Learning from Residential School Survivors

Friday, December 13, 2019
Learning from Residential School Survivors by Lily Maryo (MTS Student)

Lily MaryoDuring Orientation Week this fall, Grebel’s graduate programs in Theological Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies organized a learning trip to the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario. The Centre includes an interactive museum, art gallery, an Indigenous library, and language resources centre, all established at the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School historic site. The knowledgeable staff shared a lot about the Indigenous people, their history, and their beliefs. 

The trip to the Cultural Centre impacted how I understand and do theology. The trip opened my eyes to things that I usually avoid or do not think of. It made me realize the importance of acknowledging the history, culture, beliefs, and language of others when introducing the Christian God. I also learned the importance of being sensitive to, and respectful of, views of others.

I had many questions after the trip. How can I speak of God again, since the name of God was used to oppress people? How can I share the word of God or disclose that I am a Christian? I was embarrassed to learn about the evil things that humans can do to each other. I accept that we might not have answers to all past events, but we can learn from them. We can be respectful, open-minded, and curious enough to learn about others who seem different than us, instead of judging them. 

The trip inspired me to reflect on my history, identity, and life, and I realized that most of the time I avoid revealing and speaking about past events if they are uncomfortable. However, we must discuss unpleasant events so we do not repeat the same mistakes. Now I realize the influence of colonization in the way I speak and perceive things, and I am encouraged to talk about things that I usually avoid. This trip taught me about the importance of dialogue and true forgiveness. To discuss past events, to ask for forgiveness, and to repent from doing evil is what God would want us to do. 

I recommend that anyone who has not been to the Mohawk Cultural Centre go and hear the testimony of the residential school survivors. There is much to learn from them.