There has been a swift, heartfelt community response to last week’s shocking news the bodies of 215 children were found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
On Sunday, Suzie Thomas invited family, friends and the community to place hears on her fence down Papilo Way two kilometres north of Tim Hortons. “[Our family] decided to invite the community to help us honour those children and residential school survivors by putting up 215 hearts,” said Thomas, Youth and Community Coordinator at the Shuswap Indian Band. “Some of the hearts have little blurbs on them like ‘Never forgotten’ and ‘Every child matters, that sort of thing.”
On Monday, students and staff at J. Alfred Laird Elementary school wore orange shirts to honour the lives of the children, residential school survivors and intergenerational victims. On the front porches of houses throughout the valley, teddy bears were put on display in another demonstration of respect and compassion.
“The most important thing the community can do is honour these children and support the Métis Nation, Shuswap Indian band, and Akisqnuk First Nation,” said Deb Fisher, Kootenay regional director at the Métis Nation of BC. “And we all need to do our part to hold accountable those involved allowing these situations to occur.”
On the popular Invermere Community Share Facebook page, people shared links to donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
"When I heard the news I was immediately in shock,” said Thomas. “I sat downed and had a tough conversation with my two children (age 14, 10) explaining to them the situation and that their grandmother went to the St. Eugene Mission Residential School.”
Thomas and Fisher both share a similar sentiment that it will take time to process. “But what’s important is to make sure those children are well respected and laid rest peacefully. The families must get honoured properly.
To donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, visit irsss.ca/donate.
James Rose, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer