The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins

B.C. teacher says students could be triggered by residential school discovery

Support needed as sadness in younger generations turning to anger, says youth mentor

A First Nations teacher says the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia is a triggering event for students who regularly learn about the history of wrongs against Indigenous people.

Rick Joe said a provincewide kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculum includes lessons on everything from respect for First Nations culture to the legacy of residential schools and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, so students hearing about the remains found last week in Kamloops will need support.

“This is very triggering. I have been asking for our school counsellors, for administrators and for youth care workers to take that extra time to check in on the Indigenous members,” he said Sunday.

Joe is particularly concerned about First Nations foster children who are overrepresented in the child welfare system and include those whose families were forcibly taken to residential schools like the one in Kamloops, the largest such facility in Canada until 1969, when its operations were transferred from the Catholic Church to the federal government. The facility was then run as a day school until it was closed in 1978.

Joe, who is a high school teacher in Chilliwack and works with First Nations students, said he has seen the sadness of generations of racism turned into anger among those he mentors.

He said young students will have to contend with intergenerational trauma, for which they’ll need support in coming days as more details emerge about the buried children who were believed to be as young as age three.

Joe was at a previously scheduled meeting of teachers on Saturday when the discovery was being discussed, and said he knew he had to call for some kind of action by educators to raise awareness of the pain inflicted on Indigenous Peoples.

“Everyone’s going to hurt, not just First Nations or Aboriginal children,” he said.

He made a motion at a scheduled meeting of educators on Saturday that teachers wear orange and gather to walk into their schools together at the start of each day this week and that flags be lowered to half mast.

Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said the union endorsed the call and teachers will be taking action to show students there needs be a response to the heart-wrenching discovery.

Mooring said school administrators and support staff should also be included in sensitivity training when it comes biases that lead to racism, which is part of the education system, the same as in other parts of society.

She said the teachers’ collective agreement includes a move to work toward increasing hiring of Indigenous teachers as universities offer more education programs for those looking to enter teaching as a career.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation has said the discovery in Kamloops was confirmed with the help of ground-penetrating radar and that more bodies may be found because the entire school grounds have not yet been searched.

Eric Simons, a PhD student in anthropology at the University of British Columbia, said the radar would have identified 215 grave shafts, not actual bodies, as well as changes in the soil, with some of it being more compressed.

Simons said he’s been working with a First Nation at the site of a residential school on Penelakut Island where children’s remains are believed to have been buried between 1890 and 1975, when the facility was closed.

Much more work is left to be done at the site on one of the Gulf Islands in B.C., he said of the island previously known as Kuper Island, before it was renamed about a decade ago in honour of the Penelakut First Nation.

It’s hard to say what next steps will be taken to try and identify remains at the former residential school in Kamloops, and each First Nation would decide on how to deal with the burial site depending on their cultural protocols, Simon said.

The flag at Vancouver city hall and park board facilities was lowered Sunday to half-mast, as were flags in various other communities and on federal and provincial buildings.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he would be speaking with the province’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister on Sunday evening to discuss how the city and B.C. could work together to “advance reconciliation and truly begin to reckon with the full history of genocide in Canada.”

“The legacy of this violence remains with us to this day, and it is incumbent upon all non-Indigenous Canadians to not only atone for this legacy but also help with the hard work of reconciliation,” he said in a statement.

The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said B.C. residents are mourning alongside the Secwépemc and all families impacted by residential schools.

“In responding to this situation, the province is taking our lead from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. We offer them our full support,” the ministry said in a statement.

— By Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Flags at federal buildings, BC Legislature lowered to honour residential school victims

RELATED: Remains of 215 children found at former B.C. residential school an ‘unthinkable loss’

Indigenousresidential schools

Just Posted

The City of Cranbrook and the Ktunaxa Nation raised the flag of the Ktunaxa Nation at the arches entrance into the city’s downtown core during a ceremony on Monday, June 21. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Ktunaxa Nation flag raised at downtown arches entrance

The Ktunaxa Nation flag was raised at the Cranbrook arches — the… Continue reading

Kimberley Search and Rescue were able to quickly respond to a call for service and transport an injured mountain biker to East Kootenay Regional Hospital over the weekend. Kimberley SAR file photo.
Kimberley Search and Rescue respond to injured mountain biker on Bootleg Mountain

Kimberley Search and Rescue responded to a call for service this past… Continue reading

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

City of Cranbrook, Ktunaxa Nation to host flag ceremony on National Indigenous Peoples Day. (Corey Bullock file)
City of Cranbrook, Ktunaxa Nation hosting flag ceremony on National Indigenous Peoples Day

A temporary road closure and speed limit reduction will be in effect during the ceremony

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read