Hundreds of students in Quesnel walked to honour and remember residential school survivors and those who did not return home.
The first annual 215 Memorial Walk was held Friday, May 27, with students from Quesnel Junior School (QJS), Lakeview Elementary and École Red Bluff Lhtako Elementary.
Several speakers addressed the large crowd gathered at the QJS field before the late morning walk began.
“I’d like to you know that today we walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and our job today is to find a way to continue to make things better in our schools, in our communities, and on our planet,” QJS principal Trish Simpson said.
Jim Edgar who is from the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola offered a blessing.
It has been one year since 215 unmarked graves were detected on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“It’s always tough when we lose people, and if they’re not brought back to where they come from, it’s even tougher,” Edgar said.
Quesnel School District Principal of Aboriginal Education, JoAnne Moiese acknowledged and thanked everyone in attendance.
A round of applause broke out for QJS Indigenous education support worker Karen Green after Moiese noted it was Green’s dream and vision to have the memorial walk on Friday.
“This gathering took many hands to organize,” Green said, giving thanks to a number of individuals.
For generations, Green said survivors, elders, and ancestors have known their children never returned from residential schools.
“Canada’s truth and reconciliation final report stated that between 4,000 and 6,000 children never made it home or went missing, and it was anticipated this number would be much greater,” she said.
“We must continue to educate every Canadian about this part of history, so it is never forgotten and never happens again.”
Brent Edgar, also from the Nuxalk Nation, led singing and drumming before the students, many wearing orange and carrying signs, dispersed on the three-kilometre walk within the community.
He said it has been tough since the news of the preliminary findings at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and that the number of unmarked graves uncovered at residential school sites across Canada has grown.
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