Josephine Gould was only six years old when she was taken away from her family in Pictou Landing and placed in a residential school.
“It was awful,” she recalls. “They tried to take the Indian away from us. We weren’t allowed to speak our mother tongue. We weren’t allowed to practise our culture. We weren’t allowed to see our families. Even our siblings were separated.”
On Friday, she along with six other survivors of the residential school program unveiled a monument that bears their names and the others from the Pictou Landing community taken away from their families as the government of the day sought to assimilate them into the culture around them.
Dozens turned out for the ceremony.
Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul said the project has been in the works for a while now and was led by the survivors.
“I just want to acknowledge our survivors today who have been working closely together for a number of years and had a vision. They really, really wanted to get this monument done,” she said. “It was not just important to them, but was important to everyone that we have something that was permanently placed so that we can always honour and remember those that were in the residential schools.”
While many of their stories are unknown, based on the account for others, Paul said it was certainly not an easy time for them.
“I know in the last number of years they had to go through a lot of remembering and talking about their experiences.
Jennie Stevens was one of the survivors who spoke.
“Many of us are getting older and we mustn’t forget the ones that passed away.”
Many of the survivors from Pictou Landing First Nation were sent to the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School which operated in Nova Scotia from 1929 to 1967. The monument states that it was created to honour the Pictou Landing First Nation former students and their families for their resilience and also to represent hope for future generations.
“May this monument inspire all Canadians to learn about the legacy of residential schools,” it states.
Residential School Survivors from Pictou Landing.
“Gertie” Greta (Beadle) Augustine
Clara Marie (Nicholas) Boyles
Albert Wilfred Denny
Joan Marie Francis
“Jimmy” James Francis
“Stevie” Stephen Francis
Mary (Nicholas) Hatfield
Josephine (Nicholas) Gould
Ella Mae (Francis) Nicholas
Sa’ke’J’ James Nicholas
Noel G. Nicholas
Susie Ann Nicholas
“Freddy” Frederick W. Paul
Agnes “Mary” Agnes Paul
“Gub” Robert Paul
“Ou” Sara Bernadette Paul