Residential School survivors and descendants gather for healing event

Denise Titian, November 8, 2017

Mamie Charleson and her Daughter Corrine Charleson participate in the Teechuktl Intergenerational Healing Gathering at Maht Mahs on Nov. 7. Mamie is among the 16 residential school survivors who made the gathering possible through settlement funding. (Denise Titian photos)

Port Alberni — 

The NTC Teechuktl Intergenerational Healing Gathering is drawing hundreds of residential school survivors and their families. Participants are immersed in a variety healing activities to help them put the horrible chapter that was Indian Residential School in the past so that they could find their way to a brighter, happier future.

The gathering takes place at Maht Mahs gymnasium from Nov. 7 - 9. Its theme is Suwaqsa?i, the Nuu-chah-nulth term that means ‘be yourself’.

Organizers brought in plenty of support to assist survivors and their families through the coming days including all Quu?asa staff, support workers from Tsow-tun-lelum, some cultural support workers hired from the communities and designated elders willing to sit with people to help them.

While the gathering was organized by Quu’asa, a department of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, funding for the gathering was made possible through the generous contributions of 16 Nuu-chah-nulth Residential School survivors who donated their IRSSA (Indian Residential School Settle Agreement) Personal Credits to the Quu’asa program in order to allow the healing gathering to take place.

IRSSA Personal Credits were made available to the recipients of CEP - or Common Experience Payments - following the CEP payment process, when it was discovered there was a surplus of funds. Valued at up the $3,000 each, the Personal Credits have no cash value but can be used, at the discretion of the residential school survivor, for educational purposes supporting themselves or family members. Some donated their Personal Credits to First Nations operated schools or language programs.

The sixteen Nuu-chah-nulth residential school survivors met regularly with Quu’asa staff to help plan the gathering and to develop a proposal to have the funds released for the event.

The gathering they envisioned is one that would bring residential school survivors and their loved ones together in order to have the chance to strengthen family connections and find comfort through culturally-based healing.

In a show of gratitude, each of the sixteen donors was blanketed with colorful Metis-designed wolf blankets. Through their generosity, Richard Watts said the survivors gave this gift to help the people. They are: Mamie Charleson - Hesquiaht, Lorraine Stevens – Gitxsan, Donna Lucas - Hesquiaht, Richard (Cody) and Bertha Gus – Tseshaht, Ralph Lucas – Hesquiaht, Paul Lucas – Hesquiaht, Stan Lucas – Hesquiaht, Tim Paul – Hesquiaht, Wally and Donna Samuel – Ahousaht, Alice George – Tla-qui-aht, Sylvester Charleson – Hesquiaht, Tim Sutherland – Ahousaht, John Thomas – Ahousaht and Geraldine Tom – Hesquiaht.

“It takes courage and strength to come together as a family and we say t’leco, t’leco to these 16 people that made this possible,” said Stan Matthew, Teechuktl CHS Training Coordinator.

A brushing ceremony was held for the survivors followed by a catered lunch on the opening day. The afternoon saw individuals and family groups sharing life experiences with the group.