Edgewater Elementary School is completing a prayer flag project with the hopes of honouring those sent to residential schools, as well as acknowledging the intergenerational trauma that often gets brushed under the rug.
Debra Murray, the Aboriginal education teacher at Edgewater Elementary School, is in charge of the initiative, and has arranged for prayer flags to be made and hung up at both the school and the community park this week, in honour of National Truth and Reconciliation Day on Thursday, Sept. 30. Murray is Cree, however, she heard of the concept of prayer flags from India, a tradition they have used for thousands of years. It was executed by the community when something negative was to happen, and they needed to spread positivity, remembrance, and love.
“All of us are really hurt about what’s happened, and nobody knows what to do. What is reconciliation really?” says Murray, the emotional toil evident in her voice. She says it’s “for the children. At least they can put this out there, and it’s from their love.”
The prayer flags are orange in colour, in remembrance of the 215 children found buried on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School, but it also carries much more weight than that, as there are many others left undiscovered.
Every student, teacher, and employee at the school participated, creating Indigenous-inspired artwork on orange pieces of cloth. The pictures varied piece by piece, but all shared the same message of listen, learn, and act. Each were strung up together, grade by grade and left to wave in the wind, sending the prayers out into the world and encouraging healing among survivors.
The flags will stay up for as long as possible. Murray says, the goal is “to bring hope, peace and to send it to the survivors, the children… and all those that didn’t survive.” She says the symbols drawn by the children are important: hugs, experiences, love, play, and water are a few of the common themes shown.
Even the younger children put such intense thought and emotion into their prayer flags. “It’s just so beautiful. Each one, as I was holding it, was super special. And the children’s prayers are sending love,” says Murray.
As a first-generation residential school survivor, Murray is passionate about helping educate indigenous allies and work through the unfathomable trauma through learning and enacting change.
As the youngest of nine children being raised through the catholic school system, Murray suffered the brunt of the blame if something were to go wrong, yet her humble and caring soul hasn’t wavered, even years later, making her that much more intimate to the cause.
Murray was assisted in hanging the prayer flags on Monday by Lana Maione, Metis, and Sierra Horm, both educational assistants at Edgewater Elementary.
Horm says she’s happy to see such a positive reaction from the community. Even the day they were hanging the prayer flags, she says, “people have already begun slowing down and looking at them.”
Haley Grinder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer