It’s now been one week since it was announced 215 unmarked graves of children — some as young as three years old — were found on the grounds of a former Kamloops residential school.
Since then, the discovery has garnered worldwide attention, once again shining on a dark period in Canada’s history that remains grim, heart-breaking and sorrowful to this day for First Nations.
One woman in Port Coquitlam is stepping up not only to thank the community for their support during this time, but to honour all those impacted by residential schools including her parents.
In Veterans Park, a makeshift memorial has been created for the 215 children at the cenotaph where shoes, stuffed animals and other trinkets have been placed.
This has warmed Donna E. Charlie’s heart in seeing residents come together.
Now, her vow is to visit the vigil every day at 2:15 p.m. to honour each and every one of them, as well as lost elders who’ve helped her along her life’s journey.
“I don’t think it’s right that people are allowed to just take our lands away and just destroy us on our Native culture,” says Donna in a video posted to social media, noticeably emotional in her tone.
“I am still trying to learn my Native language right now and it’s very hard when two elders have passed away that were trying to teach me. I’m standing here right now for all Native cultures. Do yourself the best to respect. Don’t put us down, we are all not like the way people think we are. There are some nice people around.”
Donna is also receiving help from family and friends like John Joseph, who’s posted videos of her sharing stories and calling for unity.
In a post shared with Tri-City News, Joseph says the goal of visiting Veterans Park every day will be to pay respects and learn more about how residential schools have made a lasting generational impact for First Nations.
“She has been strong and courageous and sharing with us every day since Monday,” he explained Friday afternoon (June 4).
Residents, if able, are invited to join Donna at the park vigil each day at 2:15 p.m. as she performs spiritual dances and shares stories.
CLARITY ON ‘MASS GRAVE’ IN KAMLOOPS
The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc band, who unveiled the discovery last week, has recently clarified language that it says should be used when speaking to the 215 children.
Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir said in a news conference on Friday the remains are not in a mass burial or a mass grave, but a series of unmarked graves.
She added — to the band’s knowledge — the sites are also undocumented.
“These are preliminary findings and we expect to have a final report near the end of this month. We will be sharing the findings, including the technical aspects, with our community and with the home communities of the lost children, and also with you, the media.
“For all the questions regarding the technology costs and details of the findings, know we will share when we get to that point.”
In terms of what’s next, Casimir said there’s no “road map” to follow for Canada’s First Nations as she’s not sure how long the investigation process will take.
- with a file from Tim Petruk, Castanet