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Ceremonies open daylong memorial at former Kamloops residential school

All-day event in Kamloops, B.C., honours Le Estcwicwe̓y̓ — The Missing; prime minister to attend

From left, British Columbia Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir, Governor General of Canada Mary Simon at the ceremony marking one year since the discovery of children's graves near the former Kamloops Indian residential school.

From left, British Columbia Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir, Governor General of Canada Mary Simon at the ceremony marking one year since the discovery of children's graves near the former Kamloops Indian residential school.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ben Nelms/CBC

RCI

As the sun poked out from behind the mountains in Kamloops, B.C., early Monday morning, dozens of people gathered at the Tk̓emlúps Powwow Arbour to mark the one-year anniversary of the announcement that potential unmarked graves had been found at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. 

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The ceremony by the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation was the first of many Monday to honour the children whose lives were lost while being forced to attend residential school, whom the nation has come to refer to as Le Estcwicwe̓y̓ — The Missing.

Many women at sunrise donned ribbon dresses, while others wore orange shirts — a symbol of solidarity with survivors and their families — to mark the day. Birds chirped as traditional drumming and powerful song rang out through the otherwise quiet air.

Prayers and song are scheduled throughout the morning, followed by music, dance and a feast in the afternoon. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir and council members later in the day. He is expected to attend the later ceremony and speak with media at the event.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet withTk'emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimirand council members later in the day.He is expected to attend the later ceremony and speak with media at the event.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet withTk'emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimirand council members later in the day.He is expected to attend the later ceremony and speak with media at the event.

Photo: CBC / Ben Nelms

One year since findings released

Preliminary information obtained through ground-penetrating radar in May 2021 showed there could be as many as 215 unmarked children's burial sites near the school, though specialist Sarah Beaulieu later said she suspects the number could be much higher as only a small portion of the site was surveyed.

On May 27, the First Nation shared the findings with the world (new window).

When I reflect and look at having to share with the world the findings of the unmarked graves, it was something that was devastating personally as a mother and a grandmother and as a leader, Casimir told reporters during a news conference last week.

For Indigenous people across the country, the announcement came as no surprise as the abuses experienced at residential schools have been shared and detailed in oral histories.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) has said about 4,100 children died at residential schools in Canada, but that the actual total is much higher.

David Archie smudges donations that have been gathered in an arbour on Monday to mark one year since the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the discovery of potential burial sites at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. A series of ceremonies are planned through the day.

David Archie smudges donations that have been gathered in an arbour on Monday to mark one year since the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the discovery of potential burial sites at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. A series of ceremonies are planned through the day.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ben Nelms/CBC

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a large number of Indigenous children who were forcibly sent to residential schools never returned home.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School ran from 1890 to 1969, when the federal government took over administration from the Catholic Church to operate it as a residence for a day school, until it closed in 1978.

As many as 500 children from First Nations communities across B.C. and beyond would have been registered at the school at any given time, according to the NCTR.

Pope, Queen asked to apologize

Since the findings, the federal government has committed more than $320 million to residential school site searches and support for survivors and their families, although Minister of Indigenous-Crown Relations Marc Miller has said that amount is likely not enough.

In January, the government struck a deal with the NCTR to hand over thousands of documents relating to residential schools. 

Courtney Dickson (new window) · CBC News

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