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"You didn't care how you ate up my native culture"

Community members joined at Mocassin Square Gardens in Kamloops today to share residential school experiences to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
May 28, 2013 - 4:37 PM

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SURVIVORS SHARE THEIR STORIES

"I hate you residential school, I hate you. You're a monster."
"Go away, leave me alone, you're following me, following me everywhere I go."
"You're a cold-hearted monster, cold as the cement floors."
"Your stomach growled at me every time I broke the school rules."
"You didn't care how you ate up my native culture."

Emotions ran high among the 150 or so people who attended the first of two days of hearings about local residential school experiences.

Locals were encouraged to share personal residential school experiences either publicly or privately to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, in Kamloops today and tomorrow.

The commission was established following the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement between multiple First Nations parties and the Government of Canada.

The hearings are intended to serve healing purposes as well as help piece together a dark time in Canadian history.

Sessions today were sliced into 15-minute increments for anyone who wanted to share.

The commission will produce a report following the compilation of experiences to be available to the court, involved parties and all of Canada.

Dennis Saddleman of Merritt publically shared his experiences this afternoon in a unique way.

"Writing is my healing tool," he said.

He shared three poems he wrote on his experiences - one describing the Kamloops Indian Residential School as a 'monster', another describing gruesome sexual assault details, and the final - entitled 'Broken Indian' - about healing and hope for others.

"33 years later, I rode my Chevy Pony in Kamloops."
"From the highway, I saw the monster."
"I looked over to the monster and I was surprised."
"I wasn't looking at the monster anymore, I was looking at an old school."
"In my heart I thought, this is where I earned my diploma of survival."
"I was looking at a tall building that was four storeys - stories of hope, stories of dreams, stories of renewal and stories of tomorrow."

Dennis Saddleman read a poem he wrote about the Kamloops Indian Residential School to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Kamloops on May 28, 2013.

Following Saddleman's poems, Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair requested copies to be archived by the commission.

"That was amazing," he said. "That certainly expresses the feelings of a lot of people."

The two-day hearing continues tomorrow at Moccasin Square Gardens (Old Gym) at 8:30 a.m. For those who can't make it, a live broadcast can be viewed online.

To contact a reporter for this story, email: jwallace@infotelnews.ca or call (250) 319-7494.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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