It’s not easy to share your own story, especially one like this. Read this excerpt from They Called Me 33: Reclaiming Ingo-Waabigwan by Karen Chaboyer and take a moment to reflect on it. You can read more if you follow the tour. There’s also a video and a giveaway at the end.
Karen longed for acceptance, validation and love, but had no ability to form healthy, meaningful relationships. Born into a large family already suffering the effects of two generations of residential school, and surviving her own nine years at St. Margaret Indian Residential School, Karen (like everyone she knew) had been systematically stripped of her dignity, identity, language, culture, family and community support systems.
Not wanting to be alone as an adult, Karen tolerated unhealthy relationships with family and partners. Still, she was coping. But after suffering further trauma, Karen turned to alcohol and other addictions to numb her pain.
Eventually, Karen found the strength to reach out for help. She learned to grieve through layers of shame and was finally able to embrace her identity. Karen also discovered what has long been known in her culture – the healing power of sharing your story. Karen would now like to share this book, her story, with you.
Read an excerpt:
My identity as a Native person was destroyed, and I became ashamed of who I was. I grew up feeling defective and wondered what was so wrong with me. I tried my best to be a good person, yet I was never accepted: never validated. I did not realize that it was my Nativeness that made me “defective” in the eyes of non-Natives. I also struggled with being accepted by peers. As a Native person, we are connected with the land. I did not have a reserve I could call home because I did not live on one. I felt I did not fit in the Native world and I definitely did not fit in the White world. I had no identity. Finally, when I was fifteen, I graduated from residential school. I had completed my mandatory nine years. I was thrilled not to have to go back. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I did my time. I was free! My parents were so proud that I graduated; they presented me with a gold wristwatch as a graduation gift. I felt that this was my greatest achievement. It was a great celebration, as I now was free.
Karen Chaboyer is an Ojibwa mother and grandmother from Rainy River First Nations, a community in northwestern Ontario. She is proudly admired by her children, who have witnessed her transformation as she worked through layers of shame and learned to embrace her identity. A second-generation survivor of residential school, Karen now shares her experiences with audiences throughout the Toronto area, where she now resides. Karen’s goal is to educate people on the extent to which the tragedies of the residential school system have impacted individuals, families, communities and entire cultures to this day.
Karen Chaboyer will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway