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"When You Look At Us": A Poem Written by Métis Youth, Tutchone Dunfield

Date: September 30, 2020

The following poem was written by Tutchone Dunfield, a young Métis scholar, changemaker, and athlete from Treaty 8, Grande Prairie. This poem has been featured in local KAIROS Blanket Exercises as a way to educate about the realities and experiences Indigenous youth continue to face. Tutchone wrote this poem when she was in Grade 11. She currently attends post-secondary at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC.

When You Look At Us

By Tutchone Dunfield

I want to share a truth,

When you look at Black people, you see the ghosts of all the slavery and rapes and hangings and chains,

When you look at Jewish people you see the ghosts of all those bodies piled up in death camps,

And those ghosts keep you trying to learn the right thing

But when you look at us, you don't see the thousands of children who were forced from their homes and put into schools where they were mentally, physically and sexually abused by the nuns and priests whose main purpose was to kill the Indian in the child.

You don't see when they were planning these schools, they were plotting graveyards instead of playgrounds

You don't see how if these children spoke their own language they would stick needles on their tongue, or they would be put into homemade electric chairs, and as their little legs would flail around while they were being shocked, the nuns would laugh at them.

You don't see how the Canadian government did experiments on these children.

They were used as Guinea pigs.

One group would be given milk while another was not, and they would test out their teeth

If these children got sick, they wouldn't be given medication because the government wanted to see how they would react

One child was so sick one morning he threw up in his bowl of oatmeal; He was forced to stay in his room for three days with nothing to eat and when he came back the nun gave the same bowl he had threw up in three days earlier and told him “eat it”.

You don't see how other countries admire John A McDonald’s idea of residential school and used that to create the apartheid and concentration camps

You don't see how the last school closed in 1996, just 3 years before I was born.

Instead what you see are Indians who don't pay taxes,

You see dirty natives who are given “free” education and “free” housing

And you tell us to “get over it”

Because “we’re all Canadians”, “We’re all equal”

How can we be equal when we have communities in our country living in third world conditions

How can we be equal when you use our faces as your mascots, like we are some kind of animal

How can we be equal when we have indigenous youth committing suicide by the dozens

How can we be equal when 65% of youth in care are Indigenous

How can we be equal when 75% of people incarcerated are Indigenous

And how can we be equal, when a 17-year-old indigenous youth knows more about the true history of Canada, than most teachers in the classroom


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