Healing and progress: B.C. descendant of residential school survivors works toward change
The trauma of living in a residential school didn’t disappear when the schools closed, nor did it die with the students that once walked the halls. It’s carried from generation to generation.
Diana Day is the lead matriarch of the Pacific Association of First Nations Women in Vancouver. She’s also a descendant of residential school survivors from Ontario.
“My mother and her mother went to the Mohawk Institute, it was known by our people as the Mush Hole,” Day told CTV News in an interview, adding her great-grandfather and aunt also went there. She says there are stories of her aunt running away a number of times.
Day relocated to Vancouver in the early 80s. Her mother died in 2004.
“Hunger was a big thing for her and they went to bed without food many times, they were starving basically,” Day said. “I remember her always, as an adult, eating before bedtime and making sure her belly was full before she went to bed because she never had that as a child.”
Day describes herself as an “intergenerational survivor,” carrying the trauma passed down through her family. She is also concerned about the impacts of the Kamloops discovery on those who went through the residential school system.
“I’m really concerned about the survivors that are out there that are hearing all of this that are experiencing trauma once again, retraumatised,” she said.
Day is working toward healing and progress. In her role, she’s an advocate for Indigenous rights and is constantly pushing for more resources that offer support and healing. In particular, she wants to build a Healing Centre.
“I’d like to create a house of healing, a house of healing for Indigenous women that’s based on our culture and tradition and it provides all the supports they need to be successful in this community,” Day said, adding “we need funding, we need support.”
Day’s organization is also running education programs around racism, one called Champions Against Racism.
“We’re creating some dialogue between First Nations people, within First Nations groups to learn about discrimination and racism. We know what it feels like, but how do we handle it,” Day said. “I’m really interested in growing an army of champions against racism who can stand with us.”
When it comes to the Kamloops discovery, Day hopes it will be an opportunity for Canadians to be more educated about the country’s history.
“I hope that Canadians will learn from this and they will reach out to indigenous people, First Nations people, their local people and to let them know that they’ve heard. They might not understand but they want to learn more of why it’s happened and to stop it and to help advocate for the resources that we need to ensure that our people have all of the supports they need.”
To learn more about the Pacific Association of First Nations Women, click here.