B.C. weekend events mourn Indigenous children buried at Kamloops residential school

·4 min read
A convoy of trucks in support of the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc people make its way down Highway 5 to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia on Saturday June 5, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A convoy of trucks in support of the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc people make its way down Highway 5 to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia on Saturday June 5, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A mourning ceremony at Peace Arch Park, and a truck convoy in Kamloops were both held Saturday afternoon to mourn the loss of 215 Indigenous children the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation says are buried on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School

The event, hosted by the Lummi Nation, had around 200 participants, and included a healing circle and smudging ceremony at the Peace Arch, which is on the border between B.C. and the U.S. Those with direct ties to the Kamloops residential school were gifted ceremonial blankets to wrap themselves in.

Brian Cladoosby, who's traditional name is Kelkahltsoot, said it was important for he and others from his Washington State community to show their support for residential school survivors, and to "mourn together" the horrific legacy of the residential school system, because healing transcends physical borders.

A smudging ceremony at Peace Arch Provincial Park was hosted by the Lummi Nation, Saturday afternoon, to the mourn the loss of the 215 Indigenous children the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation says are buried beneath the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
A smudging ceremony at Peace Arch Provincial Park was hosted by the Lummi Nation, Saturday afternoon, to the mourn the loss of the 215 Indigenous children the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation says are buried beneath the Kamloops Indian Residential School.(Joel Ballard / CBC)

"Our initial thoughts were, 'I hope that this sheds light on what happened, not only in Canada, but in the U.S. and Australia. Those three countries were the ones that committed these atrocities," Cladoosby explained, adding that his community "offered prayers immediately for the people in Kamloops."

Celestine Camille, who's traditional name is Smiling Fawn Song Woman, said her mother is a first-generation survivor of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and it was important to accept the Lummi Nation's invitation to honour her family and other lost loved ones — uncles and aunts who she never knew because they possibly died at the residential school.

She said the discovery of the 215 buried children is "opening old wounds" among family members, some of whom returned home from the school with stories that they'd helped bury people.

She added that it's possible some members of the Lummi Nation in the U.S. were sent to Canada to attend residential schools as well.

Truckers hold commemorative convoy to Kamloops

Meanwhile, a convoy of truckers met in Kelowna, Merritt and Williams Lake to travel to Kamloops for a drum circle and ceremony at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Mike Otto, the owner-operator of Otto Enterprises in West Kelowna, and the event's organizer, said the day was a "moving experience" that left him "emotionally drained."

A convoy of trucks in support of the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc people make their way to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia on Saturday June 5, 2021.
A convoy of trucks in support of the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc people make their way to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia on Saturday June 5, 2021.(Ben Nelms/CBC)

He said he organized the convoy to honour Indigenous survivors of residential schools and their families throughout Canada, and to show that many who work in the trucking industry fully recognize the loss and suffering for First Nations communities.

"The way [First Nations] people have been treated for many, many years is absolutely terrible," Otto said. "I'm hoping our convoy created a movement for the rest of Canada to step up and show their support."

Otto said he plans to organize another convoy in the future.

First Nation, Prime Minister call for Catholic Church apology

At a press conference Friday, the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation called for a public apology from the Catholic Church over the discovery.

Chief Rosanne Casimir said her community has been "constantly, collectively grappling with the heart-wrenching truth brought to light."

Also on Friday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the Catholic Church to "step up'' and take responsibility for its role in Canada's residential school system.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has record of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1914 and 1963, noting in its 2015 report that officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition.

At least 4,100 children died at residential schools across Canada.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting