The releasing of the confirmation of the grave sites of the 215 children of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at the residential school in Kamloops has caused a wave of emotion amongst the indigenous, but also in the non-indigenous community…Just not enough of the sympathetic kind in the non-indigenous community. 

There should be pure general outrage at what is publicly released, yet there isn’t. Why is that? 

There have been a lot of horrific things happened years ago, we are justifiably outraged at many events, people and decisions which were cruel, criminal and wrong and for many… those feelings linger.

But, this is 215 children and while without a clear and thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened, it took the release of human sonar findings to believe what the indigenous have been saying for decade. It was both literal and cultural in nature. 

While “genocide” is a powerful word, one wonders what will be confirmed. 

And all these years, no one out side the community listened or wanted to listen. Sweep it under the rug or in this case cruelly bury it and never speak of it again. 

No that the truth is out there, everyone is looking anywhere, as the indigenous community holds up a mirror of which we are trying not to make eye contact with something which is ugly…ourselves. Someone could have demanded our institutions do more i.e. government and our churches, which teamed up to run many of these horrific and at best, at best, damaging residential schools, but chose not to… 

In national media reports the federal government has decided to lay the blame on the Roman Catholic Church which operated 70 per cent of residential schools. 

It seems extremely hypocritical that the government blame the church for this atrocity when they are a major part of it.   

At least the Archdiocese of Regina sent out a statement reading, “We are profoundly sorry for the hurt that actions and decisions of our church in the past have caused to Indigenous Peoples and in ways that we presently re-traumatize by our actions and inactions. We have heard and acknowledge that apologies are not an end point but a starting point, and are learning how to walk in solidarity. On this journey, we have embraced a simple saying that I learned from Indigenous friends years ago, ‘nothing about us without us.’”

While the Pope and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have acknowledge sympathy, neither has stated a formal apology. Apology means acknowledgement of guilt and guilt means financial restitution which shows where our priorities lay. It means giving up power, admitting that not only our ancestors but we in the non-indigenous society are in the wrong too. 

At a ceremony organized by the Miywasin Friendship Centre at Medicine Hat’s Saamis Tepee hundreds came out to honour and mourn the 215 children found. 

There were elders, representatives from the Miywasin Centre, crowd members, including a few children, came up and spoke about their experiences with residential schools or how they felt, to those gathered.  

Whitney Ogle, who was part of the indigenous department at the Medicine Hat College and is now in Saskatchewan was one of the speakers. She passionately addressed the crowd, but it had nothing to do with anger, revenge or money. A proud Lakota Sioux, her address was one of sorrow, loss and what we can do to rectify wrongs and make a better world for the future generations for everyone, not just indigenous.

“There’s this understanding in our linear world that we find things or we (just) discover things that we found. But my understanding through my Lakota ways is that we do not find things, they unveil themselves to us. They present themselves to us, when the time is right. So, the lost bebela (young children) decided it was time to unvail themselves. I understand it as a message from our bebela that it is time, that we come together. 

“This is not about cultural teachings. This is not about the cultural awareness. This is about humanity. This is about the human nation. We have a shared history together. Each and every one of your ancestors are standing behind you right now. I’m not alone up here and neither are you. And that shared history is calling us today. It is calling us to come together in a good way, put our minds together for the future for the next generations and sustainment.”

Hold onto your pride and your money; Indigenous people want want justice, acknowledgement and an apology for their ancestors. They truly want peace and their spirits to be clear and free… finally.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is set up to provide support, the 24-hour line is: 1-866-925-4419.

Ryan Dahlman is editor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East

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