When a smile as big as Dolly’s greets you several feet away from the front door of the Batchewana First Nation Administration Office, it fills you with strength and happiness.
Sharon “Dolly” Syrette is a mother, grandmother, aunty, author, storyteller, poet, and residential school survivor from Batchewana First Nation.
Today, September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
I was privileged to sit with Dolly this week and listen to her wisdom and knowledge though her stories as she shared them with tremendous strength.
Dolly and her siblings attended Shingwauk Residential School from 1965 – 1970, when they closed their doors for good. Separated from her brothers, Dolly explains how they all wore the same clothes, had matching haircuts and was kept away from her brothers while at school.
Dolly’s written words will forever be a resource for many. Through her book, “Feelings for Life”, the cover shows her hand being held by her granddaughter’s hand, holding an eagle’s feather, at the end of a rainbow.
The book lays out life in 3 sections: family life, relationships, spiritual inspirations.
“Happiness, that’s my revenge. I’m happy. I’m content now. It was a struggle, if it wasn’t for my co-workers.”
Dolly gives a lot of credit to her co-workers at the Batchewana First Nation office for supporting her healing journey, and for helping her get her book together.
As Dolly says, “Getting old is a gift” and we thank Dolly for her gift of strength.
“Live Life, Love Life”
Batchewana First Nation is found in four locations. Two are located north of the Sault at Goulais River and Batchewana Bay. The other two are located at Rankin, east of the Sault, and between the twin Saults at Whitefish Island. At all of these locations, traditional culture and ways of life are pursued through activities such as fishing, hunting, ceremonies, and social and cultural events. The Grammy-nominated drumming group Bear Creek calls Batchewana home, and also includes members from many other nearby First Nations, such as Garden River First Nation and Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan. They share their culture with the world through their extensive travel and international tours.
The Indigenous communities of the Sault and area continue play a vital role in out community. Indigenous communities are found on all sides of the Sault, with Batchewana First Nation and Garden River First Nation being adjacent to the City. Other nations, including the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Missinabie Cree First Nation, also have offices in Sault Ste. Marie. Approximately 10% of the population is considered urban Indigenous. Family and cultural ties link Indigenous communities across the river to Michigan’s Sault Tribe of Chippewas as well as Bay Mills and other locations.