On May 31, 2022, children’s shoes and stuffed animals began appearing on the steps in front of Calgary’s municipal plaza.
The makeshift memorial followed a grim discovery in Kamloops B.C. — the suspected remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school.
“My grandparents and my parents were raised in ritual abuse systems, thinking it was normal,” said Hapan Kinyewakan, a Tsuut’ina Nation elder. “And for our generations now to heal from that trauma is very important.”
Kinyewakan carried a quilt her mother made to Wednesday’s update on the City of Calgary’s Indian Residential School memorial project. Sewn into the denim fabric are reminders of her mother’s well-known, but seldom-discussed past.
City council allocated a million dollars for the project in November of 2021.
The City of Calgary is now working alongside elders like Kinyewakan to carry forward the spirit of the temporary installation that remains on the plaza steps. It follows an extensive period of consultation as the city moves forward with site analysis for three possible locations — Fort Calgary, Olympic Plaza and the municipal building — for a permanent memorial.
“A lot of the people preferred more of a natural setting of course down at the confluence there’s lots of trees it’s down by the water and there’s lots of trees and grass,” said Sherri Kellock with the City of Calgary.
The city says the temporary memorial will remain in place at municipal plaza until the new memorial is finished. Construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed in 2025.