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The only other place I saw this was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. A man somehow gets trapped on an abandoned street, only to find out there are KILL-crazed Nazis all around him and no place to hide!

I already came from a family that prized neatness above all. Grandpa Peter Mountain Sr. said that the way it is around you is the same as it is in your mind, either it's messed up or well kept. Especially out on the land you simply needed to keep order around you.

Mom especially insisted that, "Baghareh goded'zah", anything extra only created a mess.

But this newer residential school's manic insistence on an over-regulated day didn't make much sense, and in a foreign language, added more to the confusion.

Just for a moment, imagine, sleepily shuffling your way to the washroom, and on your way back encountering ...

... The cold arctic dawn followed close on a night of muffled cries as a hundred or so children as young as five tried to sleep once again away from the arms of a loving mother and the comforts of home.

Wake-up call a mayhem of getting our beds just so, with the corners tucked in at the right angle.

A miserable line-up of the poor boys who were so keyed up, psychologically traumatized that they could not help but wet their beds.

The fact that these were always the same little ones showed that it had to be something eating at them inside, and in deep at night, when they needed their rest the most. They were intentionally made to stand in line holding their stinking sheets front and centre for all to see.

Even in the dining room we had to maintain some kind of order in the rush to eat on time, in the Arctic north, where winter is basically one long night.

Mornings were invariably a pasty blob of lumpy porridge with maybe a splash of watery KLIM, powdered milk on top, sour or not.

Both lunch and supper were usually some kind of overcooked fish, all bones and dried-up flakes, with maybe the odd plate of overcooked reindeer.

There was no attempt at all to bridge the vast cultural gap, between these priests and nuns' old French background and our traditional First Nations roots.

They prattled away amongst themselves with no regard to what we may have wanted to know of them.

Natural childish curiosity
Soon gave way to sullen gravity,
Like a stone carelessly tossed
Into muddy bottom.

All marked for failure, except, of course, for their pets, 'sister's pets', the cuter ones who did who knows what for the nuns in private.

Keeping their favoured spots, though, involved snitching on everyone else, who got 'black marks', which showed up again at weekly movie time.

There was little doubt that we were only 'sauvages'; savages, dirty Indians in need of some serious straightening out!

In an unspoken Loveless Language, though, we did learn right from the start that it was Rule by Fear, and the less said otherwise the better.

Even acts of kindness had an element suggesting we were nothing but a pack of stray dogs. On special occasions, handfuls of hard candy or peanuts were thrown over our heads and we had to fight the people around us to get anything at all.

Our mail was invariably read and parcels opened before they got to us. The Inuit children's parents must have thought more of them, for they usually got the best stuff.

The rest of us just sort of sidled up to them, going, "I'm your friend, huh ... huh, friend?"

Each child had a little pile of personal, pitiful trinkets under their pillow. Every once in a while you would ask someone to "Lemme see your junks." Looking back, I do believe this is where a lot of us were early on grafted with a sense for the neurotic, not to mention anally retentive for a lifetime.

Where really, this Holy Spirit
Raised on High in daily mass?

And, to whom, pray, held aloft
Above a needy world

But to their missionary selves
Saving us from ourselves.

The real part of this living nightmare was, and for too many thousands of us survivors, the longest pause of all, with all official eyes intentionally turned away, as the PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder slowly seeped into our lifeblood, as did the poison in the cloak given Hercules by his wife, waiting for a medic who never came, nor ever expected to.

Only an echo of this can be heard,
From Bear Rock Mountain.

In time, the only parallel I ever saw or found, was with the Nazi death camps - of Auschwitz, for instance - where this same kind of brutally enforced pace of blind obedience eventually produced neurotic adults of a once proud First Nations people.

Too, in the lives of individuals, like the deranged American serial killer Charles Manson, born into poverty and Bible Belt religious zealotry, backfired to a life of stifled, unspeakable revenge, now present by nuns like the notorious Monster Hebert, a barrel of a hoary nun if ever there was one!

Even a cursory glance at this from their end: a priest or a nun as far removed in the furthest, coldest outreach of a foreign country, away from their familiar France, deprived of any human sexual outlet - another kind of poverty, of emotional warmth - and you have the recipe for some psychotic 'norms'.

All of THAT, without benefit of any kind of
Court for we, the presumed guilty

One could only wonder why these Christian missionaries, even full of their own brand of blind, unforgivable faith, would so soon have forgotten the jackboots so recently endured back in occupied France, to have somehow been spring-boarded to show them savages a thing or two!

Unless, of course, we Indian children were as dangerous as the Jews, hell-bent on taking over their stifling world.

Truth be told, none of us had ever been in a place with more than several hundred people, much less known there was anything beyond East 3, one branch of the Duhogah, Mackenzie River.

In more ways than one we had been brought to the every edge of the universe and dropped off in …




Enter the Sally Manning Award for Indigenous Non-Fiction