June 06, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Dreamcatcher Commission 

Canada’s attempt to make amends with its stolen children

click to enlarge Residential School Survivor Majorie Natrall at her house in Squamish
  • Residential School Survivor Majorie Natrall at her house in Squamish

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“Nothing we can do, you know, we just have to do what we’re told by the nuns.”

While the weekdays were reserved for class time, students would go on outdoor trips on the weekend. Marjorie remembers a regular field trip where students would walk from the school to the Capilano Suspension Bridge — a lengthy distance, according to Marjorie.

“They made us walk all the way up there, no lunch, nothing,” she said.

She and her cousin Bernice, also a student at St. Paul’s, once stepped away from the group to eat some berries on the side of the road.

“I was happy about that, they were huge berries,” Marjorie said.

After sitting and eating for just a few minutes, Marjorie said they ought to get back to school or they would be punished. Bernice, however, insisted they stay behind a little longer.

Sure enough, they got punished when they got back.

“We got in there and we were going to get strapped,” Marjorie says. “Bernice went in first, oh, she was just screaming. The strap is what they use for sharpening razors, so that’s what they strapped us kids for.

“Jeez, you know, on your little hands, it really hurt me. I was so scared after that to do anything.”

Marjorie found her way out of school when she contracted tuberculosis at age 13. The nuns tried to treat her by rubbing “hot mustard” on her chest. When that didn’t work, she was sent to St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver, where her mother was told that she only had six weeks to live.

She was then brought home to die — but that was before her uncle told her that Indian medicine could save her life. It was a simple formula that consisted of herbs and tree roots. Every time she got hungry or thirsty she would drink the medicine – besides that, she said she only ate lemons and oranges for some years after that.

One day she lifted herself up from her bed and saw her mother tending to a boat on the river. Marjorie poked her head into the window and then quickly lay down again just as her mother turned towards her.

“I’d pretend I was lying down,” she said. Her mother would then come in and say, “‘Just what you been doing, Marji?’ ‘Oh, nothing.’ ‘Yeah, you were doing something.’

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