My inspiration for writing the Matawapit Family Series came from the many talks I had with my Dad, who attended two. The purpose of these schools was to assimilate Canada’s First People into Western society. The schools had a devastating impact on the aboriginal population. The Matawapit Family Series touches on the intergenerational trauma the people continue to experience. Throughout the years, many Indigenous people have shared their stories, which I did a previous blog post about called Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.
I asked my father to guest blog today and speak about his experience as we celebrate the release of the second book in the series, Redeemed. Don’t forget to enter the Raffelcopter giveaway at the end of the post.
1. What makes me think that I qualify to talk abut the Indian Residential School?
Maybe it’s because I did spend nine years in two Indian Residential Schools. Let me tell you a bit about them.
The first school that I attended was St. Marguerite’s Indian Residential School. This school, located on Agency Indian Reserve land, was only a half mile from my home on Couchiching Indian Reserve. I attended and lived in this school in the years 1948 to 1955. A total of seven years and completing Grade 8. Being only a half mile from my home on Couchiching, I was allowed to go home each Sunday from 12 noon until 7 o’clock in the evening. That made me more lucky than those children from more distant Native communities. I left that school at 15 years old.
The second school that I attended was the St. Charles Garnier Indian Residential School. This school was approximately 1,000 miles from my home. It was located about one mile south of a little town called Spanish. Spanish is on Ontario Highway #17, about 75 miles west of Sudbury. I spent two years at this school. Grade 9 in 1955-56 and Grade 10 in 1956-57. When I went to this school, I left home in September and returning home the following year at the end of June. I was gone from home for 10 straight months. No going home, even at Christmas! The first year was tough. The second was a lot easier. I guess I got used to being away from home. This was an all boys’ school run by the Jesuit Order of Priests and Brothers. I completed Grade 10 and left this school at 17 yeas old.
2. How can Glenn still go to that church? That Roman Catholic Church that was so closely associated with the St. Marguerite’s Indian Residential School (1906-1962)?
This question has been asked about me but it’s never bee asked directly of me! So I reply!
I left the Indian Residential School system at 17 years old! A very angry young man! I had almost nothing to do with that church and it’s supposed teachings. I was married in that church! Our four children were baptized in that church! But that was it for me. I would drop off my wife and children at the church on Sunday and would pick them up an hour later. It wasn’t until I was about 40 years old that I finally realized that being angry wasn’t working! And, that forgiving and healing was a “better road” to walk than the “bitter road” that I was on. As part of my healing, I first abandoned my life of alcohol. I then returned to God and the Church for the support that I needed. I discovered that the way Christianity was being taught was completely different than the way it was forced on us, as children, in the Indian Residential School. To make my point, I quote a young man who attended a Residential School in Norway House, Manitoba. He said this, “He cried out and told the world about his abuse and suffering, but he did not blame! With his gift of compassion, he forgave his perpetrators!” That’s how I have been trying to live for this past 40 years. That’s what you will hear when I speak about the Indian Residential Schools! And, most precious, I thank God for allowing me to keep my family, especially through those very bad years from when I was 24 to 34 years old.
3. Little boys are meant to be with their mothers! Mothers who will love them and teach them. She will comfort them when they are afraid or hurting. Mothers who will provide loving care they need and she will watch them grow. There is no “exact substitute” for a mother and her loving care. That’s the kind of loving care that I was denied from the age of 8 years old until I was 17 years old.
4. In conclusion I say these very important words! These schools should have never existed! To kill another peoples’ culture is wrong. I can easily understand when people are angry. There is much to be angry about! The way that my mind was developed in my young, growing years, on many occasions today, 70 years later, still controls my way of thinking! And I say, it is up to each individual what path we choose to walk. The bitter road or the better road!
“When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training and mode thoughts are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly pressed on myself, as the head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”
–John A. McDonald, PM, House of Commons 1883, Promoting “Residential” Schools to replace “Day Schools.”
THE MATAWAPIT FAMILY SERIES
In the wilds of Northwestern Ontario, the adult children of a domineering Ojibway church deacon find their faiths crumbling and their beliefs faltering when a vengeful former lover, an ex-fiancé out on parole, and a seductive family enemy challenge Emery, Bridget, and Jude in a duel of love, loyalty, and values that threatens to destroy their perfect Catholic lives and family.
Series: The Matawapit Family 2 of 4
Author: Maggie Blackbird
Genre: Multi-cultural, contemporary, inspirational romance
A single woman battles to keep her foster child from his newly-paroled father—a dangerous man she used to love.
Blurb: Bridget Matawapit is an Indigenous activist, daughter of a Catholic deacon, and foster mother to Kyle, the son of an Ojibway father—the ex-fiancé she kicked to the curb after he chose alcohol over her love. With Adam out on parole and back in Thunder Bay, she is determined to stop him from obtaining custody of Kyle.
Adam Guimond is a recovering alcoholic and ex-gangbanger newly-paroled. Through counselling, reconnecting with his Ojibway culture and twelve-step meetings while in prison, Adam now understands he’s worthy of the love that frightened him enough to pick up the bottle he’d previously corked. He can’t escape the damage he caused so many others, but he longs to rise like a true warrior in the pursuit of forgiveness and a second chance. There’s nothing he isn’t willing to do to win back his son–and Bridget.
When an old cell mate’s daughter dies under mysterious circumstances in foster care, Adam begs Bridget to help him uncover the truth. Bound to the plight of the Indigenous children in care, Bridget agrees. But putting herself in contact with Adam threatens to resurrect her long-buried feelings for him, and even worse, she risks losing care of Kyle, by falling for a man who might destroy her faith in love completely this time.
Adam’s throat wouldn’t stop constricting. A hard ball formed at the base of his neck.
This visit was about his son. If he looked at Bridget again in the sleeveless blouse baring her sleek arms that she used to wrap around his shoulders, or the tight pants draping her slim thighs she’d spread wide for him, or the sexy high-heeled sandals giving him a peek at her red-painted toenails she’d caressed across his calf, or her red-painted nails she’d scratched across his back, it’d be all over for him.
He’d close his mind to her thick, long, black hair, the delicate bone structure of her face, shining midnight eyes, and sensual lips.
Kyle kept quivering, gaping at Adam. His son’s buzz cut must have been Bridget’s idea. Before his incarceration, Adam hadn’t allowed scissors to touch his only child’s black hair. Now was the time to put his anger management classes to use. If he’d been on the outside, Kyle’s hair would be halfway down his back by now.
Using the voice of the past, the one reserved for his boy that was a good three octaves higher and sweeter than maple syrup, Adam offered what he hoped was a dazzling smile and said, “Hey. You had a birthday, didn’t you?”
“What’cha got there?” Adam pointed at the bag.
“A doughnut. Mommy…Mommy let me get one.” Kyle’s tiny voice shook, barely a whisper.
“For our next visit, I’ll bring cookies. I make a mean chocolate chip cookie.”
“I…I…” The little guy kept trembling like Adam was some monster from a bad kiddie cartoon.
Adam fished the toonie from his pants pocket. He must act quick or tears would erupt from his boy, straight in front of the note-taking Hawk, who’d probably slam the brakes on Adam’s visits. “Want a pop? We can get whatever you like.”
Lower lip trembling, Kyle sadly shook his head. He shifted, stealing a peek at Bridget.
“You wanna sit over here? There’s some coloring books.” Adam pointed at the round table and tiny chairs.
“N-no.” Kyle stared at his running shoes with the words Z Men emblazoned on the sides.
Defeat dragged Adam’s shoulders downwards. He forced his sunken chest outwards. Help me, Creator. Help me and my boy reconnect.
He sat on the floor cross-legged, having done this tons of times when Kyle had been small. Under his breath, Adam hummed the Ojibway morning song.
A light glowed bathed Adam’s insides.
“That’s neat.” Kyle’s soft words echoed against Adam’s ears.
He kept singing and held out his hands for the big test.
Kyle shifted and sat cross-legged, too. His small hands shook, but he wrapped his fingers around Adam’s. Their first contact in almost four years. The warmth of Kyle’s hands, the boy’s smooth palms, and the trust he’d shown by holding hands almost melted Adam’s scarred heart.
He sang the last words of the song and squeezed Kyle’s fingers.
“Do you go to powwows? Do you wear feathers?”
Hope beat against Adam’s ribcage. They did stand a chance of becoming father and son.
“You did. I brought you with me. I put ’em right here.” Adam tapped the back of Kyle’s head where he used to attach the roach of porcupine hairs and the two feathers fastened to the spreader.
“I…I did? Wow. Can I wear it again?” Anticipation clung to Kyle’s question.
“You’ll need a new one. The old one’s too small.” Adam had better find a woman at the Kitchi-Gaming Friendship Center to make a northern traditional dance outfit for Kyle. As for money, he’d dig into his precious savings, what he’d stashed away for his new life with Kyle, for new regalia.
From the corner of his eye, he stole a peek at Bridget’s tight ruby-red lips. Her frigid glare was as hard as any man’s on the range in the pen.
“I hear you want to be an altar server.”
Kyle’s buzzed head bobbed. His long, white teeth gleamed. “I start grade two when summer’s done. Mom said when I do…um…the bread of Christ thing, I can help Father Arnold at church. It’s a really important job.” He came off his butt, leaning forward. “Uncle Emery said when he was my age he did it. He…he’s not gonna be a priest anymore. I have a new uncle now. Uncle Darryl. Uncle Emery got married. He married Uncle Darryl.”
“Your mom told me in her last letter.”
“Mom said you finished the big school.”
“Where the big kids go.”
“Oh, high school.” Adam had better take a refresher on kid speak. “Yep. Dad finished high school when he was away.”
“Where’d you go?” Kyle tilted his head and puckered his lips. “Why’d you go away?”
Adam inched his hand forward and stroked Kyle’s fuzzy head of prickly hair. When the boy didn’t draw back, Adam’s breathing seemed to simmer like the relaxing shower he had last night.
“We’ll talk about it another time. I want you to understand I didn’t want to leave or go away that long.”
“Then why’d you go?” Kyle’s large eyes drooped at the corners.
“I had to. Sometimes we gotta do things we don’t wanna. But I’m back now. I’m not going anywhere.”
The sharp intake of breath belonged to Bridget. Adam looked over his shoulder at his ex-fiancée’s rigid jaw and eyes colder and harder than onyx.
She didn’t believe him? She believed he’d return to his old ways? He not only wanted Kyle back, he wanted Bridget back. They were the reason Adam had kept his head low in the pen.
As the counselor had said, Adam deserved happiness like anyone else. This time he wouldn’t run in fear from what Creator offered. And Creator was offering Adam a second chance—his son and a new life with Bridget.
Series: The Matawapit Family 1 of 4
Author: Maggie Blackbird
Genre: Multi-cultural, contemporary, inspirational, LGBT romance
A mixed-blood Catholic seminarian struggles to discern his true calling: the priesthood or his ex-lover, a proud but damaged Ojibway man.
Blurb: It’s been ten years since Emery Matawapit sinned, having succumbed to temptation for the one thing in his life that felt right, another man. In six months he’ll make a life-changing decision that will bar him from sexual relationships for the rest of his life.
Darryl Keejik has a decade-long chip on his shoulder, and he holds Emery’s father, the church deacon, responsible for what he’s suffered: the loss of his family and a chance at true love with Emery. No longer a powerless kid, Darryl has influence within the community—maybe more than the deacon. Darryl intends on using his power to destroy Deacon Matawapit and his church.
Hoping to save the church, Emery races home. But stopping Darryl is harder than expected when their sizzling chemistry threatens to consume Emery. Now he is faced with the toughest decision of his life: please his devout parents and fulfill his call to the priesthood, or remain true to his heart and marry the man created for him.
“They won’t miss us.” Dad stuffed his hands into his pants pockets. “We need a moment alone.”
Emery had four suitcases to unpack, his plane having landed fifteen minutes ago. If he didn’t obey, he’d get a lecture or a million questions from Dad.
The breeze from the bay ruffled Emery’s hair. A seagull fluttered high above and perched on top of the steel cross housed on the church’s steeple. The magnificent view of the sun sparkling on the water and numerous trees peppering the shoreline was the best place to have a parish and rectory.
“You tired?” Dad stopped in front of the walking path.
“No. I’d really like to get settled.”
Dad frowned. “Is something wrong? You seemed a little preoccupied during the drive.”
How could Emery voice his concerns? His parents lived by smile, pray, minister, serve, and positivity. They didn’t want to see Emery, their sinful, fault-filled son full of weakness. “I’ve never been here for two months. I’m figuring out how I’ll pass the time.”
“I’ve taken care of everything. There’s the summer Bible camp I’m hosting—”
If Emery didn’t speak up, there went his purpose for coming home. “While I’m staying at the rectory, and even though I’m on holidays, I’m a seminarian, accountable to St. Michael’s Seminary and the bishop.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dad’s brows narrowed. “I accepted your decision to stay at the rectory. You’re discerning and belong among the presbyters, however, I’m still your father. I have over thirty years of experience as a deacon. I’ve witnessed a lot of priests come and go—”
Emery firmed his voice but kept his tone calm. “I think it’s up to me to discern where the Lord’s calling me to help.”
Dad raised his finger, something he’d annoyingly done over the years. “I’ve looked after this church since you were eight. Many times we were without priests. Do you remember? You were ten, and the bishop took six months to send Father Mercure. Who conducted the funerals, the weddings, the communion services, the baptisms, and anything else within my mandate? I think I have about as much knowledge and experience as Father Bennie.”
Dad and Darryl should sit in the same room and see who could out-bullhead the other. “And your services are much appreciated by the parish and Christ. Still, only a priest can recite Mass, give reconciliation, and anoint the sick…”
Dad’s jaw slackened.
Although Emery’s diplomatic approach had failed, he’d keep speaking. If he didn’t stand up to the most obstinate individual in the community, he’d never be able to lead a parish. May God give me strength and wisdom.
“… which is why I’m discerning. I appreciate the sacrifice you made by choosing the vocation of marriage. A son can’t ask for more than what you’ve given me. God did call me instead of you to seminary.”
When Dad smiled, his big dark eyes crinkled. “Quite true. He asked me to raise you so one day you’d follow His will by bringing the sacraments to our people. God decides our roles well before the thought enters our minds. I’m glad you understand.”
Thank goodness tactfully standing firm had worked. “Yes, I do. You raised me to discern my future based on His will and the teachings of the Church, instead of my own selfish ambitions.”
But what had been wrong about a seventeen-year-old boy wanting a tiny bit of something to call his own? No, Emery must put aside teenaged secular desires because they were no more than youthful dreams.
“God called me to serve the underprivileged. I felt it here ever since I was a kid.” Emery tapped his chest. “I obtained my degree so I could help the aboriginal people living on the streets, in difficult situations, or those in prison—”
“You’ll do even better work as a priest.” Dad patted Emery’s shoulder. “You make me proud. A Bachelor of Social Work and soon a Master of Divinity. I’ve raised children who think of the needs of others instead of their own.”
For once, couldn’t Dad let Emery finish instead of putting words in his mouth? Each night he thanked God for blessing him with a great family, but at times, like right now, they squeezed the air from his lungs. The same went for Darryl. Emery wasn’t a piece of rope in a tug-o-war to be yanked by all three determined to have their way while overlooking what he desired.
“You’re quiet again. There’s something you’re not telling me.” Dad frowned.
“There’s a lot on my mind.” Now wasn’t the time to maintain a firm stance. The bones of Emery’s neck grated against one another. A trip to the church to visit Christ and reflect was imperative. “Father Arnold and I are web conferencing next week. He’s a big help and always puts my doubts at ease.”
“Take full advantage of his wisdom. Remember, Father Bennie and I are here for you, too.” The lines around Dad’s eyes softened. “You’re not doing this alone. Nobody does it alone. It’s why most of the faculty reside at seminary. It’s also why seminarians stay at the rectory during their internships. The secular world can manipulate a man by planting seeds of doubt. The same goes for certain… people.”
Dad folded his arms. “I won’t ask why you and Darryl ended your friendship. I do think your decision to cut ties was a smart move. You two come from different worlds and have different beliefs.”
His face reddened. “I tried speaking to Darryl this morning. He claimed to be busy. He’s not the boy you once knew. The Traditionalists Society has one goal—to reform the reserve to its old ways.”
“I’m aware of his position and mandate. It’s not surprising he’s serving on band council and overseeing the self-governance project.”
“He’s influenced quite a few young people.” Dad’s square jaw tightened. “And turned those kids against the Church. I had hoped to attend one of the men’s sharing circles, how-ever, I was informed I need to join the Society first, which I won’t.
“Stay strong. When Roy spoke to Darryl, he wouldn’t relent, even for you. When Roy reminded Darryl of your past friendship, he brushed it off as nothing.” Dad’s voice was the same serious tone he used when preaching.
Darryl’s animosity was worse than what Emery had anticipated. Maybe he should concentrate his efforts elsewhere. If he turned the other cheek, Darryl would give it a good whack.
To steady his voice, Emery sucked in a breath. “I’m sorry he’s upset. It’s expected.”
Dad grinned. “You make me proud. Come. Let’s help your mother finish unpacking. An iced tea sounds good.”
Emery trudged to the rectory. He set his hand against his chest.
Darryl won’t give me a chance, Lord. He… hates me. I’ll do as You ask, though, because You’re my Savior. I won’t lose faith where You are leading me.
He wouldn’t lose faith. He couldn’t lose faith. The church and laity were depending on him to stand strong against the Traditionalists Society.
COMING SOON IN THE SERIES:
Book Three, Sanctified and Book Four, Renewed
ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER
Serving the area reserves as a Fire Prevention Officer for thirty-four years, Glenn is now retired and works as the band’s genealogist. Volunteering for the reserve’s fire department for forty-two years, he hung up his bunker gear on December 31, 2008. He is active in his church and served on the Pastoral Council for almost thirty years. He also sat at the reserve’s leadership table as a band councillor for six terms. This coming July of 2019, he will celebrate forty-five years of sobriety.
You can find Glenn’s story about the Indian Residential School in the book Dire Needs Dire Straits by Jack Hedman.
Glenn enjoys golfing, walking, spending time with his children, grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He’s a man who always welcomes visitors to the church basement (where he can usually be found) for a cup of coffee and a good chat.
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