This article contains content about residential “schools” that may be triggering. Kelsie Kilawna is a syilx reporter who’s committed to syilx storytelling protocol and trauma-informed reporting.
kʷ łac k̓l q̓lspúʔus uł kʷ ay̓ʕay̓ncút ixíʔ ksc̓sapaʔx k̓l spúʔus, which translates to, “when you laugh, all your sadness goes away,” is the name of a comedy night planned for survivors to enjoy.
“The title is so meaningful — it’s really important for us to laugh. When you laugh all your sadness goes away,” says Madeline Terbasket, a performing artist also known as “Mother Girth” and “Rez Daddy.”
Madeline will be performing in the evening’s lineup alongside sqilxw (Indigenous) artists Cori Derrickson, Tonia Jo Hall, and Don Burnstick.
The Okanagan Indian Band is sponsoring the event, ensuring that those who were children when taken away to the residential “schools,” will be prioritized.
This will be the first year that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is recognized as a federal statutory holiday. The day received royal assent on June 3, following the uncovering of 215 graves on the former grounds of a church-run institution known as Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“The day honours the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process,” reads the federal website for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.
Madeline says it’s important for them to spend the day with their Elders, sharing in “the good medicine of laughter.”
“I think it’s really important on this day for our Elders to have relief of some sort from all that pain. I’m going to be telling a queer Animal People story, then my classic Coyote and Eagle story,” Madeline says.
They chose to share Coyote stories, stories that are very important to syilx People and hold many teachings that govern the values of the people, because they feel it’s important for these teachings to never be forgotten.
“I want them [Coyote stories] to keep going and not die out with this generation. That’s the reason I add the things I do and make them modern, so people nowadays still remember them through laughter,” Madeline says.
“I hope that [those who were taken to residential “schools”] are reminded that our culture is always there for them whenever they need, and our stories.”
Madeline says they also aim to honour those who never got to fully live as their true selves.
After having the experience of coming out online as Two-Spirit and being welcomed home, Madeline says they hope to honour others on similar journeys.
“I’m sharing a queer story in my set, because a lot of the time we forget about the Two-Spirit kids that went to residential school,” Madeline says. “I get really emotional thinking about it, because a lot of them were lost and didn’t get to come home.”
The comedy night starts at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are being sold through this online form. While the tickets for the in-person show are available for survivors, the event will be available to all via livestream, Madeline says.
After this, Madeline says they will be focusing their energy on their next big project — filming a burlesque show. Stay tuned, they say.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866 925-4419.Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society aims to provide a “non-judgmental approach to listening and problem-solving.” The crisis line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-588-8717 or go to kuu-uscrisisline.com. KUU-US means “people” in Nuu-chah-nulth.