Saskatoon youth art studio paints 215 stones in tribute to residential school survivors, missing children

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Youth from Chokecherry Studios painted 215 stones after unmarked graves believed to contain the remains of 215 children were found at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.  (Chanss Lanagan/CBC - image credit)
Youth from Chokecherry Studios painted 215 stones after unmarked graves believed to contain the remains of 215 children were found at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. (Chanss Lanagan/CBC - image credit)

One week after the discovery of unmarked graves believed to contain the remains of about 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC, a youth group in Saskatoon is marking the discovery.

On Friday, youth from Chokecherry Studios spent the afternoon having a ceremony and painting rocks at the South Saskatchewan River. The youth painted a total of 215 rocks in honour of all residential school survivors and missing Indigenous children, the studio said in a release.

"Stones are the ancestors of the earth. The oldest beings. They have been through it all and can hold our grief and help us heal," said two-spirit Métis Elder and board member Marjorie Beaucage in the release.

"These children are now our ancestors too, and with their lost lives they are giving us an opportunity to transform all that needs to change. To create a different world for future generations."

Dustin Ross Fiddler said, Chokecherry Studios vice president, said the repercussions of historical and ongoing colonial violence impact Indigenous lives each day.

"I hope that people can see the realness of this, that this isn't lost in history, it's not in the past. People are feeling it today. It's still ongoing," Fiddler said. "These are young people. They want action and they need to be doing something."

The youth of Chokecherry Studios hope this inspires municipalities to put up monuments about the truth of residential schools, Dustin Ross Fiddler said.
The youth of Chokecherry Studios hope this inspires municipalities to put up monuments about the truth of residential schools, Dustin Ross Fiddler said. (Chanss Lanagan/CBC)

Fiddler said many of the studio's youth face challenges in their lives stemming from the legacy of these schools. He said they have ties to schools through their parents, grandparents, relatives or friends and wanted to do something.

Painting the rocks is a way of healing and acknowledging residential schools' impacts beyond words, he said.

Youth from Chokecherry Studios spent the afternoon painting rocks in honour of residential school survivors and missing Indigenous children.
Youth from Chokecherry Studios spent the afternoon painting rocks in honour of residential school survivors and missing Indigenous children. (Chanss Lanagan/CBC)

Fiddler hopes the painted stones put pressure on municipalities to create monuments in partnership with Indigenous artists tho remember the lives that were lost and show the truth of what really happened. He said Indigenous people are tired of carrying the burden of educating ignorant people while also trying to heal in their own lives.

"Ultimately, the youth want education on this. They want people to start to understand and listen to our stories, these monuments will be a great way of doing that," Fiddler said.

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