Culture

Nipekiwan – Je reviens: The story of Marcel Pitikwi and his time at residential school

By Sabrina Awashish Soucy

Marcel Pitikwi, an Atikamekw from Wemotaci, will soon be launching his very first novel, a semi-autobiographical story set during the era of residential schools in Quebec and along the road towards healing and reconciliation.

As a child, Marcel was constantly told “You’ll never amount to anything in your life—you’ll always be a good-for-nothing layabout!” These constant words were the beginning of a long descent into darkness that dragged his family and loved ones down with him.

Today, victimization and substance abuse are far behind him and he is moving forward, step by step, towards healing by reconnecting with his culture.

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In Quebec and across Canada, thousands of children—survivors like Marcel—were torn from their families in the sole aim of assimilating them, of “killing the Indian” in them. More recently, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to help survivors turn the page on the events of the past.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper also made a public apology in 2008. Today, thousands of families, members of Quebec and Canada’s First Nations, still feel the effects of the residential schools on their lives. Many people still don’t know or refuse to acknowledge what really happened during this dark period of our history.

Nonetheless, like Marcel, we must make peace, continue moving forward and take advantage of the resources now available to help members of the various First Nations. For some, outlets in the form of art, culture, forest retreats or sports can help them chase out their “demons.” I personally believe that it is important to have an outlet. For Marcel, this was writing!

For those interested, Nipekiwan – Je reviens will be officially launched in the author’s home community of Wemotaci. The first edition of the book will be published in mid-March.

You can get the digital version now (in French only), via the following link: entrepotnumerique.com.

 

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