Fort William First Nation commemorates the first anniversary of the discovery of 215 potential burial sitesJun 22, 2022 10:35AM ● By Laura Durenberger
By Rick Garrick - Anishnabek News - June 22, 2022
Trigger warning: readers may be triggered by the recount of Indian Residential Schools. To access a 24-hour National Crisis Line, call: 1-866-925-4419. Community Assistance Program (CAP) can be accessed for citizens of the Anishinabek Nation: 1-800-663-1142.
Fort William held a Commemoration Honour Gathering to mark the first anniversary of the discovery of 215 potential burial sites at a former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., on May 27.
“It was important that we honour and acknowledge a date in history that Canada has to be honest about, the history that happened at Residential Schools and the tragedy of the many young people that didn’t make it back home,” says Fort William Councillor Michele Solomon. “And the families that never ever were told what happened to their children.”
Solomon says the discovery of potential burial sites at former Indian Residential Schools started out with the discovery of 215 potential burial sites at the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C. and is now at more than 15,000 potential burial sites at former Indian Residential Schools across the country.
“I talked about how any other place in the world, if there was an unmarked grave found it would be deemed a crime site,” Solomon says. “And that’s what these are, they’re crime sites. What happened to Indigenous children was a crime. Why were they not taken back home to their families for their families to put them to rest the right way?”
Solomon says there will be a search for potential burial sites at the former St. Joseph’s Residential School site in Thunder Bay using ground sonar. The Pope John Paul II Catholic Elementary School is now located on the former Residential School site.
“It calls into question, was there remains found when they built the new school?” Solomon says. “It certainly raises some questions, but nevertheless, we need to go ahead and do the sonar testing no matter what.”
Solomon says about 50 people attended the Commemoration Honour Gathering, which was held near the Fort William Ontario Works office.
“People expressed sadness about what happened, but people were happy to be acknowledging the day, acknowledging the lives of those people who didn’t get to live their life, acknowledging the short lives of those little children,” Solomon says. “People were glad to be doing that and people were glad that the [potential burial sites] were found and that there was some light brought to this situation.”
Solomon says it was nice to see the people who came out the acknowledge the anniversary of the discovery of the 215 potential burial sites at the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
“I do hope that it’s an annual event so that what happened is never forgotten about, so that we continue to talk about what happened,” Solomon says.
Solomon says the loss of the children at Residential Schools needs to be acknowledged.
“And Canada needs to make reparations for what happened,” Solomon says.
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