Alumni Panelist: Lives Well Lived
Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 | 1 to 3:30pm
The Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness
Interurban Campus, Camosun College
Eddy Charlie is from the Cowichan Nation of Duncan, B.C. He first enrolled at Camosun in 2011 taking the Indigenous Family Support program and later continued on into the two-year Indigenous Studies program, graduating in 2016.
“In the Indigenous Studies program we learned about our role as leaders in the community,” says Eddy. “I learned about colonization and the effect it had on Indigenous ways of life. I also learned more about residential school. We were encouraged to bring or inspire change in our respective communities.”
Eddy is a residential school survivor. “For a long time I sought to keep my distance from conversation surrounding that history. I lived a great part of my life as an alcoholic due to my own experience in residential school. I quit drinking 25 years ago and saw my path through a different lens for the first time with the newly acquired knowledge I received from Camosun College. I saw a way to educate the general population about residential school and how conversation can inspire change.”
Together with classmate and ally Kristen Spray, Eddy did just that. They organized the first Orange Shirt Day at Camosun on Sept. 30, 2015. The first-time-ever event brought awareness of the impact of residential schools and the issues of truth and reconciliation to the college community.
Eddy says Orange Shirt Day also creates awareness of the inter-generational effects of residential schools. “Residential school passed down trauma that is still destroying a huge part of our Indigenous identity,” he adds. “Children are still dropping out of school before they reach Grade 8. They often become addicted to drugs or alcohol by time they are 12. I feel like if I share the story of residential school to young and old we can bring these two groups together and find healing.”
To the youth of today, Eddy advises “finish your education.” “We need new leadership every day. With our combined knowledge we strengthen our communities like never before. And always listen to the stories of the old ones. They have walked the path a long time and have so much experience to share.”
Going forward with truth and reconciliation, Eddy explains we need to start listening and trusting each other. “With Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge, together, we can help reconciliation grow by sharing and respecting each other’s points of view.”
“Reconciliation is useless if we can’t trust each other,” he adds. “We must learn to walk in each other’s shoes. My grandfather once said there is room in the circle for everyone, we must grow our circles and make room for each other. Reconciliation will take a lot of work so we must always be willing to listen.”