Since we are on this topic...some of you may have read this on my FB. If I am Max in this story...I do think I'd feel taking down a statue or two.
The following was written by Elsa Baer Maendel - a resident of Fairholme Hutterite Colony - located southwest of Portage la Prairie
Max Merrick and Paul Baer
My dad was a mechanic at New Rosedale Colony, a big hearted one who would fix anything for anyone!
Indigenous people from nearby Long Plain First Nations would come to his shop to get their tires changed or a motor fixed. The colony ladies would walk to his shop to have their lawn mowers fixed. He would drop everything to help and you'd get a good joke on your way out.
My dad would invite his Indigenous friends home for coffee. Hutterites have a 3:00 coffee break where the table is loaded with pastries and snacks. Some of the names I remember are: Ronnie Woods, Lloyd Woods and Max Merrick. They had such a wonderful sense of humor and our family had many laughs with them!
My parents had 9 kids, with some of them married already, so you can imagine the scene everyone at the kitchen table eating and talking, around one Indigenous guy telling stories.
Max Merrick came pretty much every day, and our fellow New Rosedalers took to dubbing him 'Max Baer' He was my dad’s friend. We would go to his house to watch news on his big TV when there was an important event such as the Stanley Cup Final or 9/11. He would come to dad’s shop every day, and go to Portage for parts if they were needed at the shop.
I remember Max telling us about going to residential school. He told us about watching some older boys who had tried to run away. They were brought back and received a good 'licken' and it cured him of trying the same thing.
He told us his mother died while he was at school and he wasn't told until he came home for the summer and found her gone. He often told us this story and we could still feel “begreif” his hurt. I can only imagine the anticipation of seeing his mom, and then the pain of finding out she had died.
I never realized how big the scope of residential schools was and how many children were simply taken from their parents, off to boarding school. What if it was my child? What if it wasn't what I wanted for my children's future? To be taken away from my arms, to be beaten just for speaking German or Hutterisch. What must it have been like for countless children to lie awake in a strange dorm bed crying for their parents night after night, and not receiving attention if they weren’t feeling well.
I’m a helicopter parent if my children have an ordinary flu or cough. I make sure they get enough fluids, popsicles, ginger ale, comfy blankets, and I rub their back and throats with good oils. What if my children passed away, far from home, while being sick in a strange boarding school, receiving no attention, medical or otherwise? I cannot imagine that my heart could ever recover if this was my child.
All those Indigenous friends of my dad were the same age he was. And while both my parents are alive and well at 78, all his Indigenous friends passed away a long time ago.
That's no accident. That's what trauma does to people. It kills them young.
Elsa Baer Maendel
In loving memory of Max Merrick