Teddy bears, flowers and children's shoes line the steps of the Vernon Courthouse Tuesday, June 1 following in memory of the 215 young Indigenous remains discovered at the former Kamloops residential school. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Okanagan Indian Band honours 215 children

Feeding the Spirits and Calling Them Home event taking place on Westside

Okanagan Indian Band members are thinking of and praying for the children who never made it home.

Following the tragic discovery of 215 remains of children at the Kamloops Residential School, a special ceremony is taking place at Komasket Park today (Tuesday, June 8).

The Feeding the Spirits and Calling Them Home event, for members only, includes offerings from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We as Indigenous Peoples’ must come to terms with is the fact that we’ve been living the effects to which residential schools are a single aspect of a system to support colonization in the form of colonialism. We don’t have to look beyond our communities to see the effects of this reality,” OKIB chief Byron Louis said. “It is one where our People continue to suffer the effects of social dysfunction that are too long to list.”

Healing must begin now, Louis said, by members and for members.

Not able to go to the government, and definitely not churches, “there is no one coming to save us except ourselves… We must heed the words of our Elders, ‘we must help ourselves.’”

Louis said in the “past five centuries of attacks,” Indigenous people were subjected to murder, rape, starvation, medical experimentation, physical and mental abuse and institutionalized cover-ups.

“These are the people that as children fought, lived died and survived the undeclared war against children. They are veterans, not survivors or victims. These child warriors are worthy of honour who unknowingly fought in defence of our people. We are here because of them.

“Do not lower your head and cry, hold your head up in praise and honour them and most importantly support them. This is what they rightfully deserve in their service to our people. They need our praise, not pity!”

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering from trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The 24-7 hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

READ MORE: Syilx Nation members make emotional trip to Kamloops Residential School for Unity Run

READ MORE: Kamloops Residential School never discussed by Vernon survivor


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jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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