In the News May 29
Uphold the Right of Indigenous Peoples to
Affirm Their Hereditary Rights
Solemn Memorial Marks First Year Anniversary of Discovery of Unmarked Graves at Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation
One year ago, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced that some 215 unmarked graves of Le Estcwicwe’y (Missing Children) were found using ground-penetrating radar at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. This shocking discovery and subsequent uncovering of many other similar sites across Canada triggered outrage, grieving and demands for justice for the crimes that the Canadian colonial state perpetrated against Indigenous peoples by abducting their children and sending them to church-run residential schools over a 150-year period. This genocidal policy to destroy Indigenous peoples as people resulted in the deaths of thousands of Indigenous children and caused the intergenerational trauma that is felt up to this day.
On May 23, the first anniversary of the discovery of the unmarked graves, the community held a solemn memorial for the children whose unmarked graves were found. It began with a sunrise sacred ceremony and throughout the day there were prayers, singing and drumming. Speeches were given by elders and community leaders who came from across British Columbia and from Alberta and Saskatchewan as well. Several government ministers were also present from BC and also from Canada.
In her comments of welcome Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said that “this historic day” was for all the children who never made it home and for their families. She sent a message of greetings to all the other Indigenous communities across Canada who have found unmarked graves of their children who were taken to residential schools. She noted that more answers are needed, more searches must be done to uncover the graves of all the children. She also called upon the Trudeau government to make good its promise of a healing centre, for language recovery programs and other supports promised. She emphasized that the discovery of the 215 lost children on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School sent shockwaves across the country, affecting and traumatizing not only Indigenous peoples but also the Canadian public. She pointed out that the “whole world stands with us” to seek justice and reconciliation.
Governor General Mary Simon also shared some thoughts, saying, “At this residential school and others like it across the country, churches and governments eradicated Indigenous languages and identity through corrupt policies. They took away our stories. It’s unimaginable that a place of learning was so cruel. It’s inexcusable that people could commit these atrocities, or that people could stand silent as they were committed.”
Prime Minister Trudeau was heckled when he spoke. As he walked around the Pow Wow grounds he was followed by a group of drummers and protesters, some of whom called him a “fake” and chanted slogans such as “All Canada is Indian land,” “We Don’t Need Your Constitution,” “RCMP Out!” and others.
Speaking to the CBC, Cucw-la7, Dorothy Christian, a member of the Secwepemc First Nation noted that Prime Minister Trudeau “does not have a good record with us,” adding “I hope that he and his cabinet members take reconciliation seriously, and they actually put it into action…They need to pay attention … and listen to the people … not just words … not just rhetoric … but action … it has to be a verb.”
(With files from CBC, CPAC. Photo: L. Milobar)
TML Daily, posted May 29, 2022.