Nfld. & Labrador

We're still here: How the residential school system affected my family

Both sides of Tyler Mugford's family endured terrible things at residential schools. "There are times where that resentment and pain surfaces, even after all these years," he writes of one grandmother's ordeal. "It never fails to break my heart."

'It never fails to break my heart'

The old Lockwood Residential School in Cartwright is no more. (Sandra Mugford/Submitted by Tyler Mugford)

For years the Lockwood School in Cartwright housed Indigenous children taken from their homes all in the name of "killing the Indian within the child."

Finally, it stands no more.

"Good riddance, should have been torn down long ago," my nan, Ann Noseworthy, said when I shared the news with her Tuesday afternoon.

We both sat on the couch and I asked her what that experience was like.

I had an inkling; she referred to her seven years in the Lockwood School as a nightmare. She had told me about bugs in her food, about abuse, about being taken from her family in Spotted Islands at seven years old, and about so much more.

She put down her iPad and thought, "Oh, Tyler, I don't want to talk about it."  

"OK," I said — and that was that.

Nan didn't need to tell me to make me understand. I felt it on that couch. Her seven years in Lockwood took their toll.

Tyler Mugford's grandmother was glad to see the Lockwood residential school torn down. (Sandra Mugford/Submitted by Tyler Mugford)

Every day is a struggle with anxiety and depression. There are good and bad days, mostly good these days. But despite it all, she's still able to smile and laugh at my silliness and never-ending tormenting.

But there are times where that resentment and pain surfaces, even after all these years.

It never fails to break my heart.

Suffering in silence

Both sides of my family were victims of the residential school. On my mother's side, Nan Ann Noseworthy, and her siblings. On my father's side, my grandmother, Mary Mugford.

Nan Mugford passed away in 2008 when I was around nine years old, so the memories I have with her are fuzzy. The ones I do have are of a quiet woman who kept to herself. She always sat close to the TV, and loved her grasswork. I thought she looked grumpy all the time.

Mary Mugford with her grandson Tyler Mugford in Cartwright. She never told her family what she experienced at the Yale School in North West River. (Submitted by Tyler Mugford)

I was once told Nan Mugford was in awe that she was able to hold me, her very own grandson.

Looking back now, I understand why she may have been grumpy-looking — she went to Yale School in North West River, deemed the most harsh residential school in Newfoundland and Labrador. She lost her mother and two brothers in a heartbreaking tragedy while trapped far away in a place unknown to her.

Not once did she share what she went through or how she felt with anyone, not even her good friends, or her son. God knows what she experienced or saw, but she kept moving forward.

The residential school system is one of many chapters in Canada's racist past, and is something many Canadians don't know enough about.

Tyler Mugford with his grandmother, Ann Noseworthy. (Sandra Mugford/Submitted by Tyler Mugford)

So please, take the time to educate yourself, learn about us, about what we went through, what we're still going through.

You'll come to find out that, despite everything, we're still here.

My grandmothers are a testament to that.


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