Recently, it was discovered that 215 children were buried in an unmarked mass grave at Kamloops Indian Residential School on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations. This was not the first finding of undocumented deaths of children from residential schools, and will likely not be the last. Similar findings were discovered from across Canada such as the one from Muskowekwan Residential School, Brandon Residential School at Assiniboine River, and Kuper Island Residential School on Penelakut Island.
For more than 150 years, children from Indigenous cultures were removed from their homes and family, and forced to live under inhumane conditions at these mandatory boarding schools. Many of these children experienced physical and sexual abuse, as well as severe punishment if they were found speaking their own language. These residential schools operated since the early 1800’s and the last residential school closed in 1996. Yet the impacts of the violence and colonialism remain. These were acts of genocide and violation of human rights.
SBA expresses our deepest condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓ pemc First Nations and especially to the communities that are affected by this. We recognize that the deep sense of grief and pain felt by Indigenous communities across the country must be unimaginable.
For those of us who are non-Indigenous, we recognize the ongoing work of continuing to build meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities, and reflect on our responsibilities and actions towards decolonization.
We recognize the need not only to deepen the conversation of addressing the impacts of colonialism, but also to share the responsibility of demanding the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We urge our community members to take action in the various ways listed below.
Actions to Take:
1. Sign the petition demanding a National Day of Mourning for the Lost Children of Residential School:
2. Read up and learn about the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
Background: In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) published its final report detailing the experiences and impacts of the residential school system, creating a historical record of its legacy and consequences.
The TRC recorded testimony of more than 6,000 survivors affected by residential schools. Over more than a century, it is estimated approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and communities and forced to attend one of 139 residential schools across Canada.
3. Write, call, or email your MP. Demand the federal government to reverse their decision of not funding The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls To Action number 72-76. These are the Calls To Action to ensure Canada works with Indigenous communities on locating their missing loved ones and the unmarked burial places.
4. To learn more about campaigns working on Indigenous rights, check out the Indigenous Watchdog. Indigenous Watchdog tracks for each Call to Action, who is accountable for what outcome? Are they progressing or not? And if not, why?
5. Attend a Kairos Blanket Exercise
The KAIROS Blanket Exercise program was developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators that fosters truth, understanding, respect and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It embeds a history lesson into the program. Check out KAIROS’ website to learn more about them, including their blanket exercises at
National Organizations to Donate To:
1. The Indian Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS) is a provincial organization with a twenty-year history of providing services to Indian Residential School Survivors. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society provides counselling as well as health and cultural support. Go here for their website: https://www.irsss.ca/
2. Witness Blanket is a large-scale traveling art installation, made out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures from across Canada. The Witness Blanket is a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, to honour the children, and symbolising the ongoing reconciliation. You can donate by going here: http://witnessblanket.ca
3. The Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF), a national, Indigenous-led, charitable organization that promotes healing and Reconciliation in Canada. The LHF’s goal is to educate and raise awareness of the history and current intergenerational impacts of the Residential School System (RSS) and subsequent Sixties Scoop (SS) on Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) Survivors, their descendants, and their communities to promote healing and Reconciliation. You can donate here: https://legacyofhope.ca
4. Native Women’s Association of Canada (https://www.nwac.ca/)
Modelled after a “grandmother’s lodge,” this Indigenous women-run charity works to enact political change, including creating an action plan to end the ongoing violence against Indigenous women, detailed in the recent inquiry into missing and murdered women and girls.
Get educated on Indigenous issues:
FREE University of Alberta – Indigenous Canada Course
University of Alberta Native Studies Department offers a FREE online course titled Indigenous Canada. It is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. To sign up for free: https://www.coursera.org/learn/indigenous-canada
Learn about the meaning and story behind orange shirt:
Books to read:
Up Ghost River – Edmund Metatawabin
A memoir about the abuse former First Nations chief Edmund Metatawabin endured in residential school in the 1960s, the resulting trauma, and the spirit he rediscovered within himself and his community through traditional spirituality and knowledge.
They Came for the Children: Canada, Aboriginal Peoples, and Residential Schools, Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, Paulette Regan
A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada, E. Brian Titley
Truth and Indignation: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools, Ronald Niezen
Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the Culture of Redress, Jennifer Henderson and Pauline Wakeham
Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, Larry Loyie, Wayne K. Spear and Constance Brissenden.
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Kiss of the Fur Queen by Thomson Highway
The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
21 Things You May Not Have Known About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, this novel tells the story of five children at a residential school in British Columbia
Did You See Us? Reunion, Remembrance, and Reclamation at an Urban Indian Residential School by survivors of the Assiniboia Residential School
These are the first-person recollections of students who attended the Manitoba residential high school, open between 1958 and 1973.