As Indigenous communities and Canadians coast-to-coast mourn the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, schools and teachers have found many ways to honour the young lives lost on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc lands.
School District 69 (Qualicum) teachers used this event to aid the truth and reconciliation process. Many schools tied orange ribbons to their fences to remember the 215 children, as well as the others not yet discovered. Students and staff wore orange shirts throughout the week and completed many Indigenous art projects in tribute.
Teachers also organized walk-ins wearing orange shirts where they gathered outside before the start of school and then walked into their respective buildings together (while respecting COVID-19 safety protocols).
Debbie Comer, president of the Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association (MATA) said: “This discovery is devastating, and confirmation of what has always been reported; that thousands of children were forced to attend residential schools and never returned home. I cannot know the depths of the grief for those affected, or the stories that are carried inside. If you are grieving, please know you have my deepest condolences.”
On May 29, the British Columbia Teachers’ Association (BCTF) requested all school flags be flown at half-mast. Comer and SD69 superintendent, Dr. Keven Elder, having spoken first to the Snaw Naw As and Qualicum First Nations, arranged to have all flags in the Qualicum School District to be at flown half-mast for 215 hours; one hour to represent each of the 215 children.
“We continue, with open hearts and open minds, to seek greater understandings of Indigenous ways of knowing, and to finding ways to support healing in the face of what will be an ongoing search for answers in relation to lost and missing children,” said Elder.
— NEWS Staff, submitted