Tatum

Perspectives from our Prince Rupert Youth

The Girl in a Bubble – a perspective of a 16-year-old coming-of-age woman

To encompass the varying ages of our readers and to promote literacy at all levels, The Northern View is introducing a new submission featuring the views and perspectives of our community’s youth in School District 52. Keep reading each issue to see through the glass of students learning the issues which important from kindergarten to graduation. Our first submission is from a Charles Hays Secondary student who wants to be a writer.

My name is Tatum Johnson-Clark. I live in the city of Prince Rupert on Tsm’syen territory. I think that all the knowledge I have learned about now and what the past looks like is way more than enough to know that there are not enough people aware of how it all affects today’s society.

While growing up, one of the first things I learned is that “what goes around comes around”. For example, if I were to send positive energy out into the world, it would most likely come back to me as positive. If I were to send negative energy, it would come flying back to me in a similar way — negative. To me I believe this is how karma works. We all have our own perspectives.

It would be nice if we could all hear each other out too. There have been several teachers, family members, and friends who have taught me about respect. Respect means a lot to many people I know and to me. I also know everyone needs respect. Respect is a huge reason why others may act the way they do, even if the way they are acting might be wrong. People act out when they feel their words are not being heard or validated. Let me tell you right now I believe you are valid.

You and I must have at least one thing that means something to somebody or someone, that is why we have feelings. That is also why we are allowed to feel the way we do when we think one or another is acting out.

Here are a few things I have gone through. These things may give you a point of view on why I act the way I do.

I was born in 2006 and started preschool at age three. The preschool is called Aboriginal Head Start. In this preschool they were amazing! I still remember the teacher’s faces. While attending there I learned how to traditionally dance like an eagle soaring around the carpet. They had delicious food and taught me how to brush my teeth. I know they let all the children play with toys and I remember the building blocks were my favourite to play with. I also recall one of the students came over to the blocks and totally just knocked over my block tower. As a three-year-old, that event hurt my feelings.

Growing up after that I knew to stand guard. I graduated that school when I was four. I had not only taught myself how to be empathetic, it runs throughout my entire family’s blood. I believe if I am respectful towards others I will receive it in return. I don’t really care how it returns or when, all I know is to be grateful for the moments that are here and how others are trying to keep moving forward. I love to have faith in my peers, even if they would love to see me fail. Things like that will keep me moving forward stronger, kinder and even more passionate about my goals for as long as I live.

Although I may not know all the words in the world, I like to think it’s good to know that I am trying my best to understand everyone around me. I know if others feel the need to understand me, they will. I believe I am a fast learner. I know when someone is explaining something that is important to them and they try their best to help me understand, without making me feel bad or dumb. Those are the type of people I want to keep around. I am so grateful to have such amazing teachers, friends and family who do respect me for who I am and how far I have come as a human.

I know in the residential schools they split up the boys, girls, siblings, cousins and basically all their peers. I know the food and the way they were all treated was unfair. I have siblings including an older sister. She is three years older than me. Remember how I told you that I started preschool at three and ended at age four? I learned in school the average age they sent the kids away was age four. That means if the elementary school I went to were a residential school I would’ve only had one year to meet my sister and learn parts of my language. Then I would have been sent to a school where they strip away all of that and tell me everything I learned about life for those four years was “wrong”. I would be taught that the nuns’ and priests’ perspectives at residential school are “right”. I’d like to put into perspective that if my sister and I were born anytime before 2003 and 2006 our life would not be as amazing as it is right now.

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I were born in the 1990s. It wouldn’t make sense. Although I do have an auntie who was born at that time. She was in the age range where she or my mother could’ve been taken away, and even her siblings, cousins and friends.

Could you ever imagine what it would be like not having that person who gave you comfort? My comfort person was my sister. The thought of losing her kind of makes me feel nauseous to my stomach. Imagine feeling that way up until Grade 12.

I have several ways I could explain my emotions but I feel reliving those moments my grandparents went through hurts. My sister means the absolute world to me. She has been and always will be such an amazing sister. She has set the coolest examples of how to be a role model. Not only is she my sister but sometimes I feel as if she and I view the world together in the same exact bubble.

She understands me and my emotions and gets my world perspectives the most. She isn’t my only sibling but I am so grateful that we share the same mom and dad. She and I had moved with my grandparents together and they didn’t split us apart because our bond was very strong. It has grown just like all my bonds with the rest of my family members.

Life has never been easy not living with my parents and I still struggle with that to this day. However, I have grown just like those bonds. I cannot put into words what it means to have someone who is there looking out for you through the thickest parts of life along with the thin.

My mother told me that when she was in school they didn’t teach her about residential schools and they didn’t teach her Sm’algyax.

I learned growing up that so many of the adults I get the chance to talk to have not had the privilege of learning about our past, even though they were way closer to the events than my generation. I don’t know much about my family because there’s been tons of grieving.

Unfortunately, all my great-grandparents have passed on. I know my mom’s mother lost several of her siblings and there were nine of them. I have seven siblings. I am more than grateful to have them and that they are still with me. The Johnsons and the Clarks are so much more than names and ages. I have witnessed them all grow stronger and tougher over the years. The way our family has grown, despite the obstacles we have faced, has been so very inspiring. Not only does the strength run through our family but I see it inspires many other humans. I also know that we are more than the colour of our skin.

When we come together our voices are powerful. We proved it by simply surviving despite everything. Yes, our voices are powerful and so are the energy and knowledge we have about the planet. We have nourished the planet not only because we want to live in a peaceful environment but also because everything is connected. The way the world is amazing at adapting and letting us all work as a community — this reminds me to always be respectful towards the land.

As I am relearning the parts of my language that were taken away from my family. I know that there are several other families going through the same battle. This has affected my mental health in ways I could never 100 per cent fully understand. These challenging thoughts have never stopped me from wanting to come back stronger and to keep learning more about what we have lost and forgotten.

Yes, I must admit that I was scared to show and be who I am. I am not scared anymore and I won’t be afraid. I do understand that others may still be scared and afraid of the outcomes of being who they are. I hope that one day they can be proud and happy how far we have made it and they learn what it truly means to be Indigenous.

It has been an amazing journey learning who I am and the power I have been holding within me. I hope reading this helps you also want to learn who you are and what your place can be as a person on this earth.

 

tatum

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