Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation
Message to the AU community about the Kamloops residential school burial site
Trigger warning: Indian residential schools, death
The discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. is a national tragedy, and a painful reminder of the terrible legacy of colonialism in our country.
We share the horror and sadness of Canadians everywhere, particularly Indigenous peoples of Canada, at this discovery and at the trauma that has resulted from the treatment of Indigenous peoples. We acknowledge that one child’s lost life is too much; 215 is incomprehensible. The impact of this trauma is multi-generational.
We all have a responsibility to confront the injustices of the past and present and to rectify them. Numerous government studies and inquiries, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have urged us to do so. There were 139 Indian Residential Schools in Canada, as identified in the Indian Residential School (IRS) Settlement Agreement operating from the 1870s to the last one closing in 1996.
We must acknowledge that this is not an isolated case and we must recommit ourselves to working towards truth and conciliation with Indigenous peoples of this land. We will be working on ways to commemorate these deaths so that these children will be remembered and acknowledged.
At Athabasca University, our Nukskahtowin strategic plan calls for us to create “an environment that respects Indigenous knowledge and values … We are on a path to miyo-pimatisiwin (good life) in our Cree language and we strive to live in harmony and work towards a space of respect, conciliation (kwayskahsatsowin), good relations, and reciprocity.”
In a show of respect, grief, and remembrance, we have lowered the flags at Athabasca University for 215 days—one day for each life lost. We recognize that as a university community we have a responsibility to create respectful dialogue, to share information, and to grow our understanding of Indigenous peoples (Inuit, First Nations, Métis). We continue to work to implement the action plan of Nukskahtowin in our university environment, and work as Canadians to effect future change and to confront and learn from the horrors of the past and present.
Today, at 2:15 p.m., I urge everyone in our AU community to observe a moment of silence to honour the memory of the 215 children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and to stand with all who have suffered and continue to suffer today.
Deborah L. Meyers, CPA, CA
Support and resources
If you need support, please know that help is available.
If you are a learner or an AU team member who is experiencing difficulty with this tragic event, we have counsellors and resources that you can access.
The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Emotional and crisis referral services can be accessed by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.