A moment for reflection and to start a conversation.
Dozens of people left shoes, flowers and stuffed animals on the steps of St. Patrick’s Church in Lethbridge before moving to Galt Gardens, honouring the 215 children found in unmarked burial sites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“I think that everyone this weekend has been looking for a way to memorialize the children that were found in Kamloops and have yet to be found,” Métis Nation council member Melanie Morrow said.
“I think everyone is grieving in their own ways and it’s nice to see the community to come together.”
Monday’s vigil was a positive moment for the community, but for Morrow, it’s what happens in the weeks ahead that will show its true impact.
“These conversations should be ongoing. They shouldn’t be isolated to days like today, to traumatic events or Orange Shirt Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day,” Morrow said.
“Those are great days to celebrate and to have these conversations, but they need to be ongoing and we need to be more educated about our history.”
While the news out of Kamloops has been devastating, local advocates hope the truth will finally come to light.
“I’m looking for a positive outcome from this revelation,” Métis elder Alice Bissonette said.
Bissonette led a prayer at the vigil and called the gathering a heartwarming sight.
“It’s going to take all of us, pulling together, educating ourselves, so that we can all move forward.”
Morrow is also an Indigenous education teacher and is already fielding calls about how to approach conversations surrounding residential schools and reconciliation.
While educators play an important role, she says the talk needs to begin at home.
“What I’ve been told by many of my Indigenous mentors at the [school] division and throughout my own learning… is if you’re not uncomfortable having these conversations, then you’re not doing it right,” Morrow said.
The shoes gathered at the vigil will be donated within the community.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
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