The chief of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation says the community is still grieving after the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Chief Rosanne Casimir says the nation has been “constantly, collectively grappling with the heart-wrenching truth brought to light” and has received an outpouring of support as they seek answers and honour lost loved ones.
The nation has been inundated with offers of help and Casimir offered suggestions on how best to show support for the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc.
The community has asked everyone to be respectful of Tk̓emlups te Secwépemc cultural protocols and the community’s role as the primary caretaker of lost loved ones.
“We are the home community of the lost loved ones and we are doing so with absolute love, honour, and respect. We have and will continue to reach out to communities and nations whose members attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School to determine some of those next steps.”
They also asked that the community adhere to protocols for ceremonies and gatherings within the Tk̓emlups te Secwépemc community. In addition, COVID-19 safety protocols should be honoured to prevent “a tragedy upon a tragedy.”
They recommend learning more about the history of residential schools by reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on Canada’s residential school system. Casimir highlighted Vol. 4 of the report, which focuses on missing children and unmarked burials, as well as the report’s calls to action.
She also encouraged people to wear an orange shirt and “start conversations about why we’re doing that.”
Casimir offered advice for non-Indigenous people, saying “now is not the time to ask questions but to simply offer a kind ear to your Indigenous friends.”
“This situation has opened a wound for so many. Please also take the time to learn about intergenerational trauma and its effects.”
A memorial has been set up outside the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School where people can pay their respects while adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.
Casimir said the nation has received queries about donations. Funds received will be put towards further investigations and memorializing the children, she said. Those interested in donating can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
— With files from The Canadian Press