Children’s shoes placed on the steps of the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in memory of the 215 children found in a mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. (photo by Tim Johnson)
Since 1976 when Plenty Canada first coalesced and activated in response to an earthquake that devastated Mayan communities in Guatemala, our organization has worked closely with Indigenous peoples to affirm and support their rightful roles in the pantheon of nations that comprise human civilization on Earth. In the pursuit of truth and justice and recognizing the profound need to respect human rights and promote and restore equality, Indigenous peoples should be free from discrimination of any kind.
Recent news that 215 Indigenous children were found buried in a mass grave at the Kamloops Residential School has been devastating to our organization, to our community, and to all those across the country whose empathy and decency have been roiled by shock, dismay, and pain. As an Indigenous organization, whose family members and associates have been impacted directly by Canada’s residential school policies and who continue to contend with generational trauma, we are reminded on a regular basis the extent of this tragic history. But nothing prepared us for this, for such a stark and horrific realization of the pain and suffering evidenced by this terrible discovery.
In our attempts to process events and realizations such as these, we must also confront the lingering impacts of colonialism, of rationalization born of entitlement, that not only dehumanize Indigenous peoples, but also damage our sacred earth’s delicate balance. These outcomes are connected, they are related. Whether a violation of natural law or a violation of human rights, we are now forced to ponder, have we been inadequately describing residential school policies as “cultural” destruction, when it would appear they meet the full and complete United Nations definition of genocide, full stop?
It is therefore with collective grieving hearts that we extend our most sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the families of the 215 children who did not survive the Kamloops Residential School, and to all those within Canada who are feeling the deep and seemingly indelible effects of this recurring and dreadful nightmare.
If you or any of your family members, friends, or associates need someone with whom to talk or communicate, please consider contacting the National Indian Residential School Survivors Crisis Line, which is available 24-hours per day for anyone experiencing pain or distress caused by a residential school experience.