[content awareness: this article discusses residential schools and the ongoing searches for unmarked graves across Turtle Island]
›› Lizz Brooks & Shae Zamardi
With Orange Shirt Day now passed for this year, there are many reflections accumulating from the school searches of the summer. With conversations of Canada’s Residential “Schools” slowing publicly, there have been numerous pushes for more searches and for the media to continue to share updates since the initial 215 children who were found buried on the Kamloops Indian Residential School site in June.
Despite hearing stories from our Elders and survivors of these institutions and knowing of lost children buried on the grounds, there was still a collective shock each of us felt in different ways. This summer has been filled with much loss and needed time for mourning and honouring our Indigenous children who never made it home. Like with most things in life, there have been many dynamic layers to these searches.
Many non-Indigenous individuals have been wondering what their role is. I cannot speak for all Indigenous peoples, as we are not a monolith. Even while calls for searches are continuing, our Nations need the time to grieve or mentally prepare themselves as they plan for their own searches. Many teachings emphasize that our children are at the centre of our circles and communities.
When we raise our children, gather around them, and honour their memory, we must not take the space for ourselves. We must look to our local Nations for guidance on what they need for support during these trying times. Allies shall continue to do good work and learning. We must ensure that we are directly supporting Indigenous individuals by uplifting their voices, creating space for them, and using this time to sit back and actively listen.
For the children who never made it home, we see you and we will continue to raise our hands and drums to you.
For individuals wishing to learn more about Canada’s Residential School history and how to be effective allies, Indigenous Perspectives Society’s next Cultural Perspectives Training is on Tuesday, November 9th, 2021. Participants can register online at ipsociety.ca/training/cultural-perspectives.
Photo caption: Shoes and toys sitting on the front steps of the Victoria, BC Legislative Buildings in honour of Residential School Survivors who never made it home. Photo: Shae Zamardi