"Any similarity with fictitious events or characters was purely coincidental."
Indian Day School Class Action Settlement:
Under penalty of boarding school strapping, I make the oath and say:
I was born in August, 1960 and attended the Fort Bas de la Riviere school in Fort Maurepas Indian Reserve from the age of nine to age eighteen. All of my siblings attended the school. My siblings are: Mike, Xavier, Sophie, Brian, Ambrose, Alma, Anne, Lynne.
Narrative of Experience:
I can remember the classroom when I first went to the Fort Bas de la Riviere School. Not sure why it was called that or even what it meant at the time. I believe was in grade 3 or grade 4. When I think back on the school days, many of the yeas get blended together. The classroom we were in was big and it was two classes in one room. An accordion divider was used to separate the two classrooms. The teachers were Miss Rainbow, who later become Mrs. Silver and the other teacher was Mr. McTavish. I remember the teachers wore collared shirts, ties and coat jackets to work, while the female teachers wore dresses. The classrooms, we the smaller kids were in the north side. The older kids were in the hall to the east. The south hall had the gym, the administration office and the Home Ec room.
The rules of the school were pretty strict. The teachers were the rulers. Ms Rainbow and Mr Mctavish were tame compared to the other teachers. Mr. Weatherbee, Mr. Pallister, Mr. Pauls, Bruce Longley, Fred Toes, Lorrie Lang, Mrs. Annie, Joe Mast, and a host of others. It is quite funny on how things were when I think back. The things were accepted as normal were not so normal after all. After hearing the experiences of other people outside the community, I see things were different. Some things were funny. I remember being scared by Mr. Weatherbee. He told us all our teeth were going to fall out and we were going to have mouths like fish because we hardly eat meat anymore and mostly soup. He told us that zinc was the lightest metal and the measuring cups n the class were made of zinc alloy. Funny now but I was scared to lose my teeth as a kid.
As a young kid I was timid, not shy but rather scared and sensitive. The atmosphere in the school was hit and miss, some good days, and a lot of being bullied days. I know there are bullies everywhere and it is a fact of school life. In our school it was normal to be bullied, not by the fellow students but by the teachers as well. I know now the school experience shaped a lot of my childhood, teenage, and adult years. I went from being sensitive, fairly smart and caring to an angry person who had rage issues and negative view of myself: questioning my sexuality and reason for living. As I write this I wonder how can it be easy to open up about the childhood. Like watching an adult jack-off a dog in front of us all the while laughing as a number of the boys just stood around and laughed. For me I have been writing for years now.
There was one teacher who I look back on and I think he was unhinged, Mr. Fred Toes. He had black slick back hair and those dark Buddy Holly glasses and he wore a white dress shirt. He was funny at times, could joke around and make you the kids laugh. But there were times when he would throw a book, a chalk eraser or whatever was handy and hit you. I still wonder what set him off. He would grab you and yank right out of the desk in a frenzied attack. He would be joking one minute and the next you would be on the end of a book beating or thrown out of your desk. It was weird because this wild behaviour was normal. After a few moments the class would go on like it never happened. You would either cry or in shock in the aftermath. I still wonder why he did what he did. I was not a loud student or think of myself as a trouble maker student. So why he hit me in the head with a chalk eraser, and throw me out of my desk? I guess I will never know what made this guy so angry. He made you scared but you still let your guard down because he could be funny and make you feel okay. I was not singled out by him because he was mean and vicious to many of the students. He was just a mean spirit. I could never reconcile his attacks on me and what in my attitude or behaviour deserved me to be hit and tossed around.
There was our gym teacher who was a pervert. He ended up marrying an older Indian woman in the Reserve. So it is kind of hard exposing him. He made it known he was a gymnast in his youth. So he would get the students to face him, sitting on the gym floor and do stretches. He would sit on the floor so the kids (Us) would mimic him. He sat spread legged on the floor. So everyone would do the same. He wore short white gym shorts with no underwear. So his penis and scrotum was there for us to see. He also would make sure to stand on a table while we were playing volleyball. He would be up high so the kids would be able to see up his shorts. He knew what he was doing. The girls would talking about him school hall, saying things like, "err did you see his plude?" Plude is colloquial term in the Reserve for penis. Not only was he a pervert he was also a bully. He liked to kick the kids in the arse. He once kicked me right in the jaw as a kid. I never forgot the hurt he caused me When I was 20 or so I was in the local bar with my friend and I saw him, Joe Mast there. I confronted him for kicking me in the jaw. I said, "remember when you kicked me in the jaw?" He said with no fear, no shame, "it was long time ago, forget about it." This just deflated the whole confrontation. So I forgot about it and my friend just teased about the whole thing.
The teaching staff were devoid of humanity. Not all of them of course, but many of them. Mr. Pallister will come up for many a student. This short large man was pure mean. He locked me in the locker for an afternoon. I was not the only one he did this to. He was well known for hitting your fingers with a heavy ruler, the teacher kind. He made a game of it. He made the students put their hands on the desk and he would go around looking at your finger nails. We were kids in the country, of course our nails were going to be dirty. So he would strap our fingers. It was his attitude and his words that hurt as well. You were dirty, you were unclean, never going to be anything because you will not finish school. He was not what you call a positive motivator.
Mr. Pauls, was a principal at the school for a short period of time when I was about twelve years old. I remember him because of his weird strap routine. He strapped me, Rudy and Norm on our bare bums. He took us in his office one at a time and strapped us. I remember Norm was the first one and Rudy the second one. Their horrific screams still resonate with me. I sat in the outer office waiting for my turn. I was older than the other two. He made me pull my pants down to show my bare bum and be put over a chair and strapped me. He used those big canvas rubber straps the teachers all had. I wonder why the bare bum thing? Was it to humiliate us further? Was it a sexual thing? I mean who makes you expose your bare bum and genitals to them? We were kids and he was an adult. I remember him.
I think Lorie Land didn't like Indians. She was a strange one. Her accent made her a target of teasing behind her back, but I think she enjoyed the punishment part of her job. She didn't use the strap like other teachers, but she used a yard stick. She had you stretch put out your arms and hold open your hands. Then she would two-handed whip the yard stick onto your hands. Really hurt and sting badly.
Mrs. Annie, I think that was her name, was cruel with her words. For some reason Savage was a name we all were called. Maybe she picked it up from the Nuns because they called us that. There no Aboriginal or no Indigenous folk, just Savage Indians. So it was normal to be called Savage. One of the other terms we were called was Cochon. This term was a favorite of certain teachers.
Going down memory lane is no easy task when it comes to revisiting the Fort Bas de la Riviere School days. We have to think about Mr. Weatherbee and his bullying behaviour. This guy made me kneel in the middle of the gym for an afternoon. I was just a kid and the pain was excruciating. He was one of the big strapping teachers. When I say "strapping", he was "strap the kids happy" teacher. He used to strap all the time. He was a big round guy who used his size to intimidate. Kids called him the "red lobster" behind his back because he was loathed by the whole school.
The teachers were from a different time. The experiences we faced cannot be normal. i ad my first dental examination at our school and can remember my first needle. Big trailer truck would also pull up and we got needles, the TB shots. I remember the dentist used the Home Ec classroom as the dentist office. Not sure but I guess Indian Affairs sent Dentists into the Reserve to check our teeth. The Dentist was not a nice person. He called me a bastard and slapped me across my face. I guess I was probably not opening my mouth wide enough. Scary experience for me as a little kid.
I think about the students and teachers who went out with each other as went into our teenage years. This one teacher who was Eastern European, got a young girl pregnant. He ended up marrying her. His name was Otto Wolf. A friend of mine was about 16 and he along with another cousin of mine, were going out with the Principal of the school. They talked about what she would do to them. I know of another young girl in the Reserve who got pregnant from a teacher. All these years later she is in a sad state; an addict. Another teacher was going out with a high school student. No one I think said anything about the teachers going with students. I guess it was considered normal. Some of the teachers would invite students to drinking parties at their residences. The Reserve did have teacher housing. Kids as young as 14 would go to some of the parties. I think this one girl in the Reserve acted like going with an older teacher was a proud thing. At least it seemed like it.
The bullies in the school were not only teachers. Of course the teachers had the power, but the older kids had size on their side as well. Both girls and boys were part of the bully section. There were these bigger boys for example: Toad, Horse, Ruthie, Brian, Calvin, Ralph, Horton, all who just took pleasure in the torturing of the smaller and weaker. The bigger boys had a ritual, a game of slapping you in the testicles. There was never any warning. You would be walking by or standing in the hall and whack the bully would slap you in the crotch. There didn't seem to ever be repercussions to the students for their bullying. I mean what were you going to do when this happen, go tell the teacher? I remember this one kid was at the chalk board writing and a student went up to him and pulled his pants down as his back was turned. His pants and underwear fell to the floor. The kid turned around to a classroom of laughter. A friend of mine was bullied daily for almost a whole year. He would sitting in his desk and a group of guys would grab him in the chair and turn it over with him still sitting in it. It was horrible to watch but what could anyone do? The gym had a big shower room but I never saw anyone use it.
I know some of the older students just by experience of memory. The guy who first fondled me, I only can see his brown good looking face. He had this good looking face, a big hair style - a pompadour hairstyle like Elvis. He told me he was going to touch my plude, so I ran away, but he caught me. Years later I still cannot really know which it was, Charlie, Garry, or Dude, or who knows. Another guy who acted as a good guy but he made us touch penises to each other, He was of course lot older or seemed a lot older. He tried to make us always look at his penis and touch it. He did a lot of that, touching our bums. He would put his hand down the pants and finger in the bum, trying to get his penis erect. He would smell his fingers after poking our bum and would smell it. He was older and of course we thought he was cooler, but scary at the same time. He always wore a leather wrist band and sometimes wear a jean jacket cut to look like a vest. Calvin was a pervert and bully. At first it seemed harmless, a look and that didn't hurt. But maybe we got scared, felt shame and lots of fear. You have to remember we were just kids, not even have reached puberty - hairless genitals. The school had these built in blind spots. The window areas had these white stucco dividers, part of the outer building style. The older kids would be able to climb these dividers by putting their feet on one side and their hands on the other side and walk up that way. A lot of incidents occurred in these blind spots. Not all of the incidents were not hidden. The wrestling ploy was used to grab you and he would put his hand down your pants while throwing you around and poke you. In one wrestling incident the guy scratched the bum and it really hurt. There was also a bush behind the school where hide and seek was played. The bullies and the predators liked this area. I remember this one kid had a boy poke a bum and shove the finger with moo (shit) into his mouth. These days some of those bullies have become sick and frail, while others left the Reserve not to be seen again. Some became pure killers. This one guy killed a friend of mines sister. Chopped her body up. This same guy had killed a girl in the Reserve before by drowning her. The witness was never believed. The killer was a viscous monster. I wonder if some of these people ever come to the Reserve anymore?
An older friend of mine was a bully. He was skinny but liked to fight and bully people. I got really scared when he was fighting this kid and he tried to make him suck his penis. I begged him to stop. It made me feel so ugly when he tried to do this. It wasn't the last time he tried this. I know he did it to a Burns boy. He was cruel. I see him now and he is crippled, a cop beat him up. I think some of the older boys and girls were just cruel. Everybody made slingshots with the brown elastics in school. You would use your thumb and index finger and use the elastic to shoot paper at someone. It would hurt but not badly. Some of the older students took it a bit further. They would make slingshots with metal handles to make a Y. The would tie numerous elastics together for added length. They would use folded paper and sometimes paper clips as the bullets. The result was pain inflicted to everyone and welts were common. The bullies just laughed when you cried. The intent was clear, it was to hurt you. In winter snow washes were common. Snow ball throwing was another game, but not your movie style snow ball fights. Kids had their own cliques but it really didn't stop you from being hurt at some time during the school day.
Although there were lot of bullies, there were some real good kids, good people in the school as well. I remember this guy. He was handsome, friendly, and cool. He must have been about 16 but he was cool to us a bit younger than him. He had his own car. I liked him. It was my first experience with knowing someone who killed themselves. I always wondered why? It seemed like he had everything going for him. he had friends, was well liked and was cool. So wonder what happened? Was he tortured by some of the big bullies like Toad, Horse, Horton and the rest? In any case it really bothered me. Another friend took his life by hanging as well. He was smart, talented, friendly and just a good person. This guy should have gone places and been successful. He ended up taking his life in adulthood. He did struggle with the bottle. He was my friend who go tormented for a year in school. He got sick and didn't come back to the school for months.
My first attempt at suicide was when I was 16 or 17. I took a .22 rifle off the gun rack, chamber a shell, put it to my chest and pulled the trigger. Just like that, no thought, no hesitation and no reason I can think of. The hammer of the gun went click. I pulled open the chamber and took out the bullet. It had a dimple made on the shell. The shell is a rim fire so there was a clear dent in it. I was puzzled. So I put the bullet back and was going to try again. The bedroom door opened and my Mom was there saying "what are you doing?" She took the gun, put it back on the rack and told me to go to bed. I should be dead right now because my .22 had never miss fired before. Strange to this day I wonder what happened. I am alive by a fluke bullet misfire. I think back to the time, my use of alcohol, my rage, my anger, my deflated outlook on life. Another attempt to end my life was when I was 17. I stole my Mom's car, took it the whole night. I was drinking and I decided to drive right into a car. The car was driving the same direction on Highway 57. It was a station wagon and had a canoe on its roof. I rammed the care at a high speed. The car pushed the back in I crashed in the ditch. The police came and attempted to arrest me. I told them I just fell asleep. The cops used ALERT and the reading was I within the legal limit of impairment. My Mom's car was totaled and it was a miracle I was not injured.
For me school was pretty easy and I didn't put any effort but still did fine with graded marks. I never saw a future and in my head and my heart I was messed up. I think what it was I did not like myself. I saw myself on borrowed time and had no desire to achieve anything. I was friends with some good guys and girls but also had relationship with bullies and ugly people. I used people, manipulated people that it became part of my core. No matter how dreadful it was to get close to the bully I would. Now I know it was survival. A close friend of mine could have been a bully but in reality he was just tough and didn't let himself be bullied. I wish I could have been like him, he is dead now. I sucked up to some bullies and didn't like who I was. One of my old friends was also my boss in later years. He was about 10 years older than me. He was relentless in his bullying and is still that way today. I endured bullying for many years even in my adult life. I stayed in relationships with bullies. This affected me and it also reflect in how I treated my kids. I had a son who was sensitive, kind, generous, and gentle. I turned his beautiful character and made him try and be tough. I told him many times "don't crumb to people." Something I was guilty of. My son took his own life at the age of 20 and I know I had a direct hand in his death. My poor boy suffered because of my own inaction to confront the bullies as a child and as an adult. I still suffer from depression and will most likely be on medication for the rest of my life. I take anti-depression medication and have using them for more than 15 years now. The rage, the self-hate I carried caused extreme hardship to my parents, my own wife and children. When I was 16, I went on a drunken rampage, smashing my Mom's car, using a high powered rifle to shoot up the house, missing my Mom's head with a shot by no more than a foot. I shot up the school buses, and ended up being tracked down by the police. It was my fortune not to be killed by the police or killed my dear Mom or anyone else. There is no coming back from almost killing your Mom. your mind is in Hell forever after that. Now have children who had to endure your hell as it manifest in bouts of uncontrolled rage. All them innocent. I could not contain or control my anger and it was worse when I was drinking. I stopped drinking for I knew I would kill someone at some point. Still even sober my rage still controlled me.
I have Depression and have been using anti-depression for 15 years now and the Doctor says most likely be on them for the rest of my life. I have been examined twice b a Doctor of Psychiatry and was under treatment by a Psychologist for a time. I no longer seek that type of mental health help. One of the patterns of my life has been one of giving up control of my decisions to outsiders, like friends, co-workers and bosses. I tended to attempt control over my life in the home when in fact i was just being abusive, and insecure. I used rage, anger and violence outside of the workplace and in the community as an outlet. Attending post-secondary school was just happenstance. I just followed the direction of an older friend and attended school. Even then I didn't put nay effort or follow any path of choice. This is how I lived, with no forward thinking or imagination.
Thank you for reading.
Postscript: Closing Remarks.
Sharing this story has not been therapeutic. It is quite sickening process: reliving the ugliest times in your life and seeing how ugly you are. Still writing it out, I still edit to seem not as grotesque as it really was. I mean how do you repeat, your penis went hard? How do you tell someone you feel sick about what you were part of? Reliving the fear and remembering the scary anger of the teacher who is throwing you around; the embarrassment you feel as you are at the center of attention by your friends all while being beaten? The ugly image you have of yourself when you go to a specific incident in your memory, how do you think it feels? One of the things I did was to ask my wife to read the experience story. We have not talked about what she read and most likely will not. I have shared some of the experiences before but never to this degree and the sexual abuse which took place. What is not reflected in this written document is how it really affected me and how I acted out; becoming somewhat of an exhibitionist, flashing cars my penis and "mooning" people. Questioning your own sexuality as a young person was confusing.
I wonder about who will read this and if they can grasp the enormity of sharing something you tried to bury. i also feel confused about how can we quantify things experienced? I mean for some people it may seem like a bad event and from some it may be life changing trauma. How can we reconcile the regret we live with? In the end you are measured by strangers. So the unknown factor of who is reading weighs on me some.
Writing is a tool I have been using for a while now. Still putting down when you don't even want to think about is tough. I think about some of my friends in school at the same time as me and wonder how they are going to fair (with the writing process). I keep going to back to my own writing and wonder if my thoughts come through, are they understandable?
It took me some Tim to read the levels and to try understand what they are measuring (this was for the day school compensation process administered by private contractors for the government). I understand the only measurement is based on the sexual abuse and not the effects. I am one of the lucky few who has not killed themselves or killed someone else. My violent history and self destructive behaviour is not reflected here. Still I know the damage the experience has done and it has only been recently, this decade that I have tried to become a calmer person. The recall of school has been ugly and difficult; still I think in the end it is worth it.
I know many have had it worse by my experience is still significant and should not be limited to a measurement of abuse. I think about how many of the school experiences have shaped us. The guy who had his pants pulled down in front of the Classe, well guess what he did? He slammed an axe on the top of my cousin's head with the sharp end. Ironically it was the sharp end that saved my cousin's head. The split skull allowed for the swelling to escape the signifiant pressure in the skull. My cousin fo course has never been the same. You remember the bully Horton. Well this guy killed his girlfriend by drowning her in the river. The witness is a guy who is seen as "not all there" so Horton got away with it. Guess what he did after that (besides breaking into the church and stealing the "Hosts" and the goblets? He murdered my friend's 12 year old sister. Chopped her up and put her remains in a dumpster. He didn't get off with that killing. The community has a not so quiet secret on incest and sexual abuse but it is hidden culture of acceptance. I remember in my teens the jokes, the teasing on what takes place in certain homes: "Are you going to go up and get lucky this weekend? Luck? No, it's a sure bet." And the phrase "gee-my-gay" is thrown around which refers to having sex with someone passed out. As a fellow said, "going out getting some free fucks," meaning Geemygay. I remember the teasing of this girl; she was raped by one of our friends. She was on trial and she was describing what took place. Her attempt to describe what happened included this (at least told to us by the rapist); she was testifying and she said "and then he put it in my virginia." This was the culture of response, ridicule the victim. It wasn't the rapist who was the pariah, the victim was mocked. The environment of abuse still resonates in our community and now is part of the children's legacy.
You must understand the government policies, the policing situation, the whole education system left a community and heritage of carnage. Still there are many who refused to be defined by the ugliness of the system but it left its mark and is still felt today. I truly believe those reading will not comprehend the toll it has taken and how resilient the people are who went through those days and experiences. That is what I see as part of the process, a skepticism by those in charge. This is the limitation of the abuse grid, but it was the system has set up. So yes, I would say the school did have some influence.
The cold hard measurement of "penetration" is in play. And yes getting bum fingered on numerous occasions is penetration, fondled to becoming hard, as well as head to head penis slamming. Long lasting repercussions on my life. Numerous physical assaults on my being by the people in charge. Countless disbarring comments to and about me, my heritage, my being and my community. To this day I am a suicide waiting to happen and yes my experience, my own actions are part of the equation.