215 orange ribbons are tied to a B.C. school’s fence to honour the 215 children who lost their lives and were buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)

215 orange ribbons are tied to a B.C. school’s fence to honour the 215 children who lost their lives and were buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. (Deb Meissner photo)

Kamloops discovery ‘ripped scab off’ residential-school wounds: Semiahmoo First Nation chief

‘Prayers to have those little souls brought home’

As news that the remains of 215 children have been found at the site of a former Kamloops residential school weighs heavy on the hearts of many in B.C. and across Canada, the chief of Semiahmoo First Nation says he has to believe there is a reason for the “almost unbelievable” discovery.

“I kind of always have a belief that when our ancestors unearth themselves – when they allow themselves to be found – to me, there’s a purpose and a meaning behind it,” Harley Chappell said Tuesday (June 1).

“I try to be as… hopeful in a very challenging time like this, that something good comes out of it, some understanding or some recognition … of the atrocities that our elders endured.”

In a statement issued May 27, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation said that the remains of the children – who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School – were located on the reserve on the weekend of May 22, through the use of ground-penetrating radar.

“To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” Chief Rosanne Casimir said in the release. “Some were as young as three years old.”

Casimir acknowledged that the confirmed loss “affects First Nations communities across British Columbia and beyond,” and that there are still “more questions than answers” surrounding it.

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

READ MORE: White Rock, Surrey lower flags to honour Kamloops residential-school victims

Chappell – a Chilliwack resident – said for many First Nation communities, finding the lost children validates teachings around a horrific legacy; a knowledge that many have been raised with and continue to struggle to come to terms with.

“This wound that we’ve done so much work to heal from, the scab got ripped off last week,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the survivors.”

Chappell said his own family has strong ties to the Kamloops school, which operated from 1890 to 1978; its final decade under the administration of the federal government.

His grandfather, Jim Dolan, attended.

“Fortunately, he was one of the ones that came home,” Chappell said.

“He didn’t tell us a lot, as most of our elders didn’t. They didn’t speak a lot of it.

“The going-ons of those schools, our elders wanted to put behind them and move on. A lot of our families have felt the trickle-down effects.”

READ MORE: Stó:lō elder opens up about children found at residential school site in Kamloops

Chappell confirmed that “a few” SFN elders attended residential schools, but declined to elaborate.

He said the reality of residential schools on First Nations communities is “definitely a missing gap in Canadian history… a sad reminder of the relationship between First Nations and Canada,” but that last week’s discovery – perhaps one of the “post-modern worst findings, catastrophe in Western Canada” – is impossible to ignore.

“There needs to be responsibility taken and there needs to be ownership taken,” Chappell said. “To me, I hope there’s a lot of answers. But really, there’s not a lot we can do now. We have to learn to heal.

“All we can do, as a nation… we can begin to process, begin to accept the reality of that time – which is unthinkable. That’s our reality, and it’s a harsh reality. I hope that much more of the general public of Canada gains a deeper understanding of the places we’ve been as First Nations people.

While Chappell sees “the support that’s coming” in the the lowering of flags, donning of orange shirts and other tributes, that momentum must be maintained, he said.

He said he often hears comments suggesting it’s time to move past the residential-schools issue; that it’s “an old issue.”

But, as the 215 children’s remains illustrate, “that’s not the reality,” he said.

“We’re going to do our best to support each other… to have prayers to have those little souls brought home.”

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is offering toll-free 24-hour telephone support for survivors and their families at 1 (866) 925-4419. Alternately, you can reach out the KUU-US Crisis Line Society 24-hour line at 1-800-588-8717.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

IndigenousSchools

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Holger Schwichtenberg and his son Philip talk in the barn of the 150-acre Schwichtenberg farm. This farm is one of many throughout B.C. that support more than 12,500 jobs across the province in the dairy industry. (Contributed Photo/B.C. Dairy Association)
Agassiz dairy farm a model of care for environment, animals, and family

Farm is part of a dairy sector centred in the Fraser Valley, supporting 12,500 jobs province-wide

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

(file)
Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read