March 24, 2020
By Brandi Morin
A survivor of schools that took Indigenous children from their families shares her story of abuse, neglect and healing.
Alberta, Canada – Alsena White, aged 67, is illiterate. She gets by with the help of her children and grandchildren.
Alsena was taught at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St Paul, Alberta. From the age of five to 16, she lived at the federal government-funded school, ushered through grade after grade. Yet no one seemed to notice – or to care – that she could neither read nor write.
“[To them] I was just another Indian,” she says of the Catholic nuns and priests who administered her education. Leaning slightly forward, as if to make sure it is safe to speak, Alsena continues: “I tell people I spent 10 years in jail even though I never committed a crime.”
It has been more than 50 years since she felt enslaved inside the walls of the school, but the memories still haunt her.
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