The Delta School District held a ceremony at the school board office in Ladner Tuesday morning to honour the 215 children found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops and all those impacted by the residential school system.
Knowledge Keeper Rose Geurin and members of the district’s Indigenous Education Department took part in a small, socially-distanced ceremony on June 1, hanging 215 orange hearts on cedar trees planted this spring as part of the district’s Giving Tree Project.
As well, attendees placed children’s shoes around the central cedar tree and Nathan Wilson, the district’s Indigenous cultural enhancement facilitator, led a group in drumming 215 beats, one for each child whose remains were found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“As we continue to learn the truth of our shared Canadian history, we felt it was important to have an event that would help us absorb what has just been revealed as well as help us all on the long hard journey towards reconciliation. The new curriculum is allowing this generation to learn about residential schools. There is still much work to do in educating the public. We are thinking about all the Indigenous families and the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc people at this time,” Diane Jubinville, district vice-principal – Indigenous education, said in a press release.
“For the next few weeks, we invite members of the community to add children’s shoes to the circle to commemorate the lives lost and to show respect to all those families whose lives were forever changed by the Indian residential school system.”
District staff are also being encouraged to wear orange this week and the district is encouraging community members to do the same.
On Monday, the district lowered flags at all schools and district sites to honour the lives of those 215 children, as well as in memory of the thousands of children who were sent to residential schools and the families whose lives were forever changed by the residential school system.
”As a district, we find the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops utterly devastating, and recognize that this tragedy is far reaching, causing a wide range of difficult emotions for all of us. In particular, we raise our hands in respect to the Indigenous members of our community. Our hearts go out to the families and to all community members impacted by this news,” school board chair Val Windsor and district superintendent Doug Sheppard said in a joint statement issued Monday (May 31).
“While the recent discovery of the remains of the children in Kamloops is horrific, sadly it will not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the atrocities of the residential school system. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada highlighted the experiences and stories from residential school survivors and the colonial impacts on Indigenous peoples across their homeland. As a country, it is important to realize that we need to continue to seek and share the truth of our shared Canadian history before any reconciliation can be achieved.
“As a district, we remain committed to the truth and reconciliation journey, and will continue to work with local Indigenous peoples, colleagues and communities across the province to ensure students and educators understand the broader story of residential schools in Canada and our colonial past.”
Noting June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, the district says staff and students will have the opportunity this month to honour and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nation, Metis and Inuit people.
As well, every week in June, the district’s Indigenous Education Department will be providing teaching resources and videos to all schools, including interviews with Indigenous role models to hear their stories.
“This is important learning for all of us,” Windsor and Sheppard said in their statement.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is offering toll-free 24-hour telephone support for survivors and their families at 1 (866) 925-4419. The KUU-US Crisis Line Society’s 24-hour line is available at 1-800-588-8717.