Smithers mourns children found buried at former Kamloops residential school

Students from Muheim Memorial Elementary School place shoes at a Smithers Art Gallery memorial to deceased residential school children May 31. (Shannon Goodhead photo)Students from Muheim Memorial Elementary School place shoes at a Smithers Art Gallery memorial to deceased residential school children May 31. (Shannon Goodhead photo)
Students from Muheim Memorial Elementary School present flowers to Sonia Palmer (Ska’sii’sik), a Gitxsan residential school survivor May 31. (Annette Morgan photo)Students from Muheim Memorial Elementary School present flowers to Sonia Palmer (Ska’sii’sik), a Gitxsan residential school survivor May 31. (Annette Morgan photo)
Frog slippers and a bouquet make up part of a growing memorial at Bovill Square. (Deb Meissner photo)Frog slippers and a bouquet make up part of a growing memorial at Bovill Square. (Deb Meissner photo)
Shoes in memory of children found buried at the former residential school in Kamloops line the front of the stage at Bovill Square. (Deb Meissner photo)Shoes in memory of children found buried at the former residential school in Kamloops line the front of the stage at Bovill Square. (Deb Meissner photo)
215 orange ribbons tied to the fence at St. Joseph’s School honour the 215 children who lost their lives and were buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)215 orange ribbons tied to the fence at St. Joseph’s School honour the 215 children who lost their lives and were buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)
A large display of shoes in memory of children found buried at a Kamloops residential school has been growing at Bulkley Valley Christian School since Monday (May 31). (Tom Grasmeyer photo)A large display of shoes in memory of children found buried at a Kamloops residential school has been growing at Bulkley Valley Christian School since Monday (May 31). (Tom Grasmeyer photo)
A banner hung outside the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre honours the 215 children found buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)A banner hung outside the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre honours the 215 children found buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)
A small memorial outside the Early Childhood Development Program (daycare centre) honours 215 children discovered buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)A small memorial outside the Early Childhood Development Program (daycare centre) honours 215 children discovered buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)
Flags fly at half mast at Smithers Town Hall. (Grant Harris photo)Flags fly at half mast at Smithers Town Hall. (Grant Harris photo)
The Canadian flag at Veterans Peace Park flies at half mast. (Grant Harris photo)The Canadian flag at Veterans Peace Park flies at half mast. (Grant Harris photo)

Submitted by the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre

The Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society’s Mental Health Outreach program led by Sonia Palmer funded by Northern Health would like to take the opportunity to thank Ms. Liliana Pesce and her Grades 4 and 5 students for their gracious and kind visit to the Centre May 31.

Sonia, from the Gitxsan nation from the community of Gitanyow, holds the traditional name Ska’sii’sik (to pull something together).

She is a residential school survivor and Aboriginal Focused Oriented Therapy and Complex trauma worker. She has successfully partnered with Muheim Memorial Elementary School for the past six years to share information and history of residential schools.

“In addition to fostering healing, it is important to share the history of residential schools in order to fully understand the current status of Indigenous concerns within Canada,” explains Sonia.

Sonia holds dear to her heart, the many of the crafts that the Muheim school students have presented to her over the years, including posters and paper orange shirts, which they made for the flower garden with kind words of encouragement and healing.

One of the main messages the youth brought forward to Sonia yesterday was to remind her that she is not alone and that they are learning to help her heal and to make changes.

In addition, the students were grateful for the support of the local Safeway flower shop to provide flowers to support their message.

“It really takes a community effort and we wanted to take the time to acknowledge what has happened recently and know that we are here for you,” said Ms. Pesce.

The song “We won’t Forget You” from Sk’elep School of Excellence, a song to teach the students about the residential school and impacts it may have had on their family tree, was sung by the Grades 4 and 5 students and flowers were presented to Sonia in a heartfelt tearful moment for our community.

The Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre is truly grateful for the dedication and commitment of its partners to ensure healing within the community and we are grateful for the wonderful care to our elders.

-Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre

READ MORE: Survivor of B.C. residential school breaks silence and calls for action

Submitted by Liliana Pesce, Vice Principal and Grades 4 and 5 French Immersion teacher, Muheim Memorial Elementary School

Grades 4/5 students from Muheim talked about the sad discovery of children who passed away while at a residential school in southern British Columbia.

This is an event in Canada’s history that should never have existed and it is only one example of many other discoveries that continue to shock and cause pain in our hearts.

On Monday morning, in a classroom at Muheim Elementary, a plan was made to acknowledge the lives and suffering of the lost children as well as the countless families who have been so negatively impacted by the unnecessary existence of residential schools.

The students walked to the Dze L K’Ant Friendship Centre. Our local Safeway donated a large, beautiful bouquet of white and orange flowers that students presented to the staff at the Friendship Centre.

One student spoke some touching words and handed the bouquet to Sonia. Over the past few years, Muheim students have visited with Sonia, a residential school survivor.

Sonia always appreciates visits from the students and gestures of compassion and empathy they openly share with her and her staff.

Students sang a song that speaks to the negative impact of residential schools as well as the resiliency and courage of Indigenous communities who come together to support each other and celebrate their customs and traditions.

Students then walked to the local art gallery, where a symbolic display had been started outdoors. Two students placed a pair of children’s shoes on the display that was started near a garden, outside of the art gallery.

Students along with a few accompanying staff members stood near the display and had a reflective moment of silence. One student told his peers, “this should have never happened.”

-Liliana Pesce

READ MORE: Canada holds special debate on remains of 215 children found at residential school