First Nations honour victims from Kamloops residential school in Quesnel

?Esdilagh First Nation councillor Chad Stump said they had to make the last-minute ceremony happen. (Rebecca Dyok photo)?Esdilagh First Nation councillor Chad Stump said they had to make the last-minute ceremony happen. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
A Tlingit elder was thankful to participate in a ceremony in Quesnel honouring the 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Rebecca Dyok photo)A Tlingit elder was thankful to participate in a ceremony in Quesnel honouring the 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Up to 75 people formed a circle at Lebourdais Park in Quesnel early Saturday afternoon to honour children found buried at a former residential school. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Up to 75 people formed a circle at Lebourdais Park in Quesnel early Saturday afternoon to honour children found buried at a former residential school. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Tsilhqot’in Nation elder Cecil Grinder has taught the drum is the heartbeat of Indigenous peoples said ?Esdilagh Councillor Chad Stump. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Tsilhqot’in Nation elder Cecil Grinder has taught the drum is the heartbeat of Indigenous peoples said ?Esdilagh Councillor Chad Stump. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
“Today we want to honour the 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School,” Nazko First Nation Chief Leah Stump said Saturday, May 29 at Lebourdais Park in Quesnel. (Rebecca Dyok photo)“Today we want to honour the 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School,” Nazko First Nation Chief Leah Stump said Saturday, May 29 at Lebourdais Park in Quesnel. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Nazko elder Doreen Patrick (centre) said news of the recent discovery of 215 children was painful for residential school survivors. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Nazko elder Doreen Patrick (centre) said news of the recent discovery of 215 children was painful for residential school survivors. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Lebourdais Park was the scene of drumming and singing Saturday afternoon to honour children who never returned home from Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Lebourdais Park was the scene of drumming and singing Saturday afternoon to honour children who never returned home from Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

A circle of people drummed and sang at Lebourdais Park in Quesnel while standing in solidarity Saturday afternoon to honour the 215 children who never returned home from the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Nazko First Nation Chief Leah Stump thanked everyone for their attendance before two prayers — one in Carrier and the other in Tsilhqot’in — were provided.

“I have this lump in my throat,” said Terrence Paul, a local Sundancer, pipe carrier and lodge-keeper.

Paul sang a prayer for the lost children and their families, relatives, communities and nations, and to call upon the spirits to be with and look after present elders, children and those struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse, and the remnants of residential school and colonialism.

“I am a survivor from the Williams Lake [St. Joseph’s Mission] residential school where there are still unmarked graves that still need to be investigated,” Paul added.

“I’m one of the fortunate ones that made it home.”

Read More: B.C. teachers to wear orange shirts to honour children found dead at residential school

The buried remains of the more than 200 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site was recently confirmed by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (Kamloops Indian Band) with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist.

“Those are children that never came home as Terrence had alluded to,” ?Esdilagh First Nation Coun. Chad Stump said.

Noting the resilience of Indigenous people, Stump said they continue fighting, surviving and moving forward in a world that is not their way.

”We thank Chief Leah for putting together a circle and putting together the opportunity for us to pay our respects for those people that lost their lives.”

Approximately 75 attendees stood near each other in a circle as First Nations peoples of all ages beat drums and sang, some visibly holding back tears.

Before the “Tsilhqot’in Warrior” song Coun. Stump said well-respected Tsilhqot’in Nation elder Cecil Grinder taught them the drum is the heartbeat of their people.

“This is what is going to carry us on,” he said.

“This is what’s going to keep us proud moving forward is using our drum, using it at settings, using it for our guests, our visitors and our neighbours.”

Read More: Indigenous communities rocked by Kamloops residential school burial discovery

Read More: Work underway for forensics experts to identify B.C. school remains

Nazko elder Doreen Patrick offered a closing prayer and said the discovery of the 215 children was a very painful confirmation for survivors.

She said children are our world right now.

“There is evil in this world,” Patrick said.

“They’re kidnapping our children, they’re giving our children drugs, they’re giving our children alcohol and it’s killing our young people. They’re precious—our children and grandchildren.”

After the ceremony, Paul told Black Press Media it is not enough to just hear apologies and acknowledgments from governments that continue to establish injustices as genocidal laws.

“We need action,” he said.

“This latest discovery and the magnitude of this atrocity must not be left unjustified.”

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

Read More: Flags at federal buildings, BC Legislature lowered to honour residential school victims


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