Caution: Given the subject matter of this story – help is available by calling the National Residential School support line at any time at 1-866-925-4419. Also Hope for Wellness Help Line toll-free at 1-855-242-3310, or by online chat at hopeforwellness.ca.
Grade Six students at College Park are hearing firsthand from a local Residential School survivor about what she experienced.
Rose Watchmaker attended St. Anthony’s Residential School on the Onion Lake Cree Nation for 5 years before going to Day School. She is now 74-years old and is one of three surviving siblings from a family of twelve.
With schools participating in Aboriginal Storytelling this month, Olivia Dawson was one of the students who listened to the presentation in the library. She says we can all learn from this so it won’t happen again.
“We learned about how it impacted her and a lot of other people at Residential Schools – and what happened there and things they could do to you, if you ran away or did something they did not like.”
Watchmaker shared that they got the strap as a form of punishment.
She says they were fed watery oats and a piece of bread. Some peanut butter was added on weekends with a beef broth. Their dessert was sometimes two pieces of shortbread. They weren’t given any fruits. They would steal apples and other fruits from the priests and nuns which would result in punishment.
Watchmaker says she has dealt with a lot in her life and she is a strong woman. Part of her healing is to be able to share about what happened at Residential Schools. She is concerned about addictions in the community among young people.
“I grew up in a family where there was nothing. And it was so simple – life was so simple. Today we are dealing with people that are into alcohol, drugs and even crystal meth. We have so much of that going on that it’s killing our younger generation.”
Watchmaker has had six children and three of her sons have passed. She has 21 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. She says her family keeps her going.