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My name is Eddy Charlie and I am a survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School.
I was taken away from my home at the age of 5 years old and placed in a residential school like all the other 150,000 children were. I was hurt really bad as a child growing up in these schools. The amount of sexual and physical abuse that happened to me was frightening. It got so bad, so frequent, that I tried committing suicide while I was in the school. I couldn’t handle it anymore. It was getting too much.They were picking kids off the floor and taking them up to a room where they were abused. When I came home I started fighting with my family. I didn’t feel like I had a home. I didn’t feel like I was a part of my family. I started trying to find ways to deal with the anger and pain I felt. I started drinking when I was very very young, and it became my form of self-medication and a coping mechanism that I used for over 30 years of my life.
I quit drinking about 25 years ago, and for the first time I had an opportunity to look at that past that I walked, and I tried to start understanding why I changed and how the affect of residential schools changed my family members and the people in my community. I look around today and I see that we have the lowest percentage of graduates of any community and of any cultural background. When you have a 2% success rate of graduates in an indigenous community, that’s not good at all. 30 years ago, our employment rate was non-existent.
Nowhere in our history books is there a written history of what happened to 150,000 children in these schools. These survivors of residential schools are being shamed into silence. If we stop talking about what happened, it will die with the last residential school survivor, and it will be as if residential schools did not happen. I don’t want this history to die. I want it to be told over and over and over again until it is impossible that we forget.
I don’t want to share my story and for people to feel sympathy, I want them to understand. Too often we tell our stories and people come up and provide answers to how we can begin healing.
When people begin to understand it gives us an opportunity to receive ownership of the path that each one of us walks. I know that true reconciliation will probably never happen in my lifetime, or my children’s lifetime, but today we are opening that possibility of reconciliation by sharing our stories of the residential school legacies and the history.https://www.youtube.com/embed/ysfBMkcSHt4?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1
“Xe Xe Smun Eem (Sacred Children): Victoria Orange Shirt Day, follows Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray who have brought Phyllis Webstad’s event, Orange Shirt Day, to Victoria B.C. Eddy Charlie is a residential school survivor and Kristin Spray is a non-Indigenous ally, and together they want to bring awareness to the harm that residential schools caused. Through awareness, they hope to create a conversation where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike can feel safe to be a part of.”