Indigenous community suffering 'collective trauma' with discovery of children's remains in Kamloops: educator

·3 min read
The sun sets on a makeshift memorial outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains were reported to be found buried in Kamloops, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
The sun sets on a makeshift memorial outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains were reported to be found buried in Kamloops, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Jade Roberts is still trying to come to grips with the Tk'emlups te Secwépemc First Nation's discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children near the site of a former Kamloops residential school.

"It's been a lot to process," said Roberts, who is a Saskatoon educator and podcaster who is originally from La Ronge.

"I have been feeling sad and feeling angry and then also feeling a little bit helpless. Like what do you do to help in this type of situation?"

Roberts is the host of the podcast Still Here Still Healing which shares the stories of residential school survivors.

"I think a lot of people are feeling this way," she said.

"It's collective trauma and collective grief that we're feeling. And it's almost like your spirit feels that. All the Indigenous people across the country are kind of feeling that right now. This news has been triggering a lot of that collective trauma that we're still healing from."

Roberts' father was a residential school survivor, as were many others in her community. He passed away when she was a teenager so she never got to ask him about his experiences.

The 26-year-old said she wasn't taught about residential schools in high school and her parents never talked about their experiences.

"It took me until I was in university to really have a full understanding of the history."

Jade Roberts is the host of the podcast Still Here Still Healing which shares the stories of residential school survivors.
Jade Roberts is the host of the podcast Still Here Still Healing which shares the stories of residential school survivors.(CBC Saskatoon)

The revelations out of Kamloops are shocking, but not surprising to Indigenous communities, Roberts said. The majority of Canadians are shocked because they don't know the history and legacy of residential schools.

"I wish more Canadians were educated on the topic, educated on residential schools and the history of this country," she said.

She said the Canadian government and the churches that ran the schools need to take responsibility.

"The Canadian government, they had this plan since the beginning to try to eradicate Indigenous people," said Roberts, adding individuals also need to be held to account.

"It's easy to say like the government or the church and not actually think about the people who are actually perpetuating these crimes.

"There's teachers and nuns and people of the church that are still alive and living in our country and in our province that worked at these so-called schools. And I think a lot of times we miss that. I think those people need to be held responsible as well in some ways."

Roberts said survivors need to be heard, as do their descendents.

"I want people to educate themselves and just to be listeners of our experiences because they're valid," she said. "A lot of times we get kind of shrugged off like, 'Oh, it happened a long time ago and it doesn't affect anyone anymore.'

"And that's not the truth. So I want people to just just be open to educating themselves, be open to listening to our experiences. Let's listen to what our First Nations actually want and have the support from the government and have the support from allies, have the support from education."

Roberts' podcast, while featuring stories of residential survivors, also tells the stories of intergenerational trauma from her peers.

Roberts said she could have been attending one of these schools if she had been born just a few years earlier.

"It's a hard thing to process, the idea of thinking … if the Canadian government and the churches would have continued on, I would have been attending one of those schools," She said.

"A lot of us are this first generation.... We are trying to make sure that those stories are known because we pretty much just dodged that mark of having to go to a residential school, but still having to carry so much of the trauma."