Statement on Kamloops
Jun 4, 2021
On May 27th, news from Kamloops Indian Residential School shook the whole of Indigenous Canada. On the traditional territory of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation, the remains of 215 children forced to attend the school were found on KIRS grounds. These children would have been elders and community leaders, aunties and mothers, fathers and uncles, and alive, were it not for the horrors of colonialism.
Right now, Indigenous communities around the country are in the process of healing and seeking justice for all Indigenous children; from the past, to the present, and into the future. During this time, it is vital that settler-folk and non-Indigenous community members come together to support Indigenous children and communities, and education is how to ensure this support is sustained, meaningful, and respectful. The sorrow, harm, and pain inflicted upon Indigenous peoples is magnified under this new finding, and for many it has exacerbated their pre-existing trauma; it is for this reason that education about this topic cannot rest solely on the shoulders of Indigenous individuals, it must be rooted in collaboration and respect. While every Indigenous person can weigh in on this pain, it is unfair to ask for education while mourning remains active. Instead, it is most respectful to look to Indigenous resources, to listen to Indigenous stories which have already been made public, and hold ourselves as treaty people, and settlers, accountable for the futures of Indigenous history and family.
Indigenous peoples need support as they grieve, and they need allyship through continued efforts of protection, defence, and acceptance. This discovery is part of the living history of trauma that Indigenous people walk with everyday. It may be easy for some to participate in wearing orange, or placing teddy bears and shoes, but please remember that the discovery of an unmarked grave containing 215 children warrants so much more than one-day actions. This discovery asks us all to be emboldened and strengthened when it comes to representing and advocating for Indigenous issues, and should trigger a national state of grieving and accountability.
For our future generations, we must promise to protect them, for our current generations, we must promise to stand beside them for justice, and for past generations we must mourn, offer thanks, and do our best to honour them and their memories going forward. This discovery needs justice and action, by holding governments, institutions, and individuals accountable for the harm they have caused, and by respecting and listening to Indigenous communities as we seek balance and fairness for all of our children.
As news breaks concerning more Indigenous children found on Residential School property, the same considerations, education, and mourning discussed in our Kamloops Statement are magnified. With every new discovery, may we not forget the determination we had when we had found 215.
Resources remain available for those looking to educate themselves on decolonizing. Sierra Club Canada is hosting the following decolonizing book club, with all resources available at no cost (https://www.sierraclub.ca/en/atlantic/decolonizing-book-club?fbclid=IwAR2q7gTcUYJxQyaHjixgKAryxgKD5frgeWZiHGl5g1BquTCVPI_bT966IGc), the Orange Shirt Day website has teacher resources for anyone looking to open this discussion at their school, as well as history resources for those looking to learn more (https://www.orangeshirtday.org/), Indigenous Foundations at UBC has a document which can be used to understand the history of residential schooling (https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_residential_school_system/), the CBC also published a brief history of residential schools in 2016 (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/a-history-of-residential-schools-in-canada-1.702280), finally, the Canadian Geographic has an interactive history map of history concerning this topic as well (https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/history-of-residential-schools/).
The IRSSS has hotlines available for those needing supports in this time (The Indian Residential School Survivors Society, toll-free 1 (800) 721-0066 or 24hr Crisis Line 1 (866) 925-4419), and their educational and support services are also available online (https://www.irsss.ca/#:~:text=The%20Indian%20Residential%20School%20Survivors,further%20emotional %20support%20or%20assistance.).
For Further Reference:
Author: Violet Eliza-Sioux, Indigenous Programming Coordinator (Student Intern), The Gaia Project
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