direct trauma many Aboriginal people had experienced at the schools, affected his community and others across the country. The result has been an epidemic of social problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence, and sexual and physical abuse.

3.5 Frozen Lake, Part 1

One cold late afternoon in January 1976, Garnet was drinking beer with friends in a bar in Hudson. He said good-bye to his buddies and took off on his snowmobile to visit his parents in the small community of Kejick Bay, twenty miles away. This is the first of a two-part account of how Garnet nearly lost his life that night as he attempted to cross the enormous Lac Seul. Little did he know that the next 12 hours would change his outlook – and his life – forever. He recounted the story while in a car at the side of Lac Seul.

3.6 Frozen Lake, Part 2

Garnet spent the night in the cold, wet, snow of Lac Seul, having attempted to drive his snowmobile, and then walk, across the lake in the dark, on a frigid January night in 1976. This segment picks up from Part 1, at the point that Garnet believed he was going to die. He was freezing and had begun to hallucinate. The ending to this story gave Garnet new life and new hope.

3.7 Frozen Lake, Part 3 – Meaning

The life and death experience Garnet had on Lac Seul that night had physical, mental and spiritual consequences. He was alive, and that was a miracle. But he spent three months in the hospital recovering from his physical injuries. And the bigger healing challenge was drawing meaning from the events that led him to go out on the lake that night, and from the fact that he had survived. In this segment, Garnet explains how he sees it.