We Were Children opens with a scene set on a rural Manitoba, around 1958, with a mother calling her little girl in from the steed corral. The four-year-old, Lyna, is grinning, but there are tears in her mother’s eyes as she anticipates the arrival of a truck that will transport the innocent girl to the residential school that will be her home for the following decade.
It informs us about the stories of Lyna Hart and Glen Anaquod, young kids who were taken from their lands and homes, and put through a government and church sponsored hell. As devastating as it is to fully digest this period in our history, we must not give in — Lyna and Glen would be the first to say so. Because if in hearing the facts we retreat into our sorrow and our shame, we miss a vital opportunity to make sure that the monstrosity of the past is not repeated. French or English was forced on the children as they were “God’s language.” Some of Glen’s experiences are given dramatic treatments. In one occasion, a priest locked him in a small room for almost 2 weeks. He would hear abuses being done to another kid -a girl- as well in a room near him. Whatever the priest had in store for him, the plan was compromised when Glen was found by a nun. The priest was expelled from the school, but the movie makes it certain that he was simply moved to another residential school.
Anaquod also witnesses violations done to some kids and turns into a victim herself. Loneliness, starvation, racism and mishandle were all parts of her everyday life. We witness a scene where she sneaks up on a priest who was raping young boys. The same priest comes for her a few nights later. This was one of the saddest parts of the whole film.
She also tells of when a good nun broke the rules and made dinner for the children when she came to know that the kids were starving. This story is one of, if not the only, scenes that were heart-warming.
In the end, the film was really moving and would have an impact on any human with humanity left inside of him/her.
It captures the terrors of what was really going on during the times when Native kids were “locked up” in residential schools. We should not accept such monstrosities to ever occur again- thus We Were Childen should be a lesson to us all.