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Residential Schools and Turtle Eggs

Indian Residential Schools and Canadians.

We did not notice enough!
We did not think enough!
We did not feel enough!
We did not care enough!
We did not do enough!

On hearing the horrific news of 215 children 
who died away from their families, and whose remains were buried 
in unmarked graves outside a residential school, 
we fall on our knees in repentance.  

 From a place within us of deep sadness, we sing ever so humbly, 
“Father, I have sinned.  
I have closed my heart to those in need, 
thought only of myself, 
a victim of my greed.”

Then nature speaks to us.
this too, we are finally learning.
We and Creation are one.  
Creation notices and cares about us.
And so, Creation speaks.  

At the time of this horrific news, 
an eagle dropped a large feather 
on the holy ground of the Martyrs Shrine.  
The eagle is a messenger from God.  
The feather must have been causing her pain, 
and so she yanked it out with her beak and sent it down to us.  
We yank out aching teeth from our mouths.  
And we pull the baby tooth from a child’s mouth, 
so that a stronger, more mature adult tooth might replace it.  
What are you telling us, oh eagle, 
we who live on this land made holy 
by the great love the Jesuit martyrs had for the Huron-Wendat nations? 
What do we yank out?  
How do we yank out this deep pain from the people of our land? 

At the time of this horrific news,
turtles have been coming up from the riverbank 
to lay their eggs in the sand of these holy grounds.  
But before the sun dawns the next day, predators come  
and eat up these eggs, scattering the shells all over the sand 
that was chosen to be a safe place to be born.  
By putting a caution marker around the nest where some of the eggs 
were buried in the sand of a little road, we tried to protect them 
from the wheels of the tractor and truck. 
But the predators were too determined.  
During the night, they ate and scattered 
the tiny white shells all over the ground around the nest. 
How very sad the turtle must feel!

At the time of this horrific news, 
five hawks who guard the Shrine grounds from scavengers 
circled our offices and residence.  
We are five Jesuits who live and work here. 
What were they saying to us?  What were the turtles saying? 
What was the eagle saying?  
Could they all be saying,

 Listen, listen, listen! Listen with your heart.  
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” 
(Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

Acknowledge your sins against the Indigenous peoples. REPENT! 
“But I was not yet born when all of this took place.” 
Yes, but you are part of the team that benefited.  
You are part of the group who did not care enough.  
You still don’t care enough.  
These children cried and you have not heard.  
Indigenous children continue to cry 
for clean drinking water, 
for schooling nearby, for freedom from prejudice, 
for respect for their culture.  
They have so much to offer the world.  
Will you finally receive it?

As the late Knowledge Keeper Noel Starblanket said, 
“You say, ‘But I did not know.’  
Well now you know.  Now that you have heard it, 
you cannot unhear it.  
Now that you have seen it, you cannot unsee it. 
There is no innocence now that you have heard it, 
now that you have seen it.  
Now that you have seen it, you must do something about it 
(and of course, always hand in hand with Indigenous people). 
Now that you have seen it, 
you are held accountable in the eyes of God.”