I’m really excited about this book guys! There isn’t much in the way of information concerning residential schools in Canada. I’m glad we finally get to hear the voice of a survivor.
Raised by her Gram, Sellars at age five contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to the Coqualeetza Hospital at Sardis outside Vancouver, British Columbia. She remained there for 20 months.
While at the hospital, Sellars grew to love a young blonde nurse who eventually left her employ when she got married. In spite of the closeness, the nurse neglected to say goodbye; however, it was because of this relationship, Sellars initially wanted to become a nurse.
When Sellars returned home, she tried to reconnect with her family, but three weeks later, at age seven, she was sent to St. Joseph’s Mission residential school, which was located on the Williams Lake First Nation lands in British Columbia. Sellars attended St. Joseph’s from September 1962 to June 1967.
A bed wetter, Sellars was punished and traumatized by the strap. She was “well acquainted with the feeling of loneliness,” but “learned to suppress it while in hospital.”
Through these experiences, Sellars reinforces the readers’ understanding of residential schools in that it was a “breeding ground for dysfunction” and that she was “so conditioned by a place” that “they really did control us by fear.”
Sellars says, “I learned that speaking my mind or questioning anything would only get me into trouble. Using my mind was even more unacceptable.” She has no memory of grade four.
As a teenager, Sellars came to understand two important life facets: (1) she “shouldn’t expect to be treated as an inferior by all white People” after becoming friends with three white girls, and (2) her life force energy was sparked when she was acknowledged by the traditinal dancerin full regalia, which spurred on her drive for education.
By age 18, Sellars was married and soon gave birth to two children. Later she adopted one additional child, but by then her marriage had dissolved and she had sought a restraining order against her abusive ex-husband.
Sellars attempted suicide — the first of many — and while in the hospital after getting her stomach pumped, a white nurse scolded her “You people!” The nurse made her feel so uncomfortable and “stupid” that as soon as the tubes were removed from her arms, Sellars left the hospital without her shoes.
She went to her Gram’s home for support and comfort as she sadly stated, “I felt an extreme sadness in the soul.”