Nearly two years ago, Blackfoot elder Christina Fox was creating a freehand appliqué design and watched as it turned into a familiar little girl in a red dress with long black hair.
“I looked at it and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is me,’” said Fox. “It brought tears and I knew I had to do something about it, I had to keep going.”
She started to take notes and recall her days in residential school.
On her first day at the residential school, she brought her suitcase packed full of traditional dress and toys to share with the new friends she hoped to meet.
“When my folks left and the door slammed and my suitcase — I never saw it after that,” said Fox. “My beautiful hair, it was on the floor.
“In many many ways my heart was broken.”
Her notes soon mapped out her entire residential school experience.
“I’ll never totally heal. I will not,” said Fox. “My journey is something that I wouldn’t want to wish upon anyone.”
Fox has been the elder in residence at the First Nation’s Learning Centre in Children of St. Martha School in Lethbridge for more than 20 years.
During that time, she shared her experiences with her friend Laurie McIntosh, kindergarten teacher, who encouraged her to share her story.
Fox said My Suitcase: Nii Sookayis is a book to learn about living skills. It includes a Blackfoot glossary, photos of her as a child and her appliqué designs.
After hitting the publish button on Amazon last week, her book has already become a number one best seller on in the children’s books on Canadian history category.
“It’s a beautiful generous gift from an elder in our community who has survived the trauma; It’s a real story and it belongs on every bookshelf in Canada,” said McIntosh.
Fox and McIntosh hope one day to see the book make it into a school curriculum on residential schools.
“Maybe they might, the world out there might stop saying why don’t they just get over it,” said Fox. “I want them to hear me, I want them to see me as a survivor.”