The residential school issue has always stuck to him, as he himself was forced to live in such school for 10 years. Therefore he did not hesitate when the federal government offered him to sit on a board of directors dedicated to the management of compensation funds granted to implement healing processes in various communities across Canada. Ejinagosi was responsible for reviewing and analyzing projects promoting alternative means such as traditional healing. As part of the project, he developed an educational kit to help students of all ages and nationalities understand the impact of residential schools on First Peoples.
“With some dignity regained and pride resurfacing, I am very happy to still speak my language.”
He dedicated several decades of his life to exposing the abuses committed in residential schools. He is currently the President of the Legacy of Hope Foundation, a charitable organization active in raising awareness and educating Canadians about the residential school system and its intergenerational impacts. Each action of this foundation reflects the will of its president: that of finding ways to achieve collective healing. At Mr. Kistabish’s initiative, the Foundation has documented and shared the stories of 800 residential school survivors. The idea behind this approach was not to let these testimonies fall into oblivion and also to provide essential elements of understanding for the generations that followed and suffered the indirect impact of these deep wounds.
“In 1975, I made a personal commitment to make known the history of residential schools. I also wanted to make sure that this kind of experience would never happen again across the world. It should never happen again. Never, at any time.
I committed to taking every opportunity I can to make this story known. It was my commitment, the battle of my life. That is what made me stand up. It is what led me to assume my responsibilities, my duty, my obligations.
I wanted to make sure that the necessary changes were made to correct this. This was the most fundamental part of my approach. I think I received the necessary gifts to do so. Indeed, I was already raised to be a storyteller when I was very young. I used that gift to pass on that story to others.” (excerpt from an interview conducted by the School of Social Work of the Université du Québec à Montréal)
He therefore had a strong impact on the history of the Anicinabe and other nations in Canada, as these interviews served as an important basis for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is based on this Commission’s report that, in May 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada described the impact of the residential schools as a true cultural genocide, thus forcing the federal government to acknowledge its responsibility and invest in reconciliation efforts. Ejinagosi’s efforts to carry out this colossal project of recording testimonials earned him the YMCA Peace Medal, as well as the Coup de cœur award from Bâton de parole, an organization that gathers and disseminates all the indigenous news from Quebec, Canada and the United States in order to link various communities. He has also been invited several times as a speaker or panellist at international conferences. His last two lectures addressed the issue of language.
Ejinagosi is now the president of Minwashin, an Anicinabe cultural and arts development organization. With a board of directors made up entirely of members of his nation, he advocates, promotes and transmits Anicinabe culture and is committed, since the organization’s inception, to the protection and revitalization of his indigenous language. His social and political involvement, which has always been an important part of his agenda, continues to be a major part of his life: he is also President of the Legacy of Hope Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness and educating Canadians about the residential school system and its intergenerational impacts.
Having lived through ten difficult years at the St-Marc residential school, the education of Anicinabek children in their language, immersed in their culture and surrounded by their families, quickly became an important issue for Richard. While he was chief of the Abitibiwinnik, he was instrumental in bringing school to the community so that children would no longer have to leave their families to study in Amos.
“It seems to me that we are lost. And it is not necessarily a simple loss of land, but it is also the loss of our souls. I call ourselves the seriously burnt souls. We have become scorched souls. There exist medicines we can take to heal our souls, there are approaches that must be used to try first to sooth the pain and then provide continuous and appropriate care. There are many ways to do this.”