Ministry strives to overcome — and atone for — nation’s 120-year history of snatching indigenous children from their parents.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

DAUPHIN, Manitoba — The boy felt nauseous.

A knot gripped him in the pit of his stomach.

He couldn’t explain the feeling, but it overcame him each time he walked into the long, rectangular building.

Nearly four decades later, the Métis tribal member — who grew up to be a social worker in this rural Canadian community — understands better why the Mackay Residential School caused him such inner turmoil.

“Even if you weren’t the one abused and suffering the genocide and loss of your culture, you absorbed that just by being there,” said the tribal member, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Dave. “They call that the common experience.”

Jamie Harvey can’t escape the ugly history of the building where he and the 30-member Dauphin Church of Christ serve the needy in this town 200 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Winnipeg.

For many in Dauphin, haunting memories remain attached to the 26,000-square-foot building that now houses low-income apartments, a free clothing store, a community food bank, children’s playrooms and the congregation’s worship area.

Until the late 1980s, the structure served as an Indian Residential School — one of 139 such facilities nationwide that were built by the government and run by Christian denominations.

“They forced kids on the reservations to leave their families and come to the schools from the middle of August to the end of June every year,” Harvey said, recounting Canada’s 120-year effort at mandatory assimilation. “The point was to force them to learn English and math and remove their language and culture from them.”

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This story appears in the June 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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