National Day of Truth & Reconciliation | Tammy Parenteau

September 29, 2021

Tammy Parenteau, Orange Shirt Day
We believe that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity to educate and remind ourselves about the traumatic history of residential schools and the hardhips, both past and present, that the indigenous community continues to face in our country today

We would like to thank one of our Contents Supervisors, Tammy Parenteau, for sharing her incredible story about growing up Indigenous in Vancouver and how Residential schools impacted her.


orange-quotation-marks-png-7 - Lingo24 blog

I don’t remember anything about my parents growing up; I now know my mother, but I still don’t know who my father is. I was raised by my grandmother, who was an emotionally, physically and mentally abusive person. When I was younger, I resented her and didn’t understand why she wasn’t loving or why my parents abandoned me. When I became a young adult, I realized that hers and my parents’ behaviour directly resulted from the generational trauma caused by Residential schools.


As a young child, I didn’t understand why my grandmother would treat us the way she did. If it wasn’t for my amazing Norwegian Grandfather, I honestly don’t know where I’d be today. I had a luxury that not many people like me had – a loving parent who, although wasn’t Indigenous, helped me connect with my culture. He treated us as if we were his own kids, and did his best to engage us with the Indigenous culture and take us to as many pow-wows as possible. Try as my Grandfather might, it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t raised on a reservation; I hardly feel I was raised Indigenous. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I ‘registered’. I never felt discriminated against or racially profiled. If anything, being raised away from my culture, I felt incredibly whitewashed.


Growing up, resenting my parents and grandmother, I decided to leave home at 16. Back then, I found out that because of my ‘situation’, I was what they called a ward of the government. Since my parents gave me up, the government had to be responsible for me, so I could get some assistance until I was 19 years old. Being out on my own, I was able to do a lot of living, trying to discover who I am. At the early age of 18, I became a mother, still not knowing much about my Indigenous heritage. Now that I was cut off from my parents and grandparents, I did not have any connection to the Indigenous community, and I was uncertain if my children ever would.


When my husband (of about 20 years now) came into my life, that all changed. His family was from a reservation in Saskatchewan. They welcomed me with open arms, and that is when I was able to really connect with my culture in a meaningful way. They started to teach me about modern Indigenous lifestyles. My husbands’ mother has had the most significant impact on my relationship with my Indigenous roots. She is a proud Indigenous woman with a deep connection to her culture. It was her that introduced me to the ceremonies of smudging and sweat lodge.


𝙄 𝙛𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙛𝙚𝙡𝙩 𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙖 𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙩𝙮.


Since then, I have done my best to let go of all the negative experiences that happened to me because of being Indigenous. I focused on creating healthy experiences for my children to have the childhood that I was not afforded and create a relationship with the Indigenous community at a much younger age.


Although we have tried our best, it has still been challenging to find our Indigenous ways. We are proud to be Indigenous, and we try to make it to the ceremonies in North Vancouver’s Squamish Nation (where I am from). Because we need to capitalize on the connection to our culture because to this day, I still must work at the slow process of connecting to my culture. I am nonetheless hopeful that I will one day get there.


11 years ago, my family grew, and for that, I thank Metis Family Services. It was 11 years ago that I became a foster mom. My husband and I took in his niece and nephew (Cheyenne and Martin). Unfortunately, this storyline is far too familiar across Canada. It happened to me, being raised by grandparents and the government. It was now happening all over again with my children. Taking them in was one of the best things to ever happen in my life. I swore that I would not let what happened to me happen to them. I made it clear to my kids that, unlike when I turned 19, there is no ageing out of the system. I am here for them no matter what.


They have grown into amazing people; Martine has since graduated and is working in construction, and Cheyenne will graduate this year and is looking forward to being in social services in some way and protecting children like her.


We worked hard to give them the best possible life, but we were unable to shield them from everything despite our efforts. One day when Cheyenne was younger, she came up to me. She simply said:


“When will it stop?”

I asked her what she meant and she responded with:


 “The racism against Indigenous people”

I didn’t really have an answer, and I thought about it for a second and explained to her:


“It may never stop, it’s always going to be there it’s up to us to just try to push past it, to be strong! and proud of who we are as people!”

I am reminded of the conversation I had with Cheyenne whenever I’m with others, and we find ourselves in the downtown eastside. Because I know that people do not always feel safe down there, but that is where I was born and raised and that unfortunately, is where I see a lot of Indigenous people struggling. We must be kind to everyone and realize that we don’t know what led them to struggle and that there is so much generational trauma that continues to affect the community to this day.

Finally, I would like to say that it makes me proud to be a part of a company like Platinum Pro-Claim that has recognized the Indigenous community and the generational problems that have continued to echo through our communities because of the residential school system. I am honoured that PPCR has chosen to observe the federal holiday and provided all its staff with the opportunity to reflect and educate themselves about the Indigenous community, of which I am a proud member.


𝐓𝐚𝐦𝐦𝐲 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐮

𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔 𝑺𝒖𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒗𝒊𝒔𝒐𝒓



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