Thursday marks National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Trafalgar Castle School was honoured to welcome Mary Kelly, a residential school survivor, to the school to share her firsthand story with Grade 8 to 12 students.
Kelly is from the Ojibways of Onigaming and is a citizen of the Anishinaabe Nation. She is also a survivor of St. Margaret’s Indian Residential School in Fort Frances, Ontario, which she attended from Kindergarten to Grade 6.
During Assembly, Kelly shared that when she was five-years-old her mother died and two months later she was taken from her home and father, and placed in the residential school. “I wasn’t allowed to speak my language, I was told I was a savage and had to pray for my sins,” Kelly said. “So, I prayed every morning, every meal, and every night.”
For seven years Kelly attended the school and would return home for summer break but each year her childhood friends shunned her for the privileged life they thought she was living. “I didn’t belong anywhere, so returning to the residential school was the lesser of two evils,” said Kelly.
Kelly spoke of the unthinkable acts she witnessed and received at the school, including strappings. “I would wait by my bed and I could hear them coming down the hall,” she said. “You’d lay on your belly on your bed and the more you cried the harder they hit.”
Kelly shared numerous difficult memories from her time at the school that still impact her today. “I still fold my towels and clothes the same way as I did then, it’s called conditioning,” she said. “I don’t let my hands or feet hang over the bed because I was told the devil would get me,” Kelly added. “And I’ll never buy white sheets because I spent seven years being told I was nothing but dirty.”
Despite the abuse Kelly endured, she continues to advocate for kindness. “The most important thing is to look at others like human beings,” Kelly said. “We don’t all have to be the same but we have to treat people like human beings before anything else and we have to look at them with no prejudice.”
Trafalgar would like to thank Mary Kelly for sharing her story with our community during this important time of truth, education, reconciliation, and change.