June is National Indigenous History Month (NIHM) and this year is dedicated to the missing children, the families left behind and the survivors of residential schools. Today we find ourselves heartbroken, yet again, by the discovery of unmarked graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School site in Saskatchewan.
Words cannot sufficiently express the depth of this loss.
Our hearts are with all First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and adults who never returned home and those whose lives have been affected, and continue to be affected by the pain and suffering caused by the colonial violence practiced within residential schools.
BCSTH will continue our work internally, in order to better support our members and the women, children and youth experiencing violence that we all support collectively. BCSTH is also committed to engaging in the decolonization of our organization, and to build relationships with Indigenous women and communities in BC and beyond.
Here are some recommendations of what we can all do from the Indian Residential School Survivors Society with additions from BCSTH:
- Actively listen to people of First Nations, Inuit and Métis backgrounds.
- Learn about the impacts of the Indian Residential School system. See, University of Alberta’s free online course Indigenous Canada.
- Read the TRC’s 94 recommendations (2015). Calls to Action 71 to 76 speak specifically to missing children and burial information.
- Contact your MPs and local officials and ask how they are going to implement the Calls to Action and Justice from the 94 recommendations. You can refer to a specific Call to Action. Such as:
a. 71. What steps will you take to ensure that all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation?
b. 72. What steps will you take to ensure the federal government allocates sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada?
c. 73. What steps will you take to ensure the federal government works with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children?
- Read the MMIWG Calls to Justice – Reclaiming Power and Place (2019).
- Stand up to stereotypes, prejudice, systemic racism and genocide.
- Have conversations with your family, friends and children. Here is a list of children’s books.
- Be kind and respectful towards trauma survivors and elders.
- Be patient, empathetic and receptive.
- Support Indigenous-led community organizations by donating to the Indian Residential School Survivor Society, your local Aboriginal Friendship Centre or Band Office. It doesn’t have to be money; contact them to ask what they need (bottled water, art supplies and gift certificates).
- Raise awareness in your community and online about Canadian’s collective responsibility (Consider wearing orange and share why you do).
- Remember Indigenous People all across Turtle Island are grieving.
Please, if needed, reach out and get support
IRSSS Toll-Free Line: 1-800-721-0066
24-Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
KUU-US Crisis Line: 1-800-588-8717
Tsow-Tun-Le Lum: 1-888-403-3123