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Memories to Nakuset – Part 3

A 7-part series by two sisters who were taken from their homes - and each other - during the Sixties Scoop.

Chapter 6: Floating...

Knock Knock. I look at the door and look back at my mother. No one knocks at our door. They tap, they do the “Hey Hey!” before they open the door but no one knocks. It sounds official too. Knock Knock Knock. I automatically put myself on defense because I still remember the last time an unexpected knock came to the door.

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By Meky Ottawa

My mother opens. A medium sized man wearing a trench coat, hat and suit is at the entrance. “Uh oh. This can’t be good,” I think as I watch him enter our tiny apartment. He introduces himself as Mr. so and so from the Public Trustee Office and says he’s there on behalf of MY interests! I step forward but stay behind my mother.

“Are you Sonya?” he looks at me and asks. I look up at my mom and back at him.

“Yes,” I say.

“Well, I have been looking for you for some time,” he replies. “I am your public
trustee officer. Your father left you an inheritance and I have been managing it for some time now. I am here to ask you if there is anything you need to improve your quality of life.” I look at the chubby older man with the sharp nose. “I don’t need anything,” I was about to say, but my mother stops me. She tells me to go outside and I obey. I go and sit under the old tree outside our house until I see him leave. The next thing I know, I am getting $200 for clothes for next school year and my mother is being paid to “raise me”.

We were on welfare, how is this possible? I don’t question. All I hear is TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS! All mine? To buy clothes and necessities for next school year? Oh my god! Yes, god damn it, yes! Let’s do this! I go to the office on Broadway to get my cheque that I must sign for. The “officer” tells me I have to hand in all my receipts for their records after I spend the money. I promise I will. As I’m getting ready to leave a thought strikes me. I turn and ask the “officer”, “Is my sister Margaret part of this too?” The guy looks at me and stays quiet for a minute.

“Yes. Yes she is,” he says. OMG! Sister! OMG! “Can I talk to her? Can you give me her phone number? Her address? How can I get a hold of her?” I excitedly ask him. He put his head down and tells me that he has no legal permission to give me any information on her. My heart sinks like a stone. I am experiencing such an overwhelming wave of emotions, and just want to run away and cry somewhere quiet. I look up at him and ask, “She has an inheritance too?” “Yes…” he replies thoughtfully, and the way he looks at me above his glasses, the way he’s writing without looking at the paper… “So, she is just like me and has not received her inheritance yet?” I ask. He looks down again and says “I cannot give you that information.” “Am I able to write her a letter and leave it with her inheritance?” I ask, trying to be creative.

With that, he looks up sharply and smiles. Smiles! “Yes. Yes you can!” he says. And so right there and then I ask for a pen and paper and write.

Ch
By Meky Ottawa

Dear Margaret,

I am your sister Sonya. I miss you. I don’t know where you are and no one will tell me. But I am your sister. We are sisters. We were close. Please try to find me. My name is Sonya Murray. I love you. It’s a short note, it’s all I have time for. My mother is downstairs waiting in a cab and will be mad if I take too long. I hope Margaret will get it. I hadn’t let myself think about her for such a long time. I imagined that she was so happy that she didn’t bother to look for me. Just like our other baby sister. I talked to her once on the phone. She didn’t speak English any more and didn’t seem to remember me at all. Just kept saying in a German accent “Goot! Goot!” I was so disheartened. She was already lost to me. I leave the trustee office, jump into the waiting cab with my mother and off we go. Now I’m expected to buy everything I need for school next year. Grade 8! In a new school! My best friend’s school! I’m so excited! I may now actually go to school in COOL CLOTHES!

My mother and I go shopping. Underwear. Check. School supplies. Check. Then mom gets tired and says let’s go for supper. I assume she means home but she opts for the steak house restaurant on Main and Selkirk. Get mama fed. Fuckin’ check. During our meal, she says she worked hard bringing me into this world and bringing me up.

Bringing me up? I was in foster care half the time, going to Harbour Lights, raiding corn fields and crab-apple trees to feed us more times than I can count. SHE worked hard? Apparently I owed her a night of bingo. Keep the Mom happy. Check. Oh and we had no groceries. May as well get those too while we have the extra money to feed everyone. Buy food for the family. Check. When everything’s said and done I have less than $60 left to buy clothes. The next day I go to the bargain stores on Selkirk avenue where I can get a pair of odd jeans for $10 and shirts for $5. I end up with three pairs of pants and two shirts… Out of $200. I spent $40 on clothes and have $20 left. I’m depressed. 13 years old and walking around Selkirk Avenue by the Merchants Hotel. Thinking to myself I’ve endured so much hell. Molested from the age of 5 to 12, mostly by the same asshole that lived in my house that I had to beg and steal to feed! NOT FAIR!

Told that the only reason my teachers passed me in school was because I was fat and big and they didn’t want me in their classroom the next year. NOT TRUE!

I’m nothing but a thorn in people’s side and they have to put up with me. Who? Who goddamnit? My mother is the one who dumped me on people’s doorstep! I never asked to go anywhere! I go nowhere and do nothing unless I’m told to! ANOTHER LIE!

I know all this. I realize the people I live with are spiteful and negative but I have no choice but to live with them. I have to endure this hell until I can get out. Nothing I can do about that… NOTHING, FUCK! I’m just a damn kid!

Then I meet a guy…. He’s hanging around outside the hotel and he teaches me that for $10 I can learn how to float to the sky and forget that I’m chubby and ugly. I can have my own little world, even if it’s just for a while. Yeah, I Like Floating… Floating is nice.

sonya-ch
By Meky Ottawa

 

Chapter 7: The Final...

So here we are, the final article… Where are we? Where am I?

I AM HERE!

I am a survivor, my sister is a survivor and our mother (although I don’t get along with her) is also a survivor. I never got to say in my previous articles what I found out about my family as a whole. I found out my mother, who is the oldest of 16 children, was ripped from her home to become a statistic as a Residential School survivor. All of her children were taken away during the 60’s scoop with the exception of me… Why me? I have no clue.

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Reunited

I realize now that the punishments I endured under her care were probably enforced on her during her captivity. And yes, I consider Residential Schools a captivity situation. She didn’t know any different, just as I didn’t know any different.

I am not proud to admit this. But I was almost as mean as my mother when I parented my children. I am not proud. I am ashamed. I beg their forgiveness at every opportunity. One of my children kept me chained to my misgivings by constantly reminding that I gave them up at an early age. At one point in one of our tumultuous arguments I literally had to hold them down and scream, “I gave you up because I didn’t want to kill you!”

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Graduation

I didn’t want to be like my mother; the abuse, the ‘look the other way’ attitude when others were abusing me. But I found myself being EXACTLY like her. I was abusive, I was absent, I pawned my kids off on anyone who would take care of them for a weekend, just so I could go have fun. I was an asshole. I was selfish. I was uncaring and unfeeling.

How? How did I let that happen? I was taught to be that way but that is no excuse. No excuse at all! So why? I may never know why. I just know that right now, right this very minute, I am so, so sorry. My babies. I am so sorry.

Now, I do everything I can to be the mom or grandma they need. It’s a work in progress and I am learning. I have so much respect for my children, especially my son who has granted me with grandchildren. I am a grandma! He and his wife are such an inspiration to me! They have EVERYTHING I wanted when I was younger but was too unstable to obtain and keep. My GBaby is awesome and I love everything about her. She is smart and she is an amazing kid. She will do great, great things in her life. I can tell! My other kids are struggling. I try to help where I can, but I also try to give them the advice a ‘normal’ person would, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it,” etc. etc. But I still help ‘em as much as I can. I blame myself again for their decision-making mistakes. But I hold them to it, saying “You are an adult, make adult decisions now.” My life is what it is. I go to work. I go home. End deal. I have a sip on Fridays because in my mind, I deserve a little bit of relaxation after a long workweek. I don’t socialize much anymore, not like when I was in my 20’s and 30’s when I was literally the life of the party. Now I just read, write and watch weird movies… LOL.

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A gang of us supporting Nakuset's TV series Indigenous Power.

My family and me, wow. The only person I talk to on a semi-regular basis out of the seven siblings is Margaret. The one who was torn away from me. The one I protected when we lived with my parents. The only one I had any real connection with in my young childhood. She is also my inspiration. She makes me want to do good, to treat people better, to try to open myself to new situations. I love her with all my heart. She is my Darlene (darling).

I don’t talk to my brothers much, but I still try to Google my baby sister’s name every once in a while to find her. She is VERY under the radar. I have never found anything and she had a very original name. I have a very small circle of friends - I can count them on one hand. They know my deepest, darkest secrets, my past, my fights, my challenges, and they all provide encouragement and words of advice that I take to heart. I love them all and consider them as my family now. I am good. I am not healed, I am not balanced but I am still on that road. Every day, every month and every year that goes by, I am slowly healing. Forgiving. Maybe one day I’ll forget all the bad that has happened to me and to my family.

Here is what I do know: I no longer feel that I am in trouble... big, big trouble.

Memories to Nakuset – Part 1
Memories to Nakuset – Part 2

Sonya was born in northern Manitoba, where she spent most of her childhood. As a teenager she moved to Winnipeg and lived under the care of the Children’s Aid Society until she turned 18. Sonya has three children who are now fully grown. Social work is her chosen career path and she is currently dedicated to employment assistance for First Nations in northwestern Ontario.

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