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Orange ribbons at Douglas College the latest Tri-City tribute to children who attended residential schools

Post-secondary students acknowledge the past for a unified future as ribbons will remain in place for exactly 215 days.

To show its solidarity and support for the Indigenous community, a Tri-City area post-secondary school has also created a tribute to those who attended residential schools.

Douglas College and its student union (DSU) has tied 215 orange ribbons to several local trees at its Coquitlam and New Westminster campuses to represent the 215 children found in unmarked graves at a former Kamloops residential school in late May.

It’s the newest of several other vigils, memorials or tributes that have been put in places across the region by the community itself or by local groups.

“When I attended elementary and high school, there were no discussions about residential schools, and barely any on Indigenous cultures. My hope is that the sight of 215 ribbons for 215 days will promote the need for change in Canada and will remind people of how much residential schools have taken away: lives, families, community, culture, languages and self-esteem,” explains Aly Hillaby, DSU’s Indigneous student representative on its board of directors.

In a news release today (June 15), it says Hillaby — who is from the Pinaymootang and Kitasoo First Nations — brought forward the idea of tying orange ribbons to trees, which are set to remain in place for exactly 215 days until Jan. 9, 2022.

“There were 51 reported deaths at the Kamloops residential school, but 215 bodies found,” the third-year Bachelor of Social Work student added.

“There were 130 residential schools across Canada. Their impact passes through generations, and the conversation and awareness-building must continue.”   

According to Douglas College, the inch-wide, grosgrain ribbons are fastened to the tree bark without staples or nails in order to avoid arboreal damage.

At its Coquitlam campus, you can see the ribbons among three trees at the intersection of Pinetree Way and Town Centre Boulevard.  

Additionally, the school's sign at the New West campus is set to be lit orange for the remainder of June, which is also National Indigenous History Month.


Among the Tri-Cities’ efforts to signify support for Indigenous communities, members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation — including young children — tied their own orange ribbons around a playground at Walton Elementary in Coquitlam.

As of May 31, flags have remained at half-mast at city halls and prominent offices across the region, including Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody city halls and School District 43’s main office.

In Port Coquitlam, a vigil in Veterans Park has grown and even received a covering to protect the items underneath from any potential inclement weather.

Teddy bears, stuffed animals and shoes for the children are the eye-catching features, but handwritten or typed-up notes also present themselves to passersby, conveying messages of apology for what has happened, but also of hope for reconciliation and understanding for all Indigenous peoples moving forward.

"I'm sorry — is never enough and never will be enough for what happened; not only to these precious innocent children but to all your people." reads a letter typed up and place on an orange paper to border the words.

There's also no signature or name on the letter, but the writer identifies themselves as a "colonizer by definition," as well as a mother and a mental health nurse. 

"I do not know the words to even convey my sorrow and grief for you."

Orange ribbons also hang on a string across the front of the makeshift memorial, which you can read more of by the following the link below.