“Crying Bones” is a Strongly Worded Song


Thunder Bay – Please keep reading with an open mind. I do not intend to offend anyone, but I want to let me truth and thoughts out. “Crying Bones” is not an easy song…

Where did “Crying Bones” come from? My 5 year old son, Rex. I was playing “Warrior’s Lullaby” at the kitchen table with my guitar. I had just written it the day before. He up to me with a sad look on his face and said, “Mom, that song makes my bones cry. I have crying bones!”. I immediately heard that “Crying Bones” as a song. I started playing the guitar. I asked if he wanted to write a song about it. He said “Yes!”. I kept playing the guitar, and he came out with the chorus all on his own…. “Crying Bones, Crying Bones… You’re not alone… Crying Bones.”. And within a few minutes would had this song.

“Crying Bones” is certainly a strongly worded song that really speaks about the Indigenous children who were found buried at former Residential School sites over the past few months. We as Indigenous people always knew… when your child doesn’t come home, you never stop thinking about it. You always wonder what happened, hope against hope that they are ok, pray that they will return home to your arms. When 1000’s of children never came home, we knew the story went deep…

“Warrior’s Lullaby” was a song to honour the children who died and the children who survived, many who are still with us today. “Crying Bones” is a song that bring heat, pain, and the very pointed truth. It is song that is meant to draw the very real story out in an almost unforgiving way. We lost our children. If you think about how you (or someone close to you with a child or children) would feel if your child was just … gone… most people would be reluctant to show forgiveness, and rightly so. This is tragic. Beyond tragic….

And now we have National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

So what is Truth and Reconciliation? Well, it needs to start with the Truth… “and then…” Reconciliation. We can not have reconciliation without knowing, acknowledging, admitting, learning and understanding the truth. It is only then that we can start to move towards reconciliation … moving forward in a good way together that honours the stories, lives, ways of being, traditions of Indigenous peoples. Not just historically, but presently and in the future. We are still hear… We are not just a closed chapter in this country.

I often hear, “It’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything” or along those lines. Well, it may not be an action you did, but we are all part of this history, and if you are a Canadian citizen, regardless how long or short you have been here, you are part of the history. It is up to every person to work as a collective to move forward. It is our collective responsibility to work together. We may never right the wrongs, but we can do better. We can’t do better if you don’t know better. You will only know better by accepting and learning about the truths around you and being part of the solution.

Work with us… be sure you are not working for us, but with us. Stand beside us, and take action with us. I have also heard people say they are going to “save” us or do things to better our lives. That is not understanding and learning, that too, is part of the problem. We need to be acknowledged and witnessed, not saved. Here is a lame analogy, you see your neighbour’s yard needs to be mowed. There are wild flowers and grass growing out of control. So, you take it upon yourself to mow their lawn without asking. Did you think maybe they wanted the flowers? Or they had another purpose for not cutting their lawn? Usually, we ask people if they want help, or ask how we can help. Rarely do we just help without asking. Our history is huge! Certainly, a situation where you should ask how and if you can help. Sometimes I think that people “helping” us without asking how and if we want help perpetuates the problem, and allows blinders to stay on. Give yourself the opportunity to learn by asking us what you can do, listen to our stories, feel our pain, learn to understand, understand to learn. Be ok to wait if we are NOT ready to accept your help and invite us in. Think about the pain of losing what we lost, our children, our culture, our language, our dignity. Most we can slowly, with time, regain to a degree, but not our children. Let us be upset, wouldn’t you be?

If my 5 year old can feel this, everyone can. He helped write a song. A small action, perhaps, but a meaningful one. I have been very open with him about the history. He knows children were buried at residential schools; he knows that some of these schools were awful for children; he knows that children would have to spend sometimes 100s of sleeps in a row before they could see their families; and he knows that many were his age. It has not traumatized him, in fact, it has actually spurred some amazing conversations and learning opportunities. He knows that I was part of the 60s Scoop. You would be surprised how much young minds understand.

I digress. I appreciate your time, your ears, your eyes, your heart, your soul in learning to understand. Miigwech…

Shyanne Bartlet

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