Intergenerational Trauma
By Shaylene Scarrett (White Eagle)

Was it a million star years ago,

That the first people of

South and North America

were forced to flee home

and had been trapped in prisons?

To “take care” and “educate”

The Indian in the child.

Cutting off the braid,

And stripping their identity from their tongue.

This was certainly not “caring” of them.

I’m sure they were aware

They had killed their soul and damaged

Their purpose but they were okay with it.

I can still feel the pain.

Late nights I’d be crying,

And my soul would feel empty and lifeless.

When I look into the mirror

Who is the person looking back?

Who am I?

Sometimes I braid my hair and I feel resilient.

I smudge.

I attend round dances, powwows,

And ceremonies.

But my heart aches still.

I speak English well,

But I’m a nobody,

If I’m dominated.

The pain my grandmother endured

Must have been passed down onto me

Because I feel it.

I live with it.

It’s my history and it reads through my bloodline,

But it does not define me.

It was not a million star years ago,

It was now,

It is now.

Shaylene Scarrett (White Eagle) is a proud 21-year-old Niitsitapi from the Siksika First Nation. Throughout her childhood and early teen years, she endured trauma that was brought home from the Indian residential schools. However, despite her upbringing, she surpassed these barriers to create her own life by choosing to walk the red road, carrying on her Elders’ teachings, and continuing with her education career.

In 2017, Shaylene was one of 12 Indigenous youth to receive a Southern Alberta Indigenous Youth Award (SAIYA). She is recognized as a leader in her community and uses poetry as a way to be a voice for both herself and her people. Ever since Shaylene found her voice, a voice she never had growing up, she always had the desire to share her story with other people. Poetry became an outlet for her a year and a half ago. Since then, she has shared at many community gatherings and events. Her poems tell her experience as an Indigenous young woman. She uses her story through poetry to instill a message of hope and resilience.

Last year, Shaylene participated in programs offered by Catholic Family Service’s Indigenous Youth Worker at the Calgary Achievement Centre for Youth (CACY). Thank you, Shaylene, for sharing this poem with us during Aboriginal Awareness Week.

Like many young people, Indigenous youth are finding their way in the world. Yet their pathway forward may be jeopardized because of poverty, homelessness, and intergenerational trauma, which can also lead to mental health and substance abuse. In response, Catholic Family Service (CFS) offers culturally appropriate programs and services at the Calgary Achievement Centre for Youth (CACY). The Indigenous Youth Worker provides a safe, inviting and non-judgmental space where students experience a sense of belonging and connection as they complete high school and move along their journey of healing and renewal. For more information, please contact Dorothy Madrid at