Student risked life running from residential school abusers

    At the Indian residential schools it was forbidden to speak a native language in the classrooms, school yard, sleeping quarters and basically anywhere within earshot of the teachers.  Students caught speaking Ojibwa at the Spanish Indian Residential School were quickly and smartly punished with a strap. This is reportedly the case at Reserve Day Schools as well.

     However, there is one critical difference between being punished at a day school than at a residential school - the day school students got to go home at the end of the day to be consoled by a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or sibling.  This consoling was unavailable to residential school students. When their situation became unbearable, some residential school students ran away.

     The following is a story told by Raymond Armstrong of M'Chigeeng First Nation. For two years Raymond attended Spanish Residential School for boys. Raymond moved back to the reserve and was kept back by his grandfather. The following is an edited, bilingual story of a young student who ran away from Spanish.

(Debaajmod: Raymond Armstrong)
(Anishinaabebiigejig: Alan and Ted Corbiere)

Nahaa ga-dbaajmatooninim "Wiisagenh", nahiing megwaa gii- skoonwiyaang oodi Spanish.
I will tell you about "Wiisagenh," while we were going to school at Spanish.

Aapji ngii-nigaagoomi oodi gii-yaawaang.
While we were there, we were treated very badly.

Mii-sh maaaba gaa-bi-nji-maajaad maaba oodi, pane, maybe two-three times a year.
That is why this one always left there (Wiisagenh), maybe two-three times a year.

Maanpii gii-bi-zhaa, maanpii maanda gii-bi-biindigebiiyaag oodi-sh gaaming.
He came here, this here bay (West Bay on Manitoulin) that comes in from the North Shore.

Mii-sh maaba gaa-bi-zhaad zhiwi, nahaa Wiisagenh, kina maanda gii-gbading.
And that is where Wiisagenh came, when all of this was frozen over (the bay).

Gii- gkendaan go wipii waa-bi-maajaad oodi.
He knew then that it was time to leave there.

Jiibaakwegamgoong-sh ko ngii-nji-nokii.
I used to work in the kitchen.

Mii-sh go wiindamaagoowaang oodi shkiniigshag wiindamaagoog, Aah, wii-maajaa miinwaa "Wiisagenh" kidoog.
And that's where the young boys would tell me, Oh, Wiisagenh is going to leave again," they said.

Aash mii sa genii wi, ndazhchigeyaan nahii, nwii-gimoodin bkwezhigan, maa bezhigwaatig.
And so I too, I sought to do something, to steal some bread, maybe a loaf of bread.

Ngii-miinigoog shkiniigshag nahii, "pillowcase", wii-tooyaanh wi miijim gaa-gimoodiiyaan, piniig, miinwaa wiiyaas, giizhaamendeg wiiyaas.
The guys gave me a pillowcase to put the food in, the food that I have stolen, potatoes and meat, cooked meat.

Ko debnimaan, mii-sh go wi ngojing ngii-ni-kidoon fridgeing.
And when I used to get a steak I used to go hide it some place in the fridge.

Mii maanda gaa-daapnamaanh maage nswi maage niiwin, mii-sh maanda biinamaanh niwi pkweshmoniiginoon maaba Wiisagenh waa-bi-maajiidood, wii-bi-nwopod.
When I picked up three or four (steaks) then I would put them in the pillowcase for this Wiisagenh, to take with him to eat for lunch.

Maanpii-sh ko gnamaa ngoji gii-bi-nbaadigenag niwi mnishenying one of the islands here.
And maybe they'd spend the night over here on an island. There's about two or three islands there between Spanish and West Bay and

Aapji-sh go wipii gii-gzod December, aapji gii-gnaajwi maaba mkom.
And at that certain time of the month, December, the ice was nice.

Nawaach maaba gii-yowaan Wiisagenh, naa, zhooshkwaadaaganan mechwe-dkobzojig.
And this Wiisagenh used to have skates, the ones you tie on by hand (no boots to them).

Mii niwi gaa-bmoomaajin miinwaa niwi wiijkiwenyan,
 that's what he and his friend used to carry on their backs,

wii-zhi- zhooshkwaadewag oodi maamnik, mii-sh miinwaa bmosewaad ngoji shpaagonagaag
and they were going to skate over there part ways, then they will walk where there is deep snow.

Mii wi gii-nigaajigaaza maaba oodi.
That's that, he was treated poorly over there.

Gii-yekzi bmi-paakskindibe-ind, pshazhegaazo pshkwegin giishpin debnigaazod nishnaabemod.
He was tired of being slapped on the head and getting strapped with the leather strap, if he was caught speaking Ojibwa.

Gaa go maamdaa gegoo wii-nishnaabemtaadiyaang, shkwaa-skoonwiyaang kogaagoyaang niiwing naa wa zhiwi go naa, nahii zhaabdisewaad zhiwi name-ninwag.
By no means were we to speak Ojibwa to each other, after school, if we all gather round together, that's where those brothers would always walk back and forth.

Miinwaa go zhiwi aanind gaa-skoonwijig shkiniigshag gii-dbamaagaazod giwi wii-baataayaad giwi.
And even some of the boys that were in school, they were paid to tell on them (the ones speaking Ojibwa).

Aapji go gchi- nendamaawan gondag mekdekonyeg niwi.
The priests really liked those guys.

Mii-sh maaba ko gii-bi-maajaad.
So then that is when Wiisagenh used to leave.

Mii-sh maaba pane gaa-dbaadang Wiisagenh, gaa-zhi-nigaachigaazod oodi skoongamgoong.
This is what Wiisagenh always talked about, how poorly he was treated at that school.

Aaniish mnik oodi gaa-bi-mshkowaakjiwaad giwi shkiniigshag, bi-maajaawaad ngoji negoodewaad megwe-mtigoonski wii-nbaawad?
How many of those boys froze along the way when they left and crawled in the brush to sleep?

Gii-nigaazwidigenag oodi, bi-dkamiiwaad, gnamaa gaye wnishnawaad.
They must have suffered over there as they were crossing or if they were lost.

Aaniish mnik oodi gaa-bi-nji-gjibwewaad shkiniigshag gii-bi- dkamiiwaad zhonda mkomiing?
How many boys ran away from there by crossing there on the ice?

Aaniish mnik gaa-bkobiisewaad?
How many fell in the water?

     Wiisagenh is remembered by many people in M'Chigeeng as having run away from Residential School in the winter time by crossing the ice. Fortunately, he did not freeze to death on one of those islands.   Wiisagenh's situation must have become intolerable and he felt he had to leave the school and come home to M'Chigeeng.


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