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National museum reveals truth about residential school system

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Every time Lorraine Daniels walks into the National Indian Residential School Museum of Canada, she has said that she feels the weight of the dark and tragic legacy of the residential school system, and what it has done to her, as well as to so many Aboriginal people, for so many decades. .

“You have to reveal the truth no matter how hurtful, ugly and painful that truth is, for the truth sets us free,” said Daniels, executive director of the National Residential School Museum of Canada and a residential school survivor. by taking a tour of the museum on Tuesday.

The National Museum is housed in the building that was once the Portage la Prairie Indian Residential School, a residential school that operated from about 1915 until it closed in 1975.

But unlike many former Indian Residential Schools that were demolished after the closure, the building that once housed the former Portage la Prairie Indian Residential School still stands today and has been designated a National Historic Site.

Part of the building now houses the museum, which features historical artifacts, documents, photographs and exhibits to educate those who pass through its doors about the history of the residential school system here in Manitoba and across Canada.

The museum has several exhibits, including one showing a typical bed a child should have slept on at school, as well as a mannequin of a young child wearing a typical boarding school uniform, as well as a haircut that ‘they would have been forced to get when they showed up to school.

Daniels said the bed, uniform and hairstyle were very real to her as she remembers being forced to sleep on a similar bed and wearing a similar outfit and hairstyle when she was in. a boarding school.

She said she also remembers the loneliness she felt so many nights sleeping on one of those beds alongside so many other sad and lonely children.

“There were so many lonely nights thinking about my parents,” Daniels said. “When I was taken away I was told that I was just going on a trip and would be back soon, and then we were all put to school and told we had to stay.

“I remember a lot of us would sit and cry all night long, we cry for our parents.”

Daniels said she also grew up feeling abandoned because she didn’t realize her parents, who were also residential school survivors, were forced to send her to residential school.

“I had to do what my parents told me to do, and I didn’t ask too many questions until I was older,” she said. “I was angry with my parents for firing me, and only found out later that they were forced to send me away. ”

The museum also includes a hall that celebrates traditional Indigenous culture, a culture that the residential school system has tried to eradicate for so many years. Another table is filled with artifacts from the school, including school photos, an exhibit of the straps that teachers would use to punish children, a number of works of art, and a replica of the old one. school.

“I want people to know the truth about what happened at residential schools, and that’s why this museum is so important,” Daniels said. “We need people to be made aware of the real experiences of survivors, so that we can all heal together. ”

Anyone looking for more information on the National Indian Residential School Museum or who would like to book a tour of the museum can visit their website at nirsmuseum.ca.