We at the Centre for Indigenous Studies stand in support of all the people affected by the discovery of the remains of at least 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. We particularly acknowledge and send words of condolence to the families and other loved ones of these children – and the students of other residential schools – whose lives were cut short by the Canadian system implemented with the goal of “removing the Indian from the child”. We also honor and acknowledge the children who survived this system and their loved ones. We know personally that many of the survivors and their family members carried scars that have been passed to others in their families and communities and that our Indigenous Nations are working tirelessly to overcome the historic burdens that exist because of this system.
We appreciate that this moment in history has opened the eyes of many from outside our Indigenous communities to the truth of these tragedies and that many feel the need to act as a result of this new knowledge. If you find yourself in this group or if you are seeking to help others who have come to you for guidance, we offer the following suggestions as potential starting places for action:
- Read the Calls to Action from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Take particular note of calls #71-76 (pp. 8-9). These calls serve as a reminder that the discovery at Tk’emlups te Secwepemc was not unexpected by survivors, other members of Indigenous communities, and those who had previously read the Calls to Action. Yes, this news is shocking but not surprising.
- Read the final report of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. If time doesn’t allow for you to read the entire report, read the executive summary, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future.
- Call on your Canadian political leaders to heed all the recommendations of the TRC and particularly to take concrete action to fund the search for remains on the grounds of other former residential schools.
- Demand support for Indigenous language revitalization efforts. We know that the most measurable impact of the residential school system is the loss of Indigenous language use and fluency across several generations in most communities across Turtle Island. Many Indigenous communities are committed to reversing that trend but most lack the financial resources to make language revitalization a reality. Call on Canadian governments to provide financial support for grassroots efforts as well as to strengthen Indigenous language curriculum and supports in education systems across the country.
- Tell others what you know about the residential school system, especially your children and other family members. We know it’s difficult to have these conversations, especially with young people, but there are resources to assist you with finding the words to share this knowledge.