People of Georgian: Indigenous Visiting Elder helps students heal, succeed
June 18, 2021

June is National Indigenous History Month. As part of our celebration, we’re featuring the perspectives of Georgian students and employees of Indigenous ancestry all month long.

What’s your story?

The Georgian community is full of unique, inspiring perspectives —and we’re sharing them as part of an ongoing series.

People of Georgian: Meet Shirley John

Sometimes we don’t have the love we need. We were brought up that way because of the residential school system.

We didn’t know how to show love to each person we met every day, so we didn’t know how to apply it to ourselves or our children.

A person wearing black pants, red skirt and shirt, and fringed brown vest stands outside on grass near a wooded area.

You’ve got to go to your lifeline and ask, “What has happened to make me the way I am today?”

All the abuse that’s in there, all the bad things that we’ve done to people is in there, what they have done to us is in there.

You can see from our grandparents, to our parents, to us how we are now, the cycle just keeps going. It needs to be broken so you don’t carry it with you.

This is what has to happen in our lifelines so we can move forward.

From the time you were in your mom’s womb, to the time you’re in now, get rid of everything that’s making you feel worthless.

‘Everyone around us is healing’

Let’s do the healing. Everyone around us is healing.

We need to share the pieces of ourselves with somebody who’s going to listen, somebody you can trust.

This is the relationship I have with the students at Georgian.

They see that glow about me that I’m walking in a good way.

I have time to say to them, “Hi, how are you today?” Sometimes you have to say it two or three times before they acknowledge you because there is something stirring in them.

When students eventually come see me, they will tell me what’s going on at school, at home or in their personal relationships. Tears flow.

Sometimes there’s a feeling within us that we can’t ask for help, but there’s always an open door.

Shirley John, Visiting Elder at Georgian’s Owen Sound Campus

I say, “Are you OK that we’re in this room? Or, would you rather go privately outdoors and sit on Mother Earth, and you can cry all you want out there and release all that’s happened to you?”

I hug them, and it makes me feel good when they come back or I see them when I do my rounds.

They are trying their very best to succeed. That makes me feel good that they can carry on.

Sometimes there’s a feeling within us that we can’t ask for help, but there’s always an open door.

Shirley John, Visiting Elder at Georgian’s Owen Sound Campus.

Learn more about Indigenous Studies, Indigenous Services and Indigenization at Georgian.

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