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Over and over the strap came down.
Snap. Snap. It stung. Hurt so much.
Finally the strap broke her. The tears came.
There, I'm crying. Now he'll surely stop, thought the 11-year-old girl.
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Snap. Not yet.
By the time the school principal stopped strapping Cheryl Snake, her legs were welted and swollen, her hands so big she didn't recognize them.
"Then they made me wash the dinner pots," recalled Snake, her voice trembling into a sob yesterday as she spoke of the beatings at Mohawk Residential School in Brantford.
"And that happened a lot. Every time I tried to run away. I didn't want to stay there."
Today, Snake, 63, will be one of thousands of former residential students in Southwestern Ontario watching television as Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologizes for decades of abuse aboriginal Canadians suffered in residential schools.
She said she hopes the apology will help her heal, but not everyone is ready to forgive.
"I won't be watching," said Connie Clark, who is also 63, and still trying to rebuild her self-esteem after one year at Mohawk.
"It's not going to fix anything. Even the (compensation) money isn't going to heal what has been taken away," said Clark, who says her discipline over one year included being strapped in the middle of a circle of peers and being forced to eat dinner alone.
But Walter Summers, 78, said he's looking forward to hearing the government take ownership of the abuse he says he went through.
"There should be somebody saying something after we were treated like that," said Summers. "We weren't allowed to speak our language, just English . . . and why did we have to get strapped and abused so much?" said the Oneida native, who went to Mount Elgin Industrial Institution for four years.
Clark and Summers were the only people out of a room of more than 30 willing to speak about their experiences during a senior lunch at N'Amerind Friendship Centre in London yesterday.
Most are still shattered from the schools where kids were banned from speaking their native languages and abused, said lifelong care support worker Bonnie Doxtator.
"What I'm hearing a lot is it is way too late for an apology now. After the experience they've gone through . . . the abuse has been public knowledge for a long time now. They closed the residential schools in (the 1970s) and now in 2008 they are going to offer an apology.
"But is it better to have it than not? Probably."
About 250 former students, church officials and others have been invited to Parliament Hill for Harper's statement on behalf of Canadians.
Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said it will be a respectful and sincere recognition of widespread cultural devastation, physical trauma and sexual abuse affecting generations to this day.
The Conservatives have been assailed by critics for refusing aboriginal leaders an advance look at the text of the apology and a chance to respond on the Commons floor.
Thousands of former students claim they're still owed compensation and the apology is meaningless. A total of 93,000 applications have been received for payment of $10,000 compensation for the first year spent in the schools, and $3,000 for each subsequent year. About 65,000 cheques averaging $28,000 have been issued.
Snake was 11 when she left Munsee Delaware First Nation to go to Mohawk, commonly called "mush hole" for its notoriously mushy food.
In three years, from 1959 to 1962, she was stripped of her self-esteem, she said.
There were the endless lineups -- "line up to go wash, line up for breakfast, line up to go outside and do the flag thing, line up to go to school, line up to come home, line up to go to dinner, line up to come back, line up to go to bed, every single day."
There were the insults, degradation and humiliation. She heard of sexual abuse.
"One day they asked us if we wanted to go to the movies. After we put our hands up to say 'yes', they tied us all up together and paraded us through the streets of Brantford," Snake said.
How does an apology help?
"It might help us emotionally," she said. "We are all dysfunctional. But when you take (away) language and culture, you take a lot."
Last year she received $13,000 in compensation. It wasn't enough, she said. "But an apology will help. Maybe."
Formal apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 4:30 p.m. today. CBC Newsworld coverage, 3 p.m.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission created, with five-year plan to hear from former students and church staff at residential schools.
$350-million healing fund set up in 1998 to pay for traditional healing circles and victim counselling.
$1.3 billion paid to former students under a court-monitored program.