The Kuper Island residential school as it looked in 1917.

The Kuper Island residential school as it looked in 1917.

Coast Salish Elder is Out of the Shadow and Into the Light

GoFundMe campaign launched to publish new book by Penelakut residential school survivor

By Kelly Bannister

It has taken more than five years, but Coast Salish elder and educator Raymond Tony Charlie has just completed a book about his residential school experiences.

‘In the Shadow of the Red Brick Building’ is based on the elder’s hardships and challenges in attending and surviving two residential schools. The book is also about his healing journey.

“Passers-by always said what a beautiful building,” Charlie relates. “But it was a place of horrors and pain for many children and families. I still hear personal stories that were hard to listen to as they happened to families. The government should build a healing place for us now, to become healthy and strong.”

As a child, he attended both Kuper Island (now Penelakut Island) residential school and St. Mary’s residential school in Mission. His new book is one of several ways that he has patiently shared his struggles and healing journey to help people understand these tragic events and to support others in finding ways to heal their own traumas.

“I am one of 150,000 children who went to residential school in Canada,” Charlie pointed out.

“I am grateful as a survivor to be here, I feel so fortunate. No one may notice, but many survivors have passed onto the spirit world sadly and cannot share their experiences of residential school.”

Over the last decade, Charlie has also been involved in countless cross-cultural workshops, the making of two films about the Kuper Island residential school, public speaking and discussion circles at schools, colleges and universities.

He gave testimony as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, regularly serves as an elder in First Nations court, attends elders meetings, leads men’s support groups and is involved in youth mentoring. Charlie is also a gifted carver.

He recently launched a GoFundMe campaign with the hope of raising enough money to publish his book so it can be shared with others. The goal is to raise $15,000 to cover the cost of publication.

You can find the GoFundMe page here.

“The book has been a struggle to write for me,” he confided. “It has taken a long time. I just hope I get some funding to print it and make it available.”

Charlie is deeply committed to ensuring goodness comes from tragedy, which is the motivation for writing and sharing his story.

“I will continue to commit my time to share my story, in hopes it will bring healing and understanding of survivors of residential school,” he pointed out. “I feel this is important for the general public to understand what actions of Canada and churches brought so much turmoil and pain to us. We need to heal, it is important both to the future of our children and communities.

“I would like to have my book published so that other people can learn about the residential school experience. I believe it is important for others to learn about these experiences as it is our living history.”

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Ray Charlie speaks with Dr. Anita Girvan and Dr. Rod Dobell, members of the Centre for Global Studies, during a presentation he made at the UVic Centre for Global Studies in October 2016. The presentation helped staff, faculty and visiting researches to learn about reconciliation and what that should mean for a university research centre. It was done as part of the first-ever Orange Shirt Day recognition by the Centre for Global Studies. (Photo by Kelly Bannister)

Ray Charlie speaks with Dr. Anita Girvan and Dr. Rod Dobell, members of the Centre for Global Studies, during a presentation he made at the UVic Centre for Global Studies in October 2016. The presentation helped staff, faculty and visiting researches to learn about reconciliation and what that should mean for a university research centre. It was done as part of the first-ever Orange Shirt Day recognition by the Centre for Global Studies. (Photo by Kelly Bannister)

Ray Charlie is hoping to share his residential school experience by getting his book published. (Photo submitted)

Ray Charlie is hoping to share his residential school experience by getting his book published. (Photo submitted)