Drums and an honor song followed a pipe ceremony this morning on the Keeseekoose First Nation.
What would follow – the stories of children. Children who never made their way home. Children taken from their families. Children that until now have not been acknowledged.
“Seeing your kid leave your house in the morning time, not realizing that you’ll never see your child again as long as you live. Not knowing any answers to where your children have gone. Only knowing that they have gone to school and never returned.” Keeseekoose Chief Lee Kitchemonia shared the gravity of what children and parents faced.
Ted Quewezance shared the findings. 54 Children from both the Fort Pelly and St.Phillips residential institutions were found. The ground penetrating radar effort was hampered by snow – and the band is certain there are more graves.
The path forward for the community now is one of healing and identification. Healing for survivors and identification of these children.
“The myth of Canada has to be rewritten. It’s a journey that has to happen together. I call this the healing path forward.” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Rose-Anne Archibald of Taykwa Tagamou Nation said. She called upon leaders at all levels of government to work with urgency and together with first nations to recover these children and heal survivors. “I invite all of our allies to listen, learn and reflect upon this shared history.”
Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan and residential institution survivor Russell Mirasty had a sobering request of all Canadians during the announcement at the Keeseekoose first nation. “I encourage all Canadians to open your minds, to learn, to acknowledge the true past of this country of ours that we call Canada.
139 residential institutions were placed by the government across Canada in an effort to assimilate indigenous children. It is estimated that 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, between the ages of 4 and 16 years old, attended Indian residential schools in Canada.
If you or someone you know is in need of survivor support – please call the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066.