June 11, 2008

Beach was a victim too

Actor sees a way to break out of his people's dramaAdam Beach did not go to residential school. His parents did not. But their parents had gone.

And the damage simply spread after that.

Two other family children taken on by Chris and Agnes Beach in Winnipeg learned last year that their mother, who had become an alcoholic and a prostitute, was now also a murder victim.

And Adam Beach himself was sexually abused--even though he never so much as set foot in one of the church-run institutions, the last of which closed down in 1996.

"I was saved," Adam Beach believes, "when my parents died and my uncle took me away to the city."
Beach blames the system, not the victim:"I was born in 1972," says the young actor who was nominated this year for a Golden Globe for his work in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, "but I am still a product of the residential schools. I am a product of the effect of those schools on my family."

Adam Beach is an adherent to the theory that many natives today are suffering from a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder that has been passed down from generation to generation by those who suffered abominable abuses in the residential school system.

It is an idea that was explored in a native-made film by Georgina Lightning, Older Than America, starring, among others, Adam Beach.
How the residential-school effect lives on:One of his great regrets is that, even though he learned a smattering of Navajo to play private Ben Yahzee in Windtalkers, he cannot speak his own Anishinaabe language.

"My family never taught me my language because they were taught their language was bad and only English was good," he says. "My parents and other parents didn't want my generation to get their face slapped for speaking our own language."

This was but one of many things he believes was learned at residential school: Have contempt for your own culture, your language, yourself.
Comment:  Some people have denied that Indians suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. They say Indians are to blame for their own problems. I'm going to go with the person who has lived through the trauma over the people who haven't.

For more on the subject, see Why Americans Commit Suicide.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
writerfella shares that same characteristic with Adam Beach, in that he never was inculcated into his own Kiowan language until, at age 7, he was introduced to his older Kiowan relatives in Oklahoma. He had been raised from one month old in Los Angeles during WWII and Kiowan was a second language that his parents spoke but never had been taught to him or his year-younger sister, Joan. Still, because his sister and he knew his parents, he and she were able to infer what their parents were saying to one another by simple association. Thus it is that, though writerfella (and his sister, now deceased) achieved a nominal understanding of the language, it unfortunately did not contribute to an ability to speak it. The language now is under stress and belated efforts are being made to teach it to the current generation. Reflect that if English was the main language your parents spoke and their original European language only was spoken by them. The sense of loss, therefore, easily should be perceived...
All Best
Russ Bates