Marlene Krug has spent her adult life reclaiming her past.
While Krug’s father is of European descent, her mother hails from the Tsimsian Nation, from a band called Lax Kw’alaams and a clan called Gispwudwada (Killer Whale clan).
Along with all of her siblings, Krug’s mother was stolen from her family.
“She was ‘scooped’ from her family, land and culture at a very young age,” Krug explains. “I am part of a massive group of Indigenous peoples who lost a lot, or all, of their traditions, language, and family.”
Across the country, children and grandchildren of kidnapped First Nations are attempting to come to terms with their past and build a better future.
“There are hundreds of people who identify as first nations in Revelstoke,” Krug says. “We strongly suggest people self-identify at school if they have any past ancestry at all! This helps us better identify the need for specific supports in our community and schools. It also helps our groups to apply for grants and funding to be able to support Aboriginals and share our culture with everyone.”
The ‘us’ Krug is talking about is the Aboriginal Education Board of School District 19 and the Revelstoke Aboriginal Friendship Society, a not for profit group that strives to “raise public awareness, increase knowledge of and support for Aboriginal people, heritage and culture within our community…act in friendship and are open to all people supportive of Aboriginal perspectives.”
“I was voted in as president for the past three years,” says Krug. “I have had the great privilege of working with a great board and coordinators, and together we build more and more every year, making community connections through our culture.”
For Krug, bringing Indigenous history and culture to the forefront helps reconciliation, which is of vital importance.
“It means the restoration of friendly relations, reuniting, reunion, bringing together, the action of making one view of belief compatible with another,” she explains. “I believe the more knowledge and culture that is shared, the better understanding we will have, and the better chance to grow a stronger future.”
“I personally believe in Canadian Indigenous reconciliation,” Krug says, though she notes it is important to recognize the word reconciliation means different things to different people.
“Reconciliation may look and be completely different between nations, even individuals, depending on their beliefs and history.”
For Krug, the direction School District 19 has taken in teaching students about Aboriginals is positive and important.
“I love the path the school system is taking,” she observes. “Teaching our youth about a Canadian tragedy–residential schools, where 150,000 children were forced from their families, land, culture and language. Many schools, including those in Revelstoke, have Orange Shirt Day, where they honour the survivors of residential schools.”
When it comes to reconnecting to a cultural past shrouded with abuse, Krug is willing and ready to share her experiences and culture, in a hope to encourage reconciliation while trying to help others heal.
“Inter-generational Trauma and Indigenous Healing are terms used when talking about the effects of the ‘scoop’ and residential school survivors,” Krug explains. “Impacts are primary factors in physical and mental illness including addiction, depression, cancer, heart disease, type two diabetes, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to name a few.”
Krug herself was raised by a strong mother who came from a tough past.
“She and my dad raised four healthy children,” says Krug.
Regardless, the harsh realities of dealing with inter-generational trauma was not lost of Krug.
“I can only speak for myself, but I have heard others in my generation say they were ashamed and embarrassed about being from aboriginal culture.”
Trauma has affected those Krug knows and loves and she has lost people close to her.
“We did not grow up cultured,” she explains. “And the school system did not teach us, but I am so proud to be learning now, and seeing the changes in Canada. Being part of the Friendship Society has given me many opportunities to learn more and share this culture thousands of us have lost.”
“Most importantly, I do not live in shame and I am proud to be Indigenous.”