Ex-NHLer describes rape at residential school
Truth and Reconciliation Commission hears harrowing account
Agony was etched on the face of hockey pioneer Fred Sasakamoose this week as he talked about being raped at an Indian residential school almost seven decades ago.
Sasakamoose, 78, was in Prince Albert, Sask., Thursday to talk about his residential school experience in front of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Born on the Cree Ahtahkakoop Indian Reserve in northern Saskatchewan, he was sent to Duck Lake residential school when he was six.
Sasakamoose recalled the cries of children as he and his brother were loaded into a truck and taken away from their family.
During his years at the school, he said, he witnessed older children raping the younger ones.
"Our own people. Our own kids were doing this to us," Sasakamoose said.
When he was nine, it happened to him and another boy.
"I was raped," he said. "When I got up, I had no clothes on … sore. I looked around and my little friend was gone."
"The priest was there. He could have seen it, but there was nothing that he would do. He didn't want to. He was maybe a couple of hundred yards away from us."
Occasionally wiping away tears as he spoke, Sasakamoose said it was the first time he had told people about what happened. Not even his wife had heard of these events, he said.
He said he wants people to know that when they hear about people being sexually assaulted at residential school, either by other students or by priests, they're hearing the truth.
"I am hurt. I'll never forget it. Never," he said.
His testimony came, coincidentally, on the eve of his induction into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.
The former Chicago Black Hawk was the first Canadian First Nations person to play in the National Hockey League.
The commission is travelling throughout Canada hearing first person accounts like Sasakamoose's.
Throughout the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of children were taken from their homes and put in residential schools that were typically run by churches under government supervision.
The children were not allowed to speak First Nations languages or wear traditional dress. Many said they were physically and sexually abused.
The last of the schools was shut down in the 1990s. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has apologized to Canada's First Nations.