The discoveries of the unmarked burial sites of 215 children at a residential school in Kamloops have raised a level of awareness that can’t be measured.
Many Indigenous leaders said while it is a traumatic and tragic truth, they feel people are now listening to their history.
It’s brought a whole new meaning to this year’s National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Kenny Hunter is the Indigenous liason at the Canmore hospital. He organized a special ceremony Monday in a sacred space at the hospital, an area designated for Indigenous patients and their families to heal.
Hunter said it was a fitting backdrop for a ceremony marking National Indigenous Peoples Day.
“These 215 children that were found has shed a light and brought new attention that this really did happen. It exists.
“It’s a reality for Indigenous peoples,” Hunter said. “It has opened new wounds to our people and we have to bring that awareness to our non-Indigenous friends.”
The ceremony included young dancers and a drumming circle.
Many elders and other members of the Indigenous community tied orange ribbons in the trees in the area.
Trent Fox is an Indigenous language and literacy educator. He said there is an awareness now that can’t be measured.
“We do tell our truths, but people weren’t listening.
“It’s really illuminated the issue of Indigenous issues in Canada and how it has impacted our people,” Fox said. “They are looking at our stories in a more respectful way.”
The discoveries have validated other residential school survivors’ stories.
Tina Poucette shared her painful past.
“People have to know what happened to us and they need to hear our story.
“When I left the residential school, I had no sense of self-esteem. I was worthless and I was told I would never amount to anything,” Poucette said.
“But during those times there was a little spirit in me always saying: ‘You can do it. I’ll show you.'”
She said their heartbreaking histories are a lesson for the future.
“Look at how we have survived. Look at how we have overcome and how resilient we are.”