Anne Jimmie holds up a photo of her and her mother, Christine Jimmy, that was taken in 1948. (Aaron Hemens - Creston Valley Advance)

Anne Jimmie holds up a photo of her and her mother, Christine Jimmy, that was taken in 1948. (Aaron Hemens - Creston Valley Advance)

Saving the inner child: A LKB Elder’s experience in the residential school system

“By the time I left the residential school, I didn’t like myself. To me, it was like I was one of God’s worst creations.”

This article is Part One of a series that chronicles the life of Lower Kootenay Band Elder Anne Jimmie. The purpose of this series is to preserve the lived experiences of a residential school survivor and to create more awareness in the community around this dark chapter in Canada’s history.

Anne Jimmie was only five years old when she first walked through the doors of Cranbrook’s St. Eugene Indian Residential School.

It was 67 years ago, but Jimmie remembers her first day of school like it was yesterday.

“My mom and dad brought me inside. I remember going in and the first people I met were a priest and a nun. The way they were dressed was what scared me,” said Jimmie. “They started talking — they were speaking in english and I didn’t know english. I spoke Ktunaxa.”

The next thing she remembers is the nun taking her by the hand and leading her down the hall to the upstairs junior dormitory, which housed other little Indigenous girls in grades one through four.

Confused by what was going on, she wanted to turn around and run to her parents. But when she looked back, they were nowhere in sight.

“I started crying. I wanted to go but the nun was holding my hand. I was pulling away but my parents were gone, just like that,” she said. “I was crying and the nun’s voice changed. Even though I didn’t know what she was saying, the voice is what scared me.”

When they got upstairs, Jimmie remembers her of her first day of school outfit that her mom had bought her being stripped away by the nun, who instead gave her a uniform that was to be worn at all times.

She described the first few months of adjusting to this new world as hard. Most of all, she said they were lonely.

“I cried every night. I was in the dormitory with other junior girls, and I would hear the crying during the nights from other girls,” she said. “The nun would come in and threaten us or strap us if we didn’t stop crying. It was hard. The abuses were constant. That became my life for the next eight years.”

During those eight years, Jimmie said she suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of priests, nuns and other students.

“Everyday, I just never knew what was going to come. I always knew I was going to get punished. I was living in fear and being punished,” she said.

The days would begin at 6 a.m., where a nun would come in and clap her hands to wake up the students.

“First thing you had to do was get on your knees and pray. Then you got dressed and went into what they called the lavatory, washed up, brushed your teeth and then you went to mass,” she said.

Mass was followed by breakfast in the dining room, where Jimmie said that students were fed salty, lumpy porridge and sour milk.

“I always thought bread pudding was a slice of bread soaked in sour milk and you had to eat it. We had bread soaked in molasses for snacks,” she said. “Every morning, we had to line up for cod liver oil that was sprayed into our mouths. It was supposed to be some sort of vitamin. That was brutal.”

Students were required to complete chores around the building once breakfast was over, and Jimmie recalled one instance where — as punishment — she was forced to scrub a long flight of stairs with a toothbrush at six years old.

“I remember I was working in the kitchen, and I got punished for not putting the dishes in the right place. I kept getting punished, so I made sure that I put them in the right place, cause I didn’t like the strap, it hurt,” she said. “I came to realize that the nun would deliberately put it somewhere else just to give me the strap.”

Classes started when chores were finished, with the primary subjects being english, math and catechism.

“I learned english pretty quick. I learned that every time I spoke my language I got punished. They would strap me on my hands or on my butt,” she said.

She remembers how staff would also constantly demonize her parents.

“They didn’t use the word alcoholics, but they would call them drunks and say that they didn’t care. It was telling me I was better off in the school and I was there to be civilized, I guess,” she said. “Take the indian out of me – take the Ktunaxa out of me. That was the intent.”

Jimmie was 13 when she finished grade eight in 1961, her final year of studies before attending David Thompson High School in Invermere later that fall.

She had already had her first sip of alcohol when she was only 12. By the age of 14, she said she would drink to get drunk.

“By the time I left the residential school, I didn’t like myself,” she said. “To me, it was like I was one of God’s worst creations. That’s how I felt when I left. The reason is because of all the punishments I got.”

Part Two of ‘Saving the Inner Child’ will explore Jimmie’s life after leaving the residential school system. In particular, the focus will be on her struggles with alcohol abuse, her attempts at navigating the public high school system and her path to overcoming her traumas.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: aaron.hemens@crestonvalleyadvance.ca


@aaron_hemens
aaron.hemens@crestonvalleyadvance.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

residential schools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Creston Valley Hospital. Photo: Aaron Hemens
‘Wear your mask, because it’s the best shot we’ve got’: Creston Valley Hospital’s Chief of Staff

“Hard things are much easier to do if we stay connected. This virus is doing its very best to undermine our unity. Remember, we are fighting a virus, not each other,” writes Dr. Nerine Kleinhans

A man wearing a face-mask walks past protestors at a rally against COVID-19 health measures in Creston on Nov. 28. Photo: Aaron Hemens
Creston residents rally against COVID-19 health measures

More than 100 community members of all ages were in attendance, and many were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

A still frame from “Wheels”. Submitted by Mark Wolfe
Creston short film wins festival award

“Wheels” was selected as one of the recipients of a merit award for the Canada Shorts film festival

One of seven kitties rescued from a property east of Grand Forks Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks women rescue sick kitties from rural property

Kimberly Feeny and Lisa Valenta spent their Friday nursing seven cats rescued east of the city

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Most Read