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Globe and Mail: The drive to my mom’s residential school was a road trip to remember

September 19, 2018 — 

The following was published in the Globe and Mail by U of M alumna Deborah Young [B.S.W. 1994, M.S.W. 2000], former executive lead of Indigenous Achievement:

Most of us have taken at least one memorable road trip in our lifetime. I have certainly done my share. But the one I remember most is the last trip I took with my mom to her residential school in Dauphin, Man.

During our life together, Mom and I spoke about many things that only mothers and daughters can share with each other. I knew residential schools existed because my parents spoke about theirs – but often at a very superficial level. Even though I thankfully never attended one, I was most certainly affected by its rippling impact. But for two days in April, 2015, I travelled back in time and saw and felt what it might have been like as a residential-school student. My mom shared openly, honestly and unfiltered. I learned so much about her in those 48 hours. It was one of the saddest, yet most poignant road trips that I have ever taken.

I was only 6 or 7 the last time I’d visited Dauphin Residential School with my parents, but then I was too young to really understand. This time, it looked much smaller than what I remembered, but aside from the size, the school looked exactly the same – light brown stones, big windows, steel-grey front doors and a three-storey student dormitory.

Mom parked her car and we walked up to the front doors. The daylight was quickly turning into twilight, casting a soft glow on the school, the grounds and an era thankfully gone, but one that should never be forgotten.

“Behind these doors is the chapel,” she said. “Let’s go down the ramp to the side, I remember there being another door there.” Just as she said that, Mom pulled on the handle and to our surprise it swung open.

As we began to walk along the old linoleum flooring, I watched my mom transform from a 70-year-old woman to a 10-year-old girl. The first story she told was the day she arrived. It is a story that I heard a million times, but I never got tired of listening; it was also the day my parents met.

She arrived in a rickety old yellow school bus after surviving a year from hell at Brandon Residential School. She remembers getting off the bus and scanning her new home. Little did she know that a 12-year-old Cree boy took notice of the new student arriving. He turned to his friend and said “That’s the girl I am going to marry.” The Cree boy was my dad.

Read the full article here

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