Updated July 12, 2021: In May 2020 the remains of 215 children were found at the former Kamloops Residential School. Since this post was published, an additional 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan,182 unmarked graves close to the former St. Eugene’s Mission School near Cranbrook, BC, and more than 160 unmarked graves at the former Kuper Island Residential School on Penelakut Island, BC have been confirmed. This is in addition to 350+ children discovered at former residential school sites across the country, including a burial site in the United States. On June 22, the federal government pledged $4.88M to help search unmarked residential school burial sites in Saskatchewan, as well as additional support from the provincial government. The discovery in Kamloops has also prompted an investigation into the Native American boarding school burial sites.
Before we can achieve reconciliation, we must start with truth.
On Friday, May 28, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced they have uncovered the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Residential School.
We are truly horrified and devastated by this news. We mourn for the lives that were stolen by this violent colonial system, and stand in solidarity with Residential School survivors, their loved ones, and all Indigenous communities who are grappling with unimaginable grief.
Sadly, we know this tragedy is not isolated: across the country, there are known – and likely many more unknown – burial sites of those who did not survive Canada’s Residential Schools. As well, thousands of Indigenous survivors and their loved ones continue to feel intergenerational trauma as a result of these institutions.
We know that sexual assault has long been used as a deliberate tool to oppress Indigenous Peoples, both within the Residential School System, and closely tied to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit people. (MMIWG2S).
Knowing this, and knowing our position as a non-Indigenous agency supporting people who have experienced sexual violence on Treaty 6 and Métis Zone 4, it is important for us to listen and seek guidance from Indigenous people on how best to support them in healing from sexual violence. After all, Indigenous people know their communities, traditions, languages, and cultures the best. Additionally, Indigenous people know what they need in their healing journeys and it is our job to listen and provide that support.
We are grateful for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and Calls to Action, and Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), for providing us with the truth of colonial violence, and tangible action items to do better.
In a statement, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir said:
“We ask all Canadians to reacquaint themselves with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and Calls to Action – upholding the heavy lifting already done by the survivors, intergenerational survivors, and the TRC. In addition, to show your solidarity, we encourage you to wear an orange shirt and start conversations with your neighbours about why you are doing so.”
We will be taking up these action items from Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir, and we encourage our settler followers to do the same.
To our Indigenous community members, if you need support, please know you are not alone. Here are some options available to you:
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line| 24/7 | 1.866.925.4419
- Nation-wide emotional support and crisis referral services for former students and those who have been affected
Hope for Wellness Help Line | 24/7 | 1.855.242.3310 | hopeforwellness.ca
- Nation-wide counselling and crisis intervention for Indigenous Peoples in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut
Talk4Healing Talk, Text & Chat | 24/7 | 1.855.554.HEAL | talk4healing.com
- Ontario-based help, support and resources for Indigenous women, by Indigenous women, in 14 Indigenous languages
KUU-US Crisis Line Society | 24/7 | 1.800.588.8717
- British Columbia-based crisis support for Indigenous Elders, adults, children, and youth
SACE Support & Information Line | 9 am – 9 pm | 780.423.4121
- Emotional support, information and referrals for people who have been impacted by sexual violence
Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence | 9 am – 9 pm | 1.866.403.8000 | www.sace.ca
- Alberta-wide emotional support, information and referrals for people who have been impacted by sexual violence