First Nations Housing and Infrastructure Council was fortunate to receive a grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage in the fall of 2022. This generous funding allowed us to create the Coming Home Storytelling Series. This series features four Indian residential school survivors, who shared their stories of love, survival, and coming home.
Sam Bob's traditional name is Tulkweemult’ of the Snaw-Naw-us First Nation, which is commonly known as Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. He is a professional actor of stage, tv and film. He is nationally renowned in the First Nation’s art community. Sam was raised on the Nanoose Indian reserve (sic) till he was 3 years old, then lived with his grandmother for 3 years till he was 6 years old. He was 6 when he was taken away to Kuper Island residential school along with his brother Jim (rip) and his sisters Lorna and Kat Norris (rip). His late mother Sally also attended that same Kuper Island school when she was a child. His father Jimmy Bob attended Port Alberni residential school. The family were all affected by residential school trauma. Each family member experiencing the separation and physical, emotional and sexual abuse at these schools. Sam saw these damaging residential school affects first hand. Sam’s mother Sally moved her children away from the jurisdiction of those schools by relocating her children to the city and then to Los Angelas California. Her intention was to have her children be raised with a sense of independence and free will, away from the racist conditioning of residential school. Sam attended public school in Los Angeles from grades 3 to grade 10 and then moved back to Canada, where Sam graduated from a Vancouver secondary school.
Sam had a family, raising 4 children. All four children are doing well, one is getting her masters in nursing, one a masters in education, the oldest daughter is an office manager and a son in construction. Sam is 18 years sober and commends sobriety as his primary tool in overcoming the negative effects of residential school. Alcoholism was Sam's way of self medicating to allay the trauma of residential school. There is a health care notion about ‘family systems’ with counseling and healing aspects, Sam has been a first hand witness to the breakdown of family systems due to the trauma residential schools inflicted upon each of his siblings and his parents. Issues of abandonment, self esteem, trust issues, institutionalization, and alienation were all roadblocks in the recovery from early childhood trauma.
Sam is looking forward to participating in this project to help enlighten the world about the effects of colonization on our people. Colonization being an attack on our lands and our families. Colonization being Canada’s historic policy, in combination with the church and the police and government offices, to deal with the “Indian problem” by attacking our families. Our First Nations, each of our communities, and our families and individuals now fight to counter the generational effect of residential schools. My father says, and I agree, that "this was an act of genocide on our people".
Ruby Dawson Cranmer
Ruby Dawson Cranmer is from Kingcome Inlet, B.C. She is of the Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw descent, the Kwakwak'wakw speaking peoples. Ruby comes from a long line of Chief's and Noblewomen. Her parents are Chief William "Whale" Dawson and Nula ( nee Willie ) Dawson. They had 17 sons and daughters! Ruby would always joke and say, "There must've been really cold winters in Kingcome!" Out of 17 brother's and sister's, there is only 3 siblings left. Her father hosted many Potlatches over the decades (during the Potlatch Prohibition).
After finishing grade 12 in St. Michaels Residential School, Ruby was sent to secretarial school in Vancouver. After that, she moved to Alert Bay, where she worked secretarial for the ' Namgis Nation. She got married and had 4 children. Ruby is a true survivor of many things that happened to her in her young life. She lived and survived the evils/ horrors of the St. Michaels and Port Alberni Residential Schools, and also spent years in the Tuberculosis hospital in Nanaimo. Despite these hardships, Ruby can still speak fluently her native language to this day. Ruby wrote a book called T’sit’sa̱k’ala̱mes Ruby: Ruby’s stories, a collection of 18 stories in Kwak’wala.
Ruby moved to Vancouver with her children in the early 70's as single mother. Ruby was a Cultural teacher at Vancouver Native Education for many years and she had a Cultural dance group. They sang and danced for many events in Vancouver, including Expo 86 and prisons. Ruby was hired to teach her language to linguistic students out of UBC, and now she teaches out of her home. Ruby loves spending time with her family, especially her Great Grandchildren! She loves sharing her culture, singing, dancing and teaching her language still at 83 years young! She especially loves going home to feasts and potlatches!
Please see below some words from Raymond Charlie:
I am honoured that our survivors will be remembered and also to be asked as well. I am a survivor of two Residential schools, Kuper Island and St. Mary’s at Mission City. These two places have left me with impacts and trauma in my life. At Kuper Island I had dental and sexual abuse, at St. Mary’s I had physical abuse. Like many survivors this left me with many issues in my life to deal with including alcoholism. Which has been so challenging for me to live with daily.
I was asked to be in a film 25 years ago, “Kuper Island, return to the healing circle”. My brother James and I did part 2 which was shown in May. I also work with and Elder’s group, we give workshops about history of colonialism, Residential schools-our stories. We have had over 17,000 individuals mostly teachers from around the world. Who are getting their Masters degree. I have given many sessions my self to groups, I also speak at schools to children as they are learning about Residential schools today. I have also written my Story now, “In the shadow of the Red brick building.” It took over 7 years to write, it is now available to public. Inquiries can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fay Blaney is a Xwemalhkwu woman of the Coast Salish Nation. She is deeply committed to issues affecting Indigenous women. As an educator and activist, she has devoted her heart and knowledge to educating and mobilizing Canadians to better understand the impacts of colonization, capitalism, racism and patriarchy on First Nations women. Having survived St. Mary’s and Sechelt Residential School, Fay takes a variety of strategies in building awareness about Residential Schools.
As a founding member of the Aboriginal Women's Action Network, her passion extended into the national and international arenas. AWAN's participatory action research projects addressed issues of (1) citizenship for First Nations women in communities of origin, and (2) male violence against Native women. Fay's involvement with the Women's Memorial March Committee in Vancouver’s downtown eastside extends over 20 years, and in the previous years, she has served as chair of that committee. She was called upon as an expert witness for the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and has since completed a national educational project on mmiwg. Currently Fay has returned to her own community and is in the process of developing a Sexual Violence Program. Living on her Reserve, she is actively involved in several committees and is acutely interested in the Language Committees.