'Indian Hospitals' lawsuit triggers memories of horrific abuse at Manitoba TB sanatorium - APTN NewsAPTN News

‘Indian Hospitals’ lawsuit triggers memories of horrific abuse at Manitoba TB sanatorium

Holly Moore
APTN Investigates
Editor’s Note: Material in the story below may be disturbing to some readers.

As some Indigenous survivors of so-called Indian hospitals gear up for class action lawsuits, others like Paul Aliktiluk are being flooded with memories of abuse.

“I don’t care about the money,” he said. “I just want people to know what happened to us.”

Aliktiluk’s voice trembled with emotion as he told his story to APTN Investigates for the first time outside of his immediate family.

“What I remember is that there were a bunch of us over there. I remember their faces,” he said. “I was just little, four or five years old.”

He recalled being given strong medication at the Ninette, Man. sanatorium where he was sent for tuberculosis treatment. He said his body wasn’t able to handle it.

“I could not hold it in my stomach,” he said.

Nurses would scold him for vomiting on the floor or the bed. They made him scoop it up and put it in a bowl of custard.

“They would mix it and they made me eat it.”

Caption: Ninette Tuberculosis Sanatorium

(source: Manitoba Archives, L.B Foote fonds)

That was far from the worst abuse experienced by the now 58-year-old.

“There were times I was taken to the washroom and they would put me in a little collar and they used to chain me in the washroom and turn off the lights,” he recalled, “Some nurses used to fondle my boyhood and stick their fingers in my rear. It hurt very much.”

Aliktiluk was among 80 Inuit sent to the Ninette, Man. sanatorium during the 1963 Eskimo Point tuberculosis outbreak. The area is now known as Arviat, Nunavut.

Caption: Map drawn by Dr. Percy E. Moore illustrating the 1963 tuberculosis outbreak at Eskimo Point

(source: Manitoba Archives)

He said he doesn’t know how long he was at Ninette but by the time he returned home, he could no longer communicate with his Inuktitut-speaking parents.

“I remember going home. I only spoke English and when I got home I couldn’t understand my parents,” he said.

He explained he tried to tell his parents what happened in his teens.

“I didn’t bring it up again while they were alive because they didn’t believe me,” he said. “I just quit talking about it.”

The memories of the abuse at Ninette haunted him through the years, leading to suicidal thoughts and angry outbursts. He eventually became a peace officer in Arviat, acting as a liaison between the RCMP and the community. After he married in his early 20s, he finally told his wife what had happened.

“She just hugged me for a long time.” he said. “That lifted me up, I felt a little better.”

Survivors coming forward

Dozens of survivors and their families came forward with stories of physical, sexual and emotional abuse after a series of stories about Indian hospitals and sanatoriums on APTN National News and APTN Investigates.

A $1.1-billion class action lawsuit was filed earlier this year with others in development.

Aliktiluk said he is encouraged by the attention and hopes it will lead to healing for survivors like him.

“You can’t keep it bottled up inside, It has to come out,” he said. “I want people to know the truth of what happened to us.”

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8 Responses to “‘Indian Hospitals’ lawsuit triggers memories of horrific abuse at Manitoba TB sanatorium”

  1. ejwagner@shaw.ca'
    Elaine Wagner February 26, 2018 at 10:22 pm #

    My mother was also a patient at the Ninette Sanatorium for TB. Since she is deceased we don’t know what she may have endured. She was married to my father at the time and had to leave behind 5 small children. The youngest being a newborn and was “sent” to be cared for by another First Nations’ family.

  2. kristi276@msn.com'
    kristianna Thomas February 27, 2018 at 1:21 pm #

    As a fellow TBer who was hospitalized in 1962 in Buffalo, New York at Meyer Hospital, I sympathize with you and all the pain that you suffered. I was ten when I was diagnosed with the disease, but my experience was quite different. I did not experience the abuse Indigenous people endured at the hands of racist hospital staff. The meds I was given did not make me ill, and I was surrounded by caring staff members. Racism plays a huge role in the communities we all live in, and the respect (disrespect) that affects our quality of life (healing) when dealing with commutable diseases. I did not mind the relative isolation on the TB ward, the friends I made on the ward totally made up for it. This society, both Canada and the US, have always had a written and unwritten policy of erasing the existence of First Nation peoples from the face of the Earth. I am glad that this crime heaved upon the Aboriginal communities is finally seeing the light of day, and hopefully, this crime will never happen again

  3. Kaikoesie1686@gmail.com'
    Inge Pierre February 27, 2018 at 7:19 pm #

    I am so sorry to read this.I wish you Strength for speaking up. I understand that we must never leave our children for other people again. May you heal from these horrific memories.

    • karen404@orange.fr'
      Alberta Canada February 28, 2018 at 11:55 pm #

      I appreciate your courage for this testimony which is added to all the horrors suffered by the First Nations who are still victims of discrimination and violence today. I hope you will be able to find inner peace.Many blessings to you.

    • eileenflett@outlook.com'
      Eileen March 1, 2018 at 3:15 am #

      I am 57 and I was at Ninette for TB when I was 4. I stayed there for 18 months. I lost my language and lost the bond I had with my mom. She still lives today but I don’t have the relationship I see other ladies have with their morhers.

  4. flatfootmarie@gmail.com'
    Alfred March 2, 2018 at 4:50 am #

    I was there when I was 5 years old I remember the abuse

  5. ravishing2002@yahoo.com'
    Ruth March 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

    My mother has been trying to remember where she was sent to, she thinks it sounds like “Deniver”..she says a nurse stepped on her foot with her high heels leaving it damaged to this day, she has toes that never grew right…she wasn’t allowed to cry…
    She also remembers being in Ninette too when she was a lil older…
    I checked google for this hospital she was in but can never come up with anything, if anyone knows of any other hospitals in the Winnipeg area(she had tb).

  6. paliksalik@hotmail.com'
    Iqklu March 3, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

    My mom was in one of those hospital from 0-5 years old. That’s a long time! Any individual that was affected by the abuse is handed down to their children and grandchildren, just like any addiction affects the whole family. It is not fair for the children and grandchildren.