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Okanagan to mark National Indigenous Day in honour of children in unmarked graves in Kamloops

Shoe tributes have been one way Canadians have been honouring the 215 Indigenous children, whose remains have recently been found at a Kamloops residential school. Reynold Gregor/Global News

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada and in B.C.’s Okanagan region, preparations are underway to mark the occasion in honour of the 215 children whose remains were recently found at a residential school in Kamloops.

In Vernon, the North Okanagan Friendship Center Society (NOFCS) is launching an “Orange Heart Memorial” for the Indigenous children called “Forever in our Hearts.”

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“The large-scale discovery is extremely disturbing and shocking to all of us,” said Patricia Wilson, NOFCS executive director.

The NOFCS is encouraging anyone to drop by its office at 2904-29th Street on June 21 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and bring an orange heart to hang on the wall.

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“This is one small yet significant way to honour the lost children and acknowledge the severe and harmful ways that colonization has affected Indigenous People,” stated a news release sent out by the NOFCS Thursday morning.

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The NOFCS said it wants to acknowledge the personal and collective grief that “we as Indigenous Peoples are dealing with in our own way through cultural ways and supporting one another.”

The Orange Heart campaign will also serve as a fundraiser for a memorial bench and mural that will forever commemorate the Indigenous children.

Money raised will allow the society to expand services to infants, children, youth and their families.

NOFCS is also working on plans to build an Indigenous childcare facility and is seeking a suitable site in Greater Vernon.

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In the South Okanagan, residents in Oliver, especially those living along Tuc El Nuit Road, are being encouraged to line the street on Monday to see off a convoy bound for Kamloops.

The convoy includes students and the Okanagan Indian Band Chief and Council along with elders, several of whom are residential school survivors.

They are heading to Kamloops for a private ceremony.

According to social media posts, the convoy will make its way down Tuc El Nuit Road between 8:45 and 9:45 a.m.

Residents are encouraged to pay their respects by wearing orange, holding a heart or standing behind a pair of shoes or a stuffed animal.

A Facebook post stated, “Let’s stand quietly but together against the racism and genocide that resulted in the traumatic experiences of children at Indigenous Residential Schools that has impacted survivors and their families for generations.”

Those who do come out are reminded to maintain their physical distance or wear a mask if safe distancing is not possible.

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