Part 2- Historical Challenges & Personal Successes

A dark history…

The Canadian government implemented residential schools starting in 1870. The last one was shut down in 1996. The schools aimed to assimilate indigenous children into Canadian society through the use of English and religious lessons. These schools had a drastic and devastating effects on indigenous people that lasted for generations: his has been called intergenerational trauma.

My grandfather, Phillip Smith, was ripped from his family and culture when he was put into a residential school at the age of six. He only stayed for one year because the following year non-residential schools began taking in indigenous students. My grandfather, like many residential school survivors, struggled with substance abuse for much of his adult life. However, today my grandfather is 15 years sober.

For many years my grandfather struggled with becoming comfortable with speaking our Tlingit language, with sharing stories about his childhood and speaking about our community’s politics.

The aftermath of residential schools rippled throughout my family and affected us for generations: our educations, our mental and physical health, and our cultural identities.

My father, John Dyck, was born in 1970. As a young child he was a taken from his family (the end of the 1960’s scoop), a time when thousands of indigenous children were taken from their families and adopted into non-indigenous families. The scoop was another attempt at assimilating indigenous children into Canadian society. The aftermath of another attemptpted at assimilation affected my father, like many others across Canada, in negative ways. But like my grandfather, my father found his way and has been sober for 9 years.

School saved us from negative lifestyles and gave us brighter futures…

Despite all these intergenerational traumas and unhealthy coping mechanisms that were felt throughout the generations in my family, I found my saving grace and a positive outlet through school. I decided to become a journalist at seventeen years old because I wanted to help the indigenous community in Canada, to give my people a voice and to help non-indigenous people understand and connect to us.

There have been many others in my family who have finished their educations, who have made successful careers and have even run their own businesses.

The focus here is the younger generations of my family, where a huge majority of the first graduates and post-secondary achievements emerged…

  • My cousin Andrew Smith was one of the first in my family to graduate high school in 2011. 
  • I followed in 2014, when at the time I was the first woman to graduate high school. 
  • My cousin Marie-Willow followed in 2015. My younger brother Hunter finished in 2018. 
  • My youngest cousin Ivy-Rain has a few more years left of high school, but fully plans to finish and move onto college as well.
  • My cousin Andrew attended college in Grand Prairie for welding in 2011.
  • My cousin Marie-Willow attended Yukon College in 2016 for culinary arts.
  • My younger brother Hunter starts at the Okanagan College Kelowna campus in 2019, for the Heavy Duty Mechanics course.

I attended college at Okanagan College in Kelowna for journalism and graduated in 2017. I started university at TRU in Kamloops in 2018 for my bachelors degree in journalism.

A significant inspiration is my aunt Ruby, on my fathers side. She graduated as a social worker in 1998 at the age of 40…which goes to prove that it is never too late to chase and accomplish your dreams.

We are still here…

In the year 2018 indigenous people are making many successful changes.We are taking strides in areas such as fashion, politics, culinary arts, mass media and even within our own governments.

It is taking a long time, but we were never broken. Many would say that the government failed in their mission to “kill the Indian in the child”, as stated in the Indian Act in 1876. We were never assimilated to the point that we completely lost our culture. We are carving a new path for the future generations, one that brings the traditional ways of life into the modern world.

We are still here. We are still growing. We are still fighting.

By Cheyanna Dyck

My name is Cheyanna Lorraine and I am an Indigenous journalism student.

I love to write, cook, paint and everything thing about summer! Join me on my chaotic and beautiful adventure of navigating through life.

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