Theodore Fontaine, author of “Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir”, was in the Brantford area this week to speak on his books and life experiences.
Fontaine attended the Fort Alexander and Assiniboia Indian residential schools as a child in Manitoba, and his book tells of the emotional, psychological and sexual abuse he endured there and his path to healing.
He spoke twice at Laurier and once at Six Nations Polytechnic. An emotional message was made even more so being in the Brantford area, as he said that it was like coming home for him. He had signed a contract to play minor hockey in Hamilton in the 60s, but never ended up going there.
Even though he has traveled many places speaking on related topics, it is still tough for him to think and talk about his story.
“I’m scared to tell you the story,” Fontaine said during his first session at Laurier.
Fontaine went on to have much success in various ventures in his life, including roles with the federal Secretary of State department and the Northwest Territories Region of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. He even spent two years as chief of the Sagkeeng First Nation. Throughout this time he was always plagued by the pain of his past and the self-image it had left him with. His healing began when he started to finally believe that he could be just as good as other people, and it was through dealing with the issues that his book came to be.
“The book was never intended to be a book,” he said.
As he worked out the issues of his past it became somewhat of a responsibility to him to share his story and a further the healing process.
“I don’t have fun doing this, but it’s like freedom, getting to share what I’ve been through,” said Fontaine. He said it is a struggle as he continues to share his story as other truths come back to him later in age. It is a consistent struggle, but he is, “committed to telling people over and over again what happened.”
Through his book and his speaking, Fontaine hopes to shed light on the very real and dark history of Indian residential schools and the horrible things that happened. He said that many people tend to think stories such as his and from others are exaggerations of the truth, and he is determined to make sure that people are aware of what the schools were really like.