On March 8, 2017, I had the honor of giving a speech to the Women’s Resource Center in Williams Lake, BC. This is my speech:
Good Afternoon, Thank you Kalika and the Women’s Resource Center for inviting me to be a guest speaker at International Women’s Day.
My name is Lorelei Boyce. I am from Canim Lake and I am half Secwepemc from my mother’s side and half Carrier from my father’s side. I am a Residential School Survivor.
The St. Joseph’s Mission school was open from 1886 – 1981. I was there for several years in the late 70’s and possibly 1980. My grandparents attended Residential School, my parents went to Residential School and I attended Residential School. Three generations of my family.
Family involvement was limited
Parent visitation was a very rare during the school year. I missed my parents. One of the saddest sounds I would hear at night was the other students sobbing as they missed their parents, their families and communities. That is a sound that to this day makes me so sad to think about hearing the children crying at night and no one would go and comfort them as we were not allowed out of bed.
One month of vacation was allowed in the summer. I loved summer vacation. I went to Canim Lake and I remember experiencing freedom. No waking up early to go and pray before breakfast. Pray before going to catch the bus to go to school. Get back and then pray before dinner and then another prayer before bedtime. And if there was a religious holiday then we would also pray before mass at mass and after mass.
I remember sitting in mass trying not to fidget and the smell of toast and bacon and breakfast wafting through the window. I could hardly concentrate on the words as my tummy was rumbling so loud.
Family members were kept separate based on gender. While I was in Residential School my older brother, Leroy was in the boys wing and I rarely ever saw him. I missed him a lot as we were close in age and growing up on a remote ranch we were best friends and playmates.
Later, my younger sister Lyndsay came to the Mission and this meant that I was always trying to help her with her hair and trying to make sure she was safe. Having my 5-year-old sister in the residential school was a very anxious time as I had a tough time keeping myself safe from other students, supervisors and staff. Luckily, she was a very bright and resourceful young girl who learned the ropes very quickly.
I and my brother ran away from Residential School with another young lady from Canoe Creek. My brother said “I am running away today”. I thought it was kind of a dumb idea but I could not allow him to head out on his own, to heaven knows where. We left from 150 Mile School. We walked towards Williams Lake often hiding in the woods and in the ditch.
We got to the cliffs just outside of Williams Lake and decided that the going was too rough so we headed down to the road. When we started down the bank there were no cars, but when we got down to the highway a residential school van came around the corner and brought us back to the school.
I remember being physically punished in front of the whole school. Then when I got back to my dormitory, my supervisor felt that I should be punished again. I was strapped on my hands with a ruler and sent to bed without dinner.
Luckily for me, my older sister Lena had sent a care package that included girl guide cookies. You know the sweet crunchy and delicious black and white cookies. I laid in bed that night generally feeling bad about getting caught and then physically punished and sneaked into my little night stand and ate cookies for dinner.
One of the things I remember about the food, we would line up and walk into the cafeteria. There were long tables lined up and you sat with your dormitory. Senior, intermediates and Juniors and the boys sat on one side and girls on the other. Think Hogwarts but not.
To get into the cafeteria you would have to walk by the supervisor’s dormitory and their tables would be filled with platters of fresh fruit, juices and yummy food. Once again, think of Hogwarts feasts and then when I would get to my table, the food was very different than the supervisors. The only time we would get fresh juice is if we were sick.
I was less than. I carried this lie inside of me for many years.
I remember thinking, when I grow up I am only eating food that I want to eat. I remember walking by and thinking that the reason I did not get to eat food like the supervisors was because I was not good enough. I was less than. I carried this lie inside of me for many years.
When I went to residential school it was a very different experience than my grandparents and parents. The focus on them was to separate them from their culture, language and people so that they would begin to accept non-native culture. I do not speak either of my parent’s First Nations language.
My mother wanted to teach us but my dad was so afraid that he told my mom don’t teach them that, they will only be punished for speaking their language.
My daughter who is 17 is the first generation who has not attended residential school. As I cannot speak my language neither can she. This is a regret I have that I cannot teach my daughter my first nations language.
My bold moment came when I was attending University and I was in a political science class and the professor said,
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
The very idea of history repeating Residential Schools on other people was absolutely unacceptable to me. I think of who would be targeted next, maybe people with blue eyes, or new immigrants, and I cannot accept history repeating itself.
How did I do it?
I completed my Bachelor of Social Work degree and then went to the University of Victoria for a Master of Education in Counselling. My main focus is on trauma and Residential School Survivors. I always think since I went to Residential School, I may know a little bit about that experience.
What motivated you?
I can’t fix everything. I cannot solve the worlds problems but I can do my part for health and healing in my little corner of the world. I always think, if I help one person then my job here is done.
I often think of the quote from Sitting Bull,
Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.
What difference did you make?
When you focus on one subject, for me, Residential School Survivors and trauma, you do learn a thing or two about how to effectively help people. I am from the same culture so being able to blend treatment modalities and First Nation culture into a treatment program has proven to be very effective.
How can others learn from this?
Focus on what you are passionate about, and learn everything you can about it. Be kind. Pitch in.
Some of the things I teach my clients.
Take deep breaths. Take a moment to focus on your breath. Where does it stop in your body? Are you holding your breath? Take a deep breath. Get some exercise. Rest when you are tired. Take care of yourself because we are here for the long run.
All My Relations
March 8, 2017