I must apologize for being an Indian


Windspeaker.com Archives May 1998

First and foremost, I must warn you, my apology will be curt. It will be as straight as an arrow. I must apologize for being an Indian.

I feel regret for the years of burden my kind has been to the Canadian public at large. As well, my apology is extended on behalf of my mother. She feels sorry for the years during which she tried to keep her language while attending a government-controlled residential school in northern Manitoba.

Words cannot describe the heart-felt regret that she feels; she is also sorry for being an Indian.

My mother was very fortunate. While attending residential school, she learned how to be dysfunctional... to a tee.

On return to her reserve, she couldn't function. She hated being an Indian. She was surrounded by the people that she was taught to hate. She was surrounded by Indian men. While attending "Residential School 101" (her favorite class), my mother was taught the darnedest thing . . . to hate them.

Thank God for the fact that my mother was color blind. She might have realized that she was a brown-eyed girl.

Wow . . . the wonders of residential school. I must thank the residential school system. You programmed my mother well. She came home… well, in a metaphysical way. Her heart was gone.

Luckily she had her body. Did you know that residential schools took one of the most important aspects of anyone's life? It took my mother's sense of family and warped it. The tie that binds, you could say.

If it wasn't for the residential school system, my mother might have had a relationship with her parent… you know that love thing. Phew, she didn't need that; the touch of a mother, the words of a father, the love of Mushom and Kokum. Poppycock, I say. It's all bullocks.

What did she need family for anyways? Did she need them for support? No, she had the memory of all the "Mothers," so to speak, hitting her while she was a child. That's all the support she needed.

I am so grateful for those assimilation programs, and let's not forget the religion. If it wasn't for Christianity, my mother might have passed on traditions that were, well, as old as God.

It's a fact. The language retains culture. It holds ancient lessons and sayings that were, fortunately, lost, but who needs Indian talk anyways? English will have to do. The "subtlety" of English has replaced the knowledge of many generations. Many heart-felt strikes of a ruler made sure that my mother lost the need to remember her language. For the love of God, my mother gave up everything that made her, that made her family and, ultimately, that made me.

So I say again, I must apologize for being an Indian.

I should be grateful that the state set up those wondrous situations. Through my mother, I can feel the beatings she endured. One hit for being an Indian. Another for that brown skin. Here's two for that dirty "unwhite" language. And, last but not least, one big stick for remembering that smelly Indian family of yours.

I am very sorry for not loving you, my mother, for not respecting you… Too bad you had such great teachings.

My mother, I can promise you this: Your grandchildren will be loved. Your grandchildren will never be sent away. Your grandchildren will be proud of their Anishnawbe heritage. Your grandchildren will not be institutionalized.

And finally, mother, I forgive you.

—Jarrod Miller