April 17th, 2024

Elder tells convention about residential school journey

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on February 24, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Keynote speaker Elder Christina Fox shares her experience in residential school and her healing journey through song during the last day of SWATCA convention Friday morning at the First Choice Saving Centre at the University of Lethbridge.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The South Western Alberta Teachers Convention concluded Friday by starting the day with keynote speaker Elder Christina Fox sharing her story about her journey in residential school and her healing process thereafter, before teachers took part of multiple seminars and activites throughout the day.

In her address, Fox shared parts of her book “My Suitcase: Nii Sookayis” with more than a hundred educators in attendance, many of them unable to hold back tears while listening to her story.

She recalled her first memory of residential school trying to imagine what her parents were going through, which she said it is something she still wonders about to this day.

“I always thought about how my parents were feeling when they were walking me to the building, how they were able to prepare themselves, how much was it hurting them knowing that I wasn’t going to come back,” said Fox.

She said in residential schools she thought about her land acknowledgement. How the mountains gave her courage, the rivers took away her loneliness, and how one day she will stand tall like a tree, very proud and blossoming.

“I can always feel their energy telling me: you’re going home someday,” said Fox.

She also shared memories of her suitcase being taken away. A suitcase her parents helped her pack that contained a brand new hair brush, and a doll to comfort her. She said her suitcase was taken away along with her red dress and moccasins.

“I used to have beautiful long black hair, and that day my mother had braided it. I remember my beautiful braids. But they cut them off. They cut them off as a way to remove my identity, and I remember seeing my beautiful braids on the floor,” said Fox.

She said after she was able to leave the residential school, her grandparents one day took her to the mall and found a place to photograph her, in hopes it would help her regain the love for her hair, but the sound the camera triggered a panic attack.

The picture can be seen in one of the pages of her book, and she showed it to those in attendance.

While sharing her story, Fox recalled meeting her best friend while in residential school, and how to this day she can still feel his presence along with her parents with her. In order to convey the message, she sang with her guitar about her best friend, whose name is Jesus.

Throughout her address, Fox related some of her life experiences from the book, from her healing journey and her education journey to ways teachers could use their talents to be a positive light in their students’ lives.

She told those in attendance that they were all related to one another, because of the commitment they made when they entered the education field.

“A commitment to do the best you can to bring out the best in every student we encounter, and to love every parent that bring them to us because they trust us with them,” said Fox.

She told them each and every child they encounter needs to learn to live with love, with hope and with faith.

 “Our responsibility is to praise them often, appreciate them, value them and love them. To build their confidence, to accept them with love,” said Fox.

She also spoke about the importance of prayer has in her life, not only for healing and forgiving, but also for asking for guidance and she suggested those in attendance to do the same.

“Pray for your calling, pray to acknowledge it, pray to recognize it, pray to accept it. Most of all, pray to respect your calling. Your life has purpose and meaning, let the creator lead you,” said Fox.

She said prayer has help her heal and today in spite of her hardships, struggles, and pain, she has everything she needs to make today and every day a beautiful day, and everyone can do the same.

“All your gifts, all your talents, store them in your heart, so when it is time to share they come out like beautiful butterflies,” said Fox.

She told the audience to fill their suitcases with things they love, things that tell their story and share their gifts with the world.

And at the end, she performed a ceremonial transfer where she prayed for everyone in attendance and their families in song.

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