Here in our home community of La Ronge, SK, the news of 215 children found buried at former B.C. residential school was shocking. Many of us were saddened, others were outraged that the governments did not listen before. They, survivours, say they knew atrocities had happened, but nothing was done. I too, used to hear about possible missing children at residential schools growing up. I could not understand at the time what they meant. I do not remember any headlines about it on mainstream media, maybe it was not important enough for journalists to research the topic.
Now, there is not only news media, but social media, and web media as well. It gives us a better playing field. I would not say “level-playing” field because I do not see it as the case. I have read comments where Indigenous posts and pages had been removed and outright banned from social media.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission “has identified the names of, or information about, more than 4,100 children who died of disease or accident while attending a residential school” (trc.ca). Murray Sinclair “now believed the number was ‘well beyond 10,000’” (nytimes.com). This is a disturbing trend for Indigenous people in both Canada and United States. Many of the mainstream population do not even know about the residential schools because it has not been taught extensively, or at all, in many schools across both countries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to set aside money for more searches (dailyhive.com). I anticipate my hometown of La Ronge to get funding for the searches. A local Indigenous Elder has stated that he believes that there are other bodies, other then the marked graves, at an old graveyard which was near a residential school in downtown La Ronge (1907 – 1947) (uregina.ca). I sincerely hope that La Ronge gets the funding for a search. It is important for our Tri-Community to try to find a sense of closure for the atrocities of the past.
I am personally fortunate that I have never attended residential school. I have many friends and family who have attended, and they told me stories that I found deplorable. Not being able to speak your own language or to practice tradition. It was a clear violation to the psyche of the children. Beating the “Indian” out of the children, literally, or at least trying to.
We are still here. I am fortunate to have gone to band run schools that encouraged, and even taught our beautiful language and culture. I cannot imagine what residential school students had to go through.
Our Tri-Community has made efforts to reconcile with the local band members and cancelled Canada Day and instead scraped the celebrations “in favour of National Indigenous Peoples Day” on June 21, 2021 (newsoptimist.ca). Many people gathered wearing masks and practiced social distancing, to talk about reconciliation and to remember those children that never made it home.
The searches have only just begun.
I would rather not discuss the burning of churches. I sincerely hope it does not happen in our Tri-Communities.
Every Child Matters