Penelakut Elder committed suicide day he was to recount residential school experiences for settlement payout

A 63 year-old elder hung himself the day before his hearing for residential school compensation.

APTN National News
A 63 year-old elder hung himself the day before his hearing for residential school compensation.

The tiny remote island community, just off Vancouver Island, is now crying out for help.

APTN National News reporter Rob Smith has this story.

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

2 thoughts on “Penelakut Elder committed suicide day he was to recount residential school experiences for settlement payout

  1. My deepest condolences and sympathy to Mrs Lexi Charlie and the Penelakut First Nation Community on the loss of someone who is going to be sadly missed: On the grounds the Canadian Government repeat the sexual assaults on the residential school survivors by having them relive their horrific experiences of abuse. Shame, shame, shame, shame on the Canadian Government and the Lawyers who represent the Indian Residential School Settlement funds. With much sorrow and sadness, Kokum White Wolf

  2. (I found that when I’m triggered or read a tragic experience of one of our people, I use writing as a tool, which has helped me immensely.  I wrote a piece after reading about our elder who left this world, )

    When One Door Closes.  Survivors Reaching Out

    Prayers to our family in Penelekut… prayers to all survivors…For so many of, even our own people, it is difficult to understand the minds of a residential school survivor. 

    as children, walking through those gigantic doors of the schools for
    the first time?  We already know,and can feel the heaviness, the fear
    and the well, yes, evil.  We already are preparing for how to best
    survive.  But often it wasn’t enough.  When things happen, oddly enough,
    we keep going.  We hide events away in parts of our bodies we don’t
    have to feel.  In our muscles, our stomach, our bones probably.  Even
    after coming out of the schools we don’t feel free, because we are held
    down somehow, by the weight of all that we have stored away.  The
    problem is, all that stuff is still there and we fear the day that
    Pandora’s Box opens.

    The road we walk is a hard one…
    the hills we climb seems insurmountable. Sending for the IAP forms, we
    wait for a giant boulder to come through the mail. Once ‘it’ arrives, a
    majority of us hold it like it is a weapon ready to go off.

    leave this boulder sitting on a shelf collecting dust for years. The
    moment those forms, are in our homes, our lives are altered, forever.
    The  road turns into the rocky side of a cliff.  We stumble along
    blindly, making our way through life. Who can understand, when we cannot
    ourselves?  And we don’t want to burden anyone.

    we do reach out for help through counseling? We need support, to deal
    with what happens after that one hour, where the reality hidden away in
    our blood turns into acid burning our souls. Even prayer we cannot seem
    to know how to trust.

    And our elders.  Our parents. 
    They were so young, taken away by force, not speaking the language….
    punished just for speaking, & getting hurt heart, mind, soul and
    body for just speaking, for being “indian,” for .. just being.&
    living in a foreign world that once was ours.

    Much is
    coming back, Language-slowly; Spirituality-being last; full pride-seem
    to escape us…but for survivors what is it, that is missing?  That
    which holds us back from being fully whole? Part of it, I think is –
    despite the apology, that a majority of Canadians and especially the
    Canadian government don’t know, don’t care & still assume that we
    are oh-so-privileged and a hyper-dependent people living off their
    taxes. How do we live in a society that sees us still climbing out from
    under a rock? & we have to walk with them daily on the street, in
    the shopping malls, gas stations, driving, on the bus, in taxis, at the
    doctor’s office, in the hospitals, restaurants, casinos, movies,
    concerts…to the corner store…. crossing the street, with alll those
    eyes watching our every move, it seems.

    Everything we
    learn, or teach ourselves about confidence, healing, letting go &
    pride, about our rights, to stand up for each other, and on and on…
    this pride… we have to fight our own feelings to keep this pride from
    gasping for air… to keep it afloat above that which we get from
    society in our day to day, and from our own people, who have learned too
    well from those schools & government, how to hurt our own people,
    the art of the put-down, the abuses, through hiding away, thus affecting
    others through alcohol and now drugs… We suffer each other, &
    this still new mental and emotional illness that fights against our
    good.  For those who are so truly hurting, where do they turn?

    big leaders need to come right down to the core.  And our band
    councils; I believe, to run for band council, that the new guidelines to
    run should include, must have post secondary, counseling certificate,
    have their own healing program in place.  Education, in varying areas to
    be fully there, and to know what the people need, .. To be more
    objective about their roles. In each ‘band,’ the chief and council,
    besides counselors, are key role models who can set into place, that
    which their people need.

    If our people can wait for
    prayer to work, and knowing that reaching out to those we can trust,
    finding that great counselor, if one does work, there is a better one
    around the corner, calling the residential school survivors line is such
    a viable choice in the middle of the night!  Even talking to your
    doctor can bring about a turn of events.  Don’t give up!  When one door
    closes, another one opens!  A tired cliché but it is so true. 

    day that one works on healing… yes, at first it opens another layer…
    but as layer by layer is let go…worked through… what happens is the
    world begins to look a little brighter.  The dark clouds shed it’s dark
    rain.  The mad crowd of people walking towards you on the street, become
    individual people with their own stories and lives.  The cranky bank
    teller or cashier?  Well, gee, SHE must have had a bad day.

    perspectives begin to change and one day, a magic thing happens.  The
    day that we wonder, how we can help someone else… or wonder what can I
    do to be a voice….   Even just wondering about these things opens up
    more doors to healing and is a sign that who ‘once was a warrior’ has
    been one all along.


    Kat Norris.
    Lyackson/Nez Perce
    Kuper Island Residential School

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