Page 12

A First Nations mother finds healing through storytelling and faith in God BY BRIANNE ZELINSKY, STAFF WRITER


t was a day Inez Shanoss would never forget. Shanoss was just 13 when she was taken from her home on the First Nations reserve, along with many other Aboriginal children from British Columbia’s Nisga’a Valley and the surrounding communities. She stared out the bus window and watched in terror as the buses departed, leaving behind an entire community of helpless, weeping parents. Her final destination was a government boarding school, where years of traumatic events left her with deep emotional scars. It was a long time before Shanoss, who attends the Salvation Army church in Prince Rupert, B.C., took her first steps toward healing. “I can’t see any other way but through prayer and asking God to help me, and trusting and believing that it’s going to happen,” she says. A Long Way from Home After leaving the reserve, Shanoss was first taken to Prince Rupert. “I was brought to a hairdresser and got my long, black hair chopped off to my ears,” she recalls. “They ripped out all of my top teeth and stuffed my mouth with gauze. I didn’t look like who I was anymore.” In just hours, Shanoss was stripped of her smile, innocence, culture and family. Ill-equipped for the journey and paralyzed by the agony of undergoing an oral procedure without proper care, Shanoss was crammed into one of ten buses and transported to a boarding school in Surrey, B.C., where she lived from 1970 to 1975. “It was far away and I only came home once a year in the summer and sometimes during Christmas,” Shanoss says. “They were inhumane to the First Nations children and families of that era.” 12 • September 2014 • Salvationist

Much like the Indian residential schools, some boarding schools attempted to assimilate First Nations children into Canadian culture by forbidding their native language, religious practices and cultural values. “I lost my language, my culture and who I was. I lost my spirit. I lost my identity,” Shanoss laments. At these boarding homes, some students faced physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of those in charge. “It’s really terrible how trauma continued to debilitate me. I Inez Shanoss lost my talking, walking and mobility,” says Shanoss, who still struggles to discuss her boarding school experience. From Trauma to Turning Point In the wake of the traumatizing events she faced away from home, Shanoss developed post-traumatic stress disorder. Loud sounds triggered terrible memories from her teen years, putting her in a constant state of anxiety. “When people raised their voices or if somebody was angry, it made me anxious and I would literally taste blood in my mouth,” she shares. “I used to get sick every August for about 35 years, not knowing why I wanted to throw up and get sick all the time,” Shanoss continues. “It was because my body and mind were unknow-

Photo: ©

Taking Her Spirit Back

Salvationist - September 2014  
Salvationist - September 2014