The Gleaner
Arts & LifeSharing Our Stories

Sharing our stories May 15, 2024

Story told by: Nick Huard
Edited by: Aaron McComber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Translated by: Karonhí:io Delaronde

Black and blue

I was in residential school up in Jonquiere – well, it wasn’t really a residential school, but it was a seminary where white kids were learning how to become priests.

Back then, that’s how Quebecers were dodging the war, by becoming part of the clergy. So there were a lot of older kids that saw us just as savages.

One day, the white kids had peashooters and, of course, we were the targets.

So me and my friends, Pete and Ti-Bert, found refuge in the barn and knew if we went out we would be bombarded, so we had to retaliate.

There was a wood stove in the barn with these wooden stacks next to it and there we found some birch bark.

 

Birds eye view of College Classique de Jonquière run by Les Frères du Sacré Coeur circa 1961 1962 In July of 1967 the CEGEP de Jonquière took over the building Nick laboured on these grounds under the seminary from age six until his escape at age thirteen PHOTO courtesy of CEGEP de Jonquière

 

We took the birch bark and rolled it up and now we just needed ammunition. The best thing we could find were little spiders that were all over the barn. We coaxed the spiders into the tube we made with the birch bark and sent them flying at the white kids.

Let’s just say the war ended real fast.

Those were my two friends over there – Ti-bert and Pete.

Ti-bert used to dream out loud in Mi’kmaq, which they called the devil’s language. And if you spoke in Mi’kmaq, or even in English, you got beaten.

Every night Ti-bert would miss his grandmother and would dream about her. So of course, he spoke in his sleep in his language because his grandmother didn’t speak French or English.

The priests were waiting for him. As soon as he started talking at night they grabbed him, hauled him out, and beat the shit out of him.

The next day his face was blue, he couldn’t even open his eyes, his lips were so swollen that he couldn’t even speak Mi’kmaq anymore.

 

Early depiction of the grounds at College Classique de Jonquière one of the sites of abuse PHOTO courtesy of CEGEP de Jonquière

 

That was the last time I saw Ti-bert. They told us they put him on the road because he didn’t want to be docile but in actuality they had beaten him to death.

When you’re six years old, it’s a pretty major threat to not have someone to take care of you.

I waited until I was thirteen years old when I ran away for the first time. This way I was bigger and in much better shape.

But I got caught because I took the road instead of going through the woods. So they found me and I got beaten black and blue.

 

Nick Huard at age 26 working in Montreal PHOTO courtesy of Nick Huard

 

When I recovered I found Pete and said, “Pete, I’m leaving again. Are you coming with me?”

But he was scared and said, “No, I don’t want to get beaten up like how you did.”

So I left by myself, but this time I took the bush. Once in the bush, I came upon a railroad track. I knew which way was south, so I waited for a train to come by, and I ran and jumped on the freight.

The train took me all the way down to New York.

I didn’t see Ti-bert or Pete again.

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