This touching story about a mother-daughter relationship was written by Joy Doyle, a valued staff member at Peel Children’s Aid for nine years. In her role of unit administrator in our Family Services department, Joy provides administrative support to 5.5 teams of family service workers and six social work supervisors. Joy shared her heart on National Aboriginal Day because she wanted to honour and validate her 27 year old aboriginal daughter, Tina, on a day that is extremely important to her. Joy’s experience serves to remind parents, and even those without children, that we should try to learn from, understand and celebrate our differences. By doing so, we enjoy healthy and satisfying relationships and encourage children to reach their potential.
Tina and I; learning from each other
By Joy Doyle
As a young woman I met and married an aboriginal man from the Tyendinaga Indian Reserve located in Shannonville between Belleville and Napanee, Ontario. We had two beautiful girls together before going separate ways. During my years of marriage to him I learned a lot about the native culture in this country. What I learned most was that a lot of the culture was intertwined with alcohol and domestic and child abuse issues. It took me a long time to understand that a lot of these issues were considered to be a normal state of affairs in an aboriginal home. Nor could my husband's family seem to rise above it. I however, spent considerable time with some of the older aunts and uncles in his family and was horrified by their stories of residential schools.
Natives were taken off the reserves by the government of Canada and sent to residential schools where they were not allowed to speak their own language and beaten for any infractions. Not only was there physical abuse but very often sexual abuse. They lost their language and were not able to pass this on to the next generation. They were told that they must become civilized and were not taught the hunting and trapping skills that had been so much a part of their parents’ lives. They were taught that they were dirty and lazy and that their only salvation was to learn to become white.
The effects of the residential schools live on in today's generation of aboriginal children. My oldest daughter is very white in appearance and so managed to fit in to the mainstream at school and make friends without issue. Not so with my youngest. Tina had her father's looks; beautiful brown skin and hair so black it shines blue in the sunlight. Tina was the light of my life as a young girl. Always woke up with a smile. The older Tina became the more she became interested in her native half. The more she learned the more she took on the hurts of her aboriginal fore fathers. To say that I understood what was happening to her would be a lie. I have never had to face racism in my every day life but Tina did. I used to tell her not to let it bother her, people are just ignorant, but I never paid as much attention to it as I should have.
I did not understand just how much this affected her and how it set her up to fail. Instead I became hurt when in her teens she quit high school in her last semester to move out and join the father she had not seen in ten years. I should have kept the lines of communication open a lot more. Tina became lost in that world and after some time living with her father returned to the Toronto area where she became involved in the native culture there. Some of it was - and still is - not pretty. Tina was angry with me for not understanding her hurts and I was angry with her for saying I was a white woman and would never understand.
Once the initial hurt and shock of her seeing me as intolerant was over I began to educate myself more regarding the issues that have affected her. Tina is still a beautiful young native girl. She has learned a lot about being native. Tina creates beautiful beaded jewellery, can make moccasins, soften hide, bead leather and does native abstract paintings. She spends considerable time with the elders in her community, cleaning homes and offering her assistance in their daily self care. Tina is no longer angry at me for being white and I understand more all the time about the hurts that come from being native in a country that still undervalues the aboriginal population. I am happy for Tina that she feels that she belongs now and is not the outsider anymore. We have come a long way in rebuilding our mother and daughter relationship.