Sphenia Jones

“I went to residential school in the late 1950s. I was about 11 years old and I worked in the infirmary there. I remember that I used to steal a lot of food for the kids or the babies in the infirmary because they were so hungry. I would take whatever I could like peanut butter sandwiches or even raw potatoes. When I got caught, I had to scrub floors with a toothbrush for three or four months.

Lots of people say things like “that didn’t happen”, but it did. They say “oh, get over it,” but we have to talk about it first. I protected the kids in that school with all that I had and I have now met about four or five people who I looked after in the infirmary. They thanked me because they said they remember being so hungry and they remember somebody feeding them.

Right now I am working on a project for child abuse victims which looks at getting homes for them. Our children need at least one safe place they can go to to spend the night away from getting hurt. I’m now one of the cofounders for the Empty Stocking Fund, the Christmas Bureau and Step Up Native School. I have such empathy for the little ones’ who suffered harm in the residential schools, but I’ve come a long way.

Sometimes it’s like a dream when I think about it, but then I pray and the hurt feeling goes away. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we can do. I had a really hard time forgiving the ones that abused me, but I had to do that to get on with my life. I was anchored there and I was getting sick. When I let everything go, I started getting better.

So what does reconciliation mean to me? It means looking after the little ones which is the biggest hope I have for the future, and it means healing as our souls come together as one.”

The Why We Walk campaign asks individuals to share their story and personal connection to the reconciliation movement. Stories will be shared in the weeks leading up to the Walk for Reconciliation on September 24th, 2017.

We believe that every person has a story to tell and that by sharing these stories, people may feel a more personal connection to the reconciliation movement.

Learn more about the Walk for Reconciliation here.

Read more Why We Walk stories here.