St. John's memorial uses 215 felt squares to remember victims of former B.C. residential school

·3 min read
Felt squares were tied to the fence surrounding the Colonial Building in St. John's to honour the 215 lives of children found buried at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)
Felt squares were tied to the fence surrounding the Colonial Building in St. John's to honour the 215 lives of children found buried at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)
Felt squares were tied to the fence surrounding the Colonial Building in St. John's to honour the 215 lives of children found buried at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Felt squares were tied to the fence surrounding the Colonial Building in St. John's to honour the 215 lives of children found buried at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.(Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details

To help the public remember the lost lives of the 215 children found buried at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., Margaret Cranford helped cut 215 square pieces of felt.

Together with her cousin Sylvia Murphy, she helped attach them to the iron fence outside of the Colonial Building in St. John's.

Memorials for the children uncovered at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School have been growing since the discovery was first reported on Thursday.

Cranford, a Mi'kmaw woman from Newfoundland's west coast, told CBC Radio's On The Go the colours of the memorial in St. John's represent that of the traditional medicine wheel — a sacred circle of interconnectivity. She said she has relatives who were forced to attend residential schools and calls it an honour to hear their horrific stories.

"We've always known what happened to our people. It seems we've never been truly heard," Cranford said.

"We wanted to show support for anybody that was hurting. This is not just affecting Indigenous peoples. This is a human issue. This is affecting the world, and if it isn't, it should be, because this is only the beginning of the darkest part of history being uncovered."

Margaret Cranford says prayers were made as each square was tied to the fence.
Margaret Cranford says prayers were made as each square was tied to the fence. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Cranford said a prayer was said for each child as each square was tied to the fence. A crowd grew to include singing and Inuit drumming before moving across the street to Government House, where the group held a vigil at the heart garden, which honours residential school children, survivors and their families.

"I can't even describe it. I couldn't articulate the emotions, the connection that we felt to the horrors that have been told for so many years," she said.

"[It was] very, very emotional."

Teaching history

Cranford said during the memorial, she met a Métis woman from British Columbia who attended with her children. Cranford said the woman explained to her children what was happening, and that they were likely of the age children who were discovered in Kamloops.

Cranford said the children took it upon themselves to pick 215 dandelions to lay for each child discovered at the former residential school.

"They very much understood," she said.

"This mother had educated her children about residential schools. It's what should be taught in our schools, the truth of history."

As a survivor of abuse, Cranford said she wants to use her voice to help others heal. For reconciliation, she said it needs to be defined as to what will actually be reconciled.

"That needs to be acknowledged before reconciliation can ever begin."

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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