“Two-hundred and fifteen little voices woke the country, 215 voices spoke to the world,”

Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda on #NationalTruthAndReconciliationDay2021
photo credit: https://tkemlups.ca/drum/

On May 27, 2021, I was living 10 minutes away from the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the lands of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation (colonially named Kamloops, British Columbia), when the news broke. Remains of 215 children had been found in unmarked graves; children who were forcibly taken to what we would consider a boarding school, and never returned home. This was the first of over 1000 unmarked graves to follow across the country with estimates as high as 15,000-25,000 of possible children who died at Canadian Indian Residential Schools from 1831-1996 when the last one closed down (see links below for more).

Balls of emotion clumped together and lodged on my heart that day, a heaviness that pounds against my chest weekly when I take my son to his soccer practice at the Pronto soccer field right on the former residential school grounds. In the space between parking the car and walking him to the field, my feet fall heavier with every step. Once, I stepped out of my car to be greeted by a single child’s shoe and teddy bear propped again a tree on the embankment facing the Sun Rivers. Another symbolic commemoration left there to honour each of the 215 children along with many others left at the school’s entrance. I am immediately haunted with imaginings of children being abused and silenced as they slip into the river. I cannot help but also see the ancestral Black children who were forcibly brought to these colonized Americas to face all kinds of similar and different abuses and enslavement. As we walk, I worry that we are stepping on graves.

By the time we get to the field, I imagine the spirits of young indigenous children walking and skipping alongside us. In my wayward mind, their faces are not as carefree as you would expect children’s faces to be, but they are not sad either—at least not any longer. I imagine that they are breaking free. The world has heard their cries from their unmarked graves, and they are alive with us, guiding us to a Canada that faces truth, reconciles past injustices, and continually builds an equity-centered present and future. On this inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we woke up to grey skies and rain showers.

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action #80.

It was as if the heavens joined with these ancestral children to cry and rain on us. I like to believe that they sent us showers of mourning and healing as well as showers of blessings, especially as the sun began to break through around 2:00pm, right as the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation raised an honor song and drummed for the children. Yes, it is a time of reckoning, but it is also a time of healing and breakthroughs.

As I search for the rainbow after the storms, I am continuing my learning journey, reflecting and searching for my ongoing contribution to an equity-centered Canada. As I did with #BlackLivesMatter resources, I am starting a list of Canadian Indigenous Resources I am finding useful and will keep adding to the list as I come across more.

Hand to Heart as I stand with my Indigenous Canadian friends and colleagues today.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Events

Quick Starts: Videos and New Articles

Reports /Scholarly Publications & Resources:

Podcasts:

Literature:

Courses

Indigenous Organization to support/donate to

Global

Other Resources