What happened to Hamelin after the children were gone, after the Piper had taken them away?
The residential school recruiters, the Indian agents, the RCMP, came year after year and took the children away. What happened to the communities left behind?
Six years you have a child, teach them, nurture them, hold them on your knee, then they are taken away on trains and cattle wagons. Gone away to Indian residential school ten months of every year. Becoming stranger, more damaged, more withdrawn, less able to love every time they return. And only two months of summer to regrow the love, to heal the broken children, before another school year steals them away again.
And what do you do with those ten months while the children are away? Where is the anchor and the purpose of motherhood and fatherhood? Without laughter on the swings and in the berry bushes, without joy running along the paths and contentment being sleepy-headed into bed, there is no laughter, joy or contentment at all.
Just anger. Sorrow. Helplessness. And when that all gets too hard to bear, oblivion.
And after enough oblivion. And after enough years of thwarted love, of separation, of holding down the pain—forgetfulness, numbness, indifference.
Whole communities getting drunk on sorrow. And after awhile—with nothing and no good purpose to bring them back from that edge—just getting drunk.
Those are the communities that the residential schools created. Those are the communities the children had to return to.
Strange children. Strange parents. Eyeing each other sidelong as they pass in the hall.
The poison of residential schools became inescapable even for those who never went to them.
Whole Aboriginal communities were fatally demoralized, and for the stolen children even home was no longer a haven.
Hamelin had been remade as purgatory.