According to stories I have been told by older relatives, including my dad, the level of domestic violence, sexual assault, and addiction was intertwined throughout families and the community. People died from beatings, being shot, suicides, alcoholism, and car crashes while under the influence. Children, some as young as four years old, were sexually assaulted by close relatives. Our homes were overcrowded without electricity and running water, and some only had tarpaper covering the walls to keep the heat in during the cold winter months.
I think often about where my community is today. I look at the success we have had and continue to have. Our success wasn’t without our own trauma, our own self harm, our own actions that took away from our potential. But we succeeded in spite of government indifference, spiritual oppression, and laws and policies that told our people we were less than those Canadians who didn’t look like us.
Somehow my community ended up following a path that raised a generation of people up from a very dark place. I believe it was the opportunity of finding meaningful work at a mine that was in our traditional territory. In 1949, the Renabie gold mine started operations. Many of our men from my community went to work there. Unlike today, the company built a town at the mine to house the families and workers. Those men from the community who went to work there brought their families, and they received more than adequate housing. For the first time in their life, they had running water, toilets inside their houses, electricity and safer fuel oil stoves.