781: A Story of Sports and Survival in Canadian Residential School
The NCTR is honoured to share the following series featuring Survivor Circle member Eugene Arcand. This five-part series was produced by TSN in September 2022, and we thank TSN for their generosity in sharing this with the NCTR.
Please note, Eugene’s story could be triggering and traumatic for residential school survivors and/or their families. The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of his or her residential school experience. Call 1-800-721-0066 and/or visit the First Nations Health Authority website, fnha.ca.
Eugene Arcand is just one in this picture of 32 children. You may recognize this photo as it has been seen all over the world. It travels with Eugene wherever he goes, and all the children in the picture travel with him too. Only 9 of the 32 are alive today.
Eugene learned to be mentally tough as a means of survival at his residential school. That’s what carried him through sports and what carries him today as he continues to share his life experiences with Canadians in the name of public education and awareness.
Sports saved Eugene’s life. Fred Sasakamoose, a Cree hockey player from Saskatchewan was Eugene’s hero. Fred had also attended St. Michael’s Residential School and learned to play hockey there. He would become the first First Nations player in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks. Eugene would eventually meet Fred and his other heroes along the way.
“Now we know. Now they believe us.” Eugene reflects on the discovery of unmarked graves first with anger and hurt, but he believes, “If you want to talk about Reconciliation, you better know what it is you’re talking about. The truth [must] come first. The truth is not there to hurt you. The truth is there to educate you. Look, this is what happened. We can fix this. It’s not beyond repair.”
NCTR’s spirit name – bezhig miigwan, meaning “one feather”.
Bezhig miigwan calls upon us to see each Survivor coming to the NCTR as a single eagle feather and to show those Survivors the same respect and attention an eagle feather deserves. It also teaches we are all in this together — we are all one, connected, and it is vital to work together to achieve reconciliation.