A memorial composed of pairs of tiny shoes, line the steps of the Kincardine Library, marking the discovery of what is now over 1,000 bodies in unmarked graves on the land of residential schools in British Columia and Saskatchewan.
The memorial, initiated by friends Tia Trudeau and Kim Lowry, was created after the discovery of 215 unmarked gravesites at Kamloops Residential School, followed by a second discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.
“Other communities in Grey Bruce were doing a collection to represent children that were found buried on residential grounds,” said Trudeau. “You want to do something.”
“We should be doing something more in our communities. We are on Indigenous land and we should be showing our support.”
Michaela Posthumus, lead supervisor at the Kincardine library branch, said Trudeau and Lowry reached out to the library in early June, seeking permission to use the steps as a site for the memorial. Since then, similar sites have been set up at the Walkerton branch. Posthumus says the memorial is a way to “commemorate the lost lives and to express our grief and solidarity.”
The parents and grandparents of Trudeau’s husband are all residential school survivors. She says her family is her life, and that could have been anyone’s family.
“We really want people to educate themselves,” said Trudeau. “We want people to ask questions and educate their children.”
“It’s always been known – it’s not something new. The suffering people are going through now is because of what the government and churches and the Crown did to these families’ years ago.”
As for the future of the memorial, Trudeau says “I’d like to see more shoes put out there. This is a big deal. I would like to see them stay there.”
Posthumus says that in order to “grow understanding, BCPL (Bruce County Public Library)has curated a Residential Schools Reading List and provides access to a collection of Indigenous Cinema on Kanopy.”
A national Indigenous residential school 24-hour crisis line has been set up to provide support for former residential school students and others who have been impacted by the findings. Support can be accessed by calling 1-866-925-4419.
Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent