OHSWEKEN – Amy Bomberry and her children are trying to reverse the effects of colonization in a refreshing way. Together, as a family.
Amy is a co-founder of the Everlasting Tree School in Ohsweken that offers a holistic experience in education grounded in the Kanyen’keha (Mohawk) language. Her children, Kennedy, 16, and Davin, 12, are both involved in productions that are aimed at shedding light on the dark truths behind residential schools.
“I want my children to appreciate those that came before them and to learn that as a family,” said Amy.
Kennedy is 16 years old and she recently played a young Rita Joe in the elaborate musical production, I Lost My Talk.
Joe was one of Canada’s most prolific First Nations poets. She was born in 1932 and spent her childhood on a Mi’kmaq reserve on Cape Breton Island. Joe left the island at the age of 12 to go to the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School on mainland Nova Scotia where she recalled, among several other bad experiences, being told constantly she was no good.
The production featured a film, a live orchestra and choreographed dancing and was commissioned for former prime minister Joe Clark’s 75th birthday at the National Arts centre in Ottawa. Clark has been considered a champion for First Nations issues and was recently named an honourary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Kennedy said that her role as a residential school student was overwhelming at times.
“When you’re portraying someone you have to try to have an understanding of what they were going though,” said Kennedy. “So when the script says that my character had a broken heart, I tried to feel that too. There were moments during rehearsal where i was like ‘wow, I could never have endured the things that some of these residential schools students did.’”
She said that everyone in Canada needs to know what actually happened.
“It’s so important to know the past so we can build off of it to make things better now,” Kennedy said. “So many people don’t know about it though — the genocide of millions of Native Americans. I think once people understand what had happened and why we don’t know our language anymore, those people will want to learn and help us revitalize it.”
Davin, Kennedy’s brother, has been a part of two productions in the past year. Davin couldn’t share with the Two Row Times much about his projects because they have not been released yet, but he could tell us that the characters he played were also a part of the residential school system.
“It felt horrible,” he said when describing how he felt portraying his characters. “I would be mad if I were taken away from my home, but these kids couldn’t do anything about it.”
Davin said that not many people seem to know the Kanyen’keha language anymore and that his time working on the projects showed him how important it is to learn it.
Amy said that watching her children act out other people’s experiences in residential schools was surreal and really made her grateful for having the opportunity to teach hers and others’ children the language at Everlasting Tree School.
“Seeing my children on set made it so surreal. It reminds me of how fortunate we are for having language programs like this and some Kanyen’keha speakers available to us,” said Amy. “There was a point in my life where I thought teaching the language was impossible but we’ve come so far now as a family.”
Kennedy and Davin both enjoy performing and performance arts in general. Kennedy’s play will be shown again this May, while Davin’s commercial will be released this spring. The short film he acted in has been submitted to film festivals and the family is hoping that it is well received.