I had the wonderful opportunity when I was in Regina last week to meet with Phyllis Kretschmer who is my Mother’s good friend. She is Saulteaux and Cree and a strong activist for Aboriginal issues. She told me stories about her terrible experiences as a student at Residential school. It is very difficult to imagine self-representation or self-determination in a setting where students were strapped for requesting an eraser from a classmate. Where their braids were cut off without ceremony and where the majority of their week was spent either doing manual labour or absorbing the tenets of the Church in catechism classes, and where the idea of stockings without holes was a fond hope.
Phyllis was able to move forward from these experiences, based on strong family support and being able to find confidence in herself after years of being told by the teachers at the residential schools that she was stupid.
Now at the age of 79, she remains actively involved in educating both Aboriginals and Non Aboriginals about the history of First Nations communities.
She is involved in the Idle No More Movement started a couple of years ago (see articles below) and is a member of the Intercultural Grandmother’s Group organized through the University of Regina. This is where my Mother met her, often partnering with her when they visit Elementary and High Schools to share First Nations knowledge. Students then also see that First Nations issues are cared about by the Mainstream community as well.
Information about Idle No More and Intercultural Grandmother’s Uniting
Morier, Jan. Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting. Community Connection, North Central Community Newspaper. February 2010, page 5. Retrieved from http://www.nccaregina.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2010_NCCA_News_February.pdf
McDonald, Alyssa. Your Reaction: Queen City Residents Participate in Idle No More. January 11, 2013. Retrieved from: http://metronews.ca/news/regina/506245/your-reaction-queen-city-residents-participate-in-idle-no-more/
Sinclair, Niigaan. Idle No More: Where is the movement 2 years later. CBC News. December 7th, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/idle-no-more-where-is-the-movement-2-years-later-1.2862675