What would you do to protect your child?

Gélpcal Joseph recently shared this on his Facebook page and gave me permission to share it here. It’s an important perspective and imaginative act, for those of us who grew up with the privilege of knowing that the government, schools and other authorities had our best interests in mind and wanted to help our children flourish, as opposed to working with a political agenda to break us into pieces. To glean some understanding about what that must have been like, to have the power of the state levelled against you, I think, goes a long way towards shifting the narrative away from indigenous people as victims/alcoholics to survivors of something cataclysmic.

Xetólacw Community School students explored this, with the help of elder Harry Dick, in a short film, Taken Away.

It’s really unthinkable. And yet. And yet. It happened.

Taken Away from The Cinematheque on Vimeo.

I think it’s beholden on us, all of us, not to turn away from the unthinkable part of this. I’d really rather not think about it. But to genuinely acknowledge it.

“It’s a radical act to let things hurt.”


Joseph explains in his post that their love for their children is what was exploited, and used against them. And he shares the story from an unnamed elder, who explained how some children were kept safe from the schools, by being hidden in Whistler.

LOVE was the greatest weapon, the greatest tool the government and church had. The children were told that their parents would go to jail if they did not go to these schools. The Parents were told that if they were in jail they’d never get to visit their babies ever again. The choice was left to the family, this is how it was coerced. Sure, the parents could fight, get beaten, thrown into jail… and the children taken anyways. This is what strengthened the alcoholism: parents felt bad for not fighting, the older children grew up thinking their choice broke their parents hearts. Alcohol was the medicine of forgetfulness, the medicine that made you numb. It aided in dealing with the physical/psychological/verbal/sexual/mental abuse that was experienced…..the cycle passed on…and continues….

An Elder in Lil’wat told me that they had places in Whistler where families would hide their children, clear of the reservation, Indian Agents, The Church and other Authority Figures. The girls would be out at Lost Lake…and the boys would be across from Nesters Square Area, where the old Boot Pub was. The Elder had always wondered why they where out there, away from the village and the people. They grew up and found out they where being protected and kept safe away from the church and their schools.

Kukstum kacw, Gélpcal Joseph.

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