Saganash was ripped from the bosom of his nomadic Cree family near the remote northern Quebec village of Waswanipi and shipped to a residential school some 500 kilometres away in La Tuque. “A very traumatic experience for anybody,” he recently told The Canadian Press.
In his own case, the experience was made immeasurably worse within six months of his arrival at the school, when the priest in charge called him and his siblings into his office to inform them that their father had died. In the next breath, Saganash recalls, the priest advised them: “We don’t have the budgets to send you there (for the funeral) so you’ll have to do your grieving here in the residential school. I still recall the scene when he gave us the bad news, we were sitting in front of the director, the priest. I still recall my brothers and sisters were crying and crying and crying and I was just there staring at him. That was, I think, a turning point for me.”