As the Haisla community express their sadness and grief over the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of Kamloops Indian Residential School, the District of Kitimat lowered their flags to half-mast for a total of 215 hours, on May 31; dedicating an hour for each child discovered at the mass gravesite. Shoes were also laid out on the picnic tables at the Coghlin Park viewpoint, in remembrance of the innocent lives that were lost.
To some, residential school programs may feel like a dark past of Canadian history, however, Haisla Nation pointed out in a statement that the tragic discoveries, on May 27, that it’s not just history but something that is felt today, impacting not only those who directly survived, but their children, and grandchildren.
“Our Nation, too, bears the scars of the tragic legacy of residential schools, and this bleak discovery reminds this country that First Nations communities continue to live with this trauma,” Haisla Nation stated in a press release.
“We have heard the stories from our own elders who have lived through the pain of having children taken from homes. Many Haisla children were sent far away, to places such as Port Alberni, and to Coqualeetza.”
At the Coqualeetza Residential School in Chilliwack, which operated from 1886 to 1940 and is responsible for the death of 20 students who attended the Chilliwack residential school.
At the Alberni Residential School in Port Alberni, BC, which operated from 1900 to 1973 and is accountable for 30 student deaths. The former supervisor at the school from 1948 to 1968 was convicted on 18 counts of indecent assault against Aboriginal students and was sentenced to 11 years in jail.
The Haisla Nation also emphasized that the Elizabeth Long Memorial School, which was a girl’s boarding school established inside the Haisla community, walled off the older generations and kept children separated from their parents. The school opened in 1896 under the denomination of the United Church of Canada and closed in 1941.