Ojibwe artist examines intergenerational trauma

An Ottawa-based Indigenous artist recently made a trip to his home community of Matachewan First Nation.

Cody Coyote said he decided to go to the residential school in Spanish, Ont., where his family was taken years ago.

“I had to go there for some form of closure and understanding, just taking a look around seeing the buildings and feeling that presence," Coyote said.

"I’ve been through enough in my life. I’ve had my own hardships. I’ve faced things like addiction and alcoholism and I’m thankful to be walking in a good way of sobriety, you know, but all of this trauma, all this stuff that I’ve carried, it's stemmed from this.”

Coyote said he captured the emotional visit on camera.

“I’m at that point in my life where I’m ready to talk about how it’s affected me and affected my family," he said. "It’s been a long time coming.”

The visit happened just before the discovery of 215 bodies at a residential school in BC. Coyote, like many others, is calling on the government to do a thorough search of every residential school site. And he said non-Indigenous people need to stop talking and start listening and create space for Indigenous voices be heard and support them.

“Go to every residential school site and search -- do a thorough search -- every residential school site," Coyote said. "That would be the biggest call to action, to really expose this for what it is, not just have it be the flavour of the week or flavour of the month or flavour of the year."

"The fact of the matter is us, as Indigenous people, we’re holding onto this every day of our life,” he added.

For those who are unsure of what to do to support residential school survivors, traumatic stress expert Kevin Cameron said there are a few steps people can take.

“We need to make it clear that we believe," Cameron said. "We believe the stories and the terrible things that happened, but also that we actually care … Believe it or not, that lays the foundation for those that have been victimized to know, first of all, they’ve got some level of safety to be able to tell more of the truth."

"You cannot beat caring compassion as providing a soft landing for those that are struggling right now.”

Coyote said he has channeled the pain he and his family have felt into his music and he hopes that it will inspire future generations to speak their truth.