An interesting, open and authentic man with a story that reminds us to never stop fighting for what we believe in...
I spoke to Lambert for a very long time, he was open, interesting and authentic. He shared with me many stories that opened my eyes and enlightened me on a group of people, The Coast Salish who I, before speaking to him, knew very little about. Lambert shared with me stories of hardship, trauma and struggle but also amazing stories of overcoming these struggles and working towards a better future. It is stories like Lambert's that inspire me and remind me of the power of staying true to yourself and fighting for what you believe in.
Lambert was born and raised in Powell River, he grew up in the Coast Salish community and was one of 17 children, 11 boys and 6 girls. However, he did not meet his siblings until he was 13 years old. He explained to me that they went to boarding school so he never had a chance to meet him until he was a teenager. As I spoke with Lambert he shared with me that his siblings attended residential schools and began to speak to the horrors that they had faced. Lambert explained that after meeting his siblings at the age of 13 and getting to know them, they shared stories of the residential schools. For example how they would have to run 200 laps of the field as punishment for attempting to escape. They were not allowed to speak their native language, contact home and in an act of a gruesome punishment they would go as far as lining them up and walking on their stomachs. Many of his siblings returned home damaged, unable to speak their language and incredibly scarred. One brother was so damaged he could hardly speak. His siblings, he explains didn't let this stop them. Lambert told me how his siblings would always say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, that they thought they would break them but they were wrong.
Lambert did not face the same atrocities that his siblings did. When his parents realized what was being done at these "boarding schools" they attempted to hide him and keep him away from the terrible fate his siblings had faced. Lambert was sent to live with and be raised by his grandma. She looked after him, hid him and taught him his native language. These years he told me were some of the best of his life. Lambert was moved around a lot and in an effort again to avoid residential schools. He was sent to a boarding school in the United States. Although it was not a residential school, life was still far from easy. Being the only aboriginal child in the school Lambert was often made fun of and picked on quite a bit. He was alienated for being Native and although he was not forced into a school like his siblings, he still experienced harsh racism.
Lambert's stories highlighted the atrocities that the aboriginal people faced, his stories brought to light what had been done to these people and how it later affected them as a group. I found myself holding back tears speaking to Lambert and could only imagine what he had been through. Although I was incredibly saddened by the stories Lambert shared with me, my spirits were lifted by the stories he then went on to tell me about the native community today and what they are doing to restore and preserve their culture. The Coast Salish community are now trying to open a long house as a way to restore their culture. They have a newspaper to teach people what they slowly forget. The newspaper includes colours, words and numbers in their native language to remind them and keep their culture alive. It also features stories of Aboriginal issues in the government to keep them informed on what is going on in their community. Lambert tells me that the young people, although they have their struggles with drugs due to abuse and neglect, they still do a good job of trying to keep the culture alive and he is proud and hopeful for the future of the Coast Salish community.
It is stories like Lambert's that not only make us painfully aware of the hardships that the native community faced but also remind us that although we cannot change what has been done in the past, we can work towards a better future and change what we do today. Our words and our actions do matter and do have an impact, every act and every word no matter how small do make a difference, more than we may even realize. I hope that we can all be inspired by the stories that Lambert shared with us to fight for what we believe in and always stay true to ourselves. I am so grateful that Lambert was open and willing to share as I think it is important for all of us to understand what our native people have been through and to see the power behind staying true to yourself and fighting for what you believe in.