Trigger Warning: This story contains content about child abuse at the so-called residential “schools.” Please read with care for your spirit and well-being.
In 1986, Alphonse Little Poplar and Irene Fineday welcomed a family friend named David Doyle to their family land on the Sweetgrass First Nation. Mr. Doyle spent three months staying in a small building next to their home, over the winter. He spent his evenings interviewing Alphonse, recording these interviews on a cassette recorder. After leaving the reserve, Mr. Doyle had their contents transcribed. Unfortunately, over time all of the cassettes save for one were accidentally destroyed.
In June of 2020, Mr. Doyle gifted Eden Fineday, IndigiNews’ Business Aunty, and Alphonse and Irene’s granddaughter, with ownership and possession of the manuscript containing all of her grandfather’s transcribed stories. IndigiNews is publishing these stories so that Alphonse’s incredible memories and gentle storytelling may be shared with our readers.
Portions of this manuscript have previously been published in the Battlefords News Optimist.
They would take us for a walk if we were good. Now they would call it a “field trip.”
It was a little more than a mile from the school to the river. We would go down to the river and fool around. We were coming up the hill and we were pretty well on top of the hill when this car came along, just creeping his way up the hill. It was the baker.
We jumped on and hung on to the spare tire that is in the middle at the back of the car. There was a little bumper on both sides. That old car would power out. Before it would stop dead we would all jump off, then we’d jump on again as soon as he started to go again.
We got that guy mad. He kind of stopped there. He was going to jump out and get us, but we pretended we were going to run away. We hung on as he got to the top of the hill. My cousin Ben stayed with him for quite a while, but then jumped off.
That guy speeded up as soon as we got on the level. Gee whiz, the cloud of dust we kicked up. I was fighting dust back there and I didn’t want to jump. “Surely he will slow down over there.” I thought, “He knows I‘m behind here.”
He didn’t slow down. I had to jump off there; I had no choice. If we went past the church, they would see me from the school and I would get a licken. I jumped off. The last thing I remember is hitting the road. When I woke up I was off the road, up a little bank and on the grass. The other boys came along just as I woke up. They had walked a mile. How long does it take to walk a mile? I had been knocked out that long.
At that school we used to get soup that was filled with not much more than the crusts of the bread that baker burnt. They would want to see us eat that burnt bread.
They would say, “If you eat that stuff you will get to be good singers.” We ate lots of that burnt stuff, but we never got to be good singers. Maybe we would have been if we hadn’t eaten it.
Dear cuzzins, if you or anyone you know is struggling with a visit with depression, suicidal ideation or attempts we want you to know help is available at KUU-US Crisis Line Society.
Adults/Elders (250-723-4050), Child/Youth (250-723-2040), Toll free (1-800-588-8717), or the Métis Line (1-833-MétisBC).