by Virginia Beaton
RAPHAEL IRONSTAND, a Metis living in Nanaimo, B.C., decided towrite about his experience with residential schools after his participation ina Native healing group convinced him that writing would help restore his senseof self-worth.
Written in collaborationwith Stewart Dickson, in a simple, straightforward style, Hey, Monias! (ArsenalPulp, 149 pages, $13.95 paper) is the direct transcription of notes Ironstandmade about his life on the reserve, at school, and in the white world ofManitoba.
Ironstand was born in1943 and spent his early years travelling between the reserve and the winterlogging camp where his father worked. His account of life on the reservedepicts a familiar tragedy: beatings, poverty, and alcoholism. But even then,Ironstand could sense that a different, happier reality might exist forNatives, a reality he glimpsed during sacred ceremonies or when his family wenthunting or camping in the open.
If home was troubled,residential school was pure torment. Aside from disciplinary beatings andpunishments levied for "misdeeds" such as speaking a Native language, there was the bitterrealization that he was not like the rest -- he was blond and blue-eyed,which led the Cree students to taunt him as "Monias" or "whiteman."
The book leaves atantalizing gap between Ironstand`s first 20 years and the man he is today. Onewonders: what happened in that time? How did those early wounds heat? The bookthat answers these questions has yet to be written.
Hey,Monias! will depress some, butinspire others. Most of all, it`s another piece of evidence that too often theresidential schools were places where sanctimonious bullying and interferencewent on while the rest of society looked away.