There is content in this article about residential schools that may be triggering to some readers.
Being stripped of his identity and forced into a uniform at residential school, and then while fighting in Vietnam and finally as a police officer, separated Richard Jackson Jr. from his Indigenous heritage and culture.
“All of these uniforms I wore had an impact on me,” said Jackson Jr, now 75.
He was taken from his parents at 10 years of age from his home in Yakima, Wash., and forced to attend residential school until he was 17.
After returning from school, Jackson Jr. was drafted and sent to fight in the Vietnam War.
He served three years in Vietnam, and upon his return, worked as an Oregon state police officer.
He had to work to reconnect with his heritage to overcome the trauma of residential schools, Vietnam and the police force.
Speaking to elders was an important step in reconnecting with his Indigenous heritage.
“It’s a healing process… we need to go back and find our lineage, our bloodline and our culture.”
Jackson Jr. now works as an alcohol and drug counsellor and board member of the Round Lake Treatment Centre in Armstrong.
He makes sure to attend cultural events like powwows, often as an EmCee, and spends time in the sweat lodge, and in prisons, saging and educating people, to help them connect to their heritage.
“Culture is treatment,” said Jackson Jr.
He feels like it is an important role to share his story with other Indigenous people, as a testimonial, to how he overcame the residential school, Vietnam, and his work on the police force.
“Indigenous people, we’re one big family.”
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.
Non-emergency calls to The Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society can be directed to 1-800-721-0066.