About 100 members of the Kahnawake, Que., community from every generation marched in solidarity on Sunday.
It was to remember and to honour the 215 victims of the former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, where a mass grave was discovered earlier in the week.
The disturbing discovery prompted Indigenous communities across Canada to build memorial sites — in many cases, displaying 215 children’s shoes in front of churches, museums and government buildings.
In Kahnawake, a member of the community made a call out on Facebook looking for shoes and in less than 24 hours a display was set up in front of the Francis Xavier church.
A former residential school survivor from British Columbia led the afternoon march.
“It was very emotional to hear the news,” says Delbert Samson.
“It triggered a lot of my emotions. I spent so many years in that residential school and I had a lot of healing to do after I left that place.”
Delbert adds he dances for the victims and for the survivors in hopes they find some healing.
“It really made me think of the pain those little kids went through before they died,” he said. “Those little human beings that look for safety and comfort and that’s something they didn’t have when they were there.”
Many members of the community say they believe many more bodies will be discovered and the mast grave found in B.C. is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
On Sunday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted all Canadian flags on federal buildings must be flown at half mass, including on the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
According to the Department of Canadian Heritage, the flags will be lowered until further notice.