BEPPLE – Listening to First Nations voices on residential schools

Kids on steps of Kamloops Indian Residential School in 1931. (Image: Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

I THOUGHT THIS WEEK, what would be best, would be to listen.  Here are a few of the First Nations’ voices I have been listening to through this very difficult week, mostly from Twitter, but also from Facebook, and from literature.

These are powerful voices of First Nations people in and around Kamloops.

I begin with the late author Richard Wagamese who wrote a fictional account of a Catholic Indian Residential School that speaks to the truth of the experience.

“When your innocence is stripped from you, when your people are denigrated, when the family you came from is denounced and your tribal ways and rituals are pronounced backward, primitive, savage, you come to see yourself as less than human. That is hell on earth, that sense of unworthiness. That’s what they inflicted on us.”

Dr. Ron Ignace, the long serving Kukpi7 of Skeetchestn Indian Band shared some of his story of escaping from residential school.

Chief Michael LeBourdais of Whispering Pines Indian Band posted multiple posts of the hardships his relatives endured at Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Band Councillor Joseph Jack of Okanagan Indian Band posted how in 1944, the government wouldn’t even pay funeral expenses for students who died at a residential school.

Anna Thomas, Nlaka’pamux and Cree, is from Lytton First Nations and Peguis First Nation.

Thomas, the NDP candidate for Kamloops-South Thompson in the last provincial election, encourages people to educate themselves.

Then there was the frustration of inaction of Carl Archie, a band councillor from the Canim Lake Band.

Tyrone Joseph, a member of the Tl’azt’en Nation living in Secwepemculecw talked about his daughter’s understanding of the 215 children buried on the grounds of the old Kamloops Indian Residential School.

I’ll end with the words of Juli Holloway, a Haida (Skidegate)/Kwakwaka’wakw woman living in Kamloops.

This has been a difficult week, but knowing the truth is better than not knowing.  We can only move forward by starting from a place of truth.  We need to listen.

Thank you Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc band council for helping us to listen to the truth, however hard it was, this week.

Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (9116 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on BEPPLE – Listening to First Nations voices on residential schools

  1. Some people may need to believe that such an atrocious occurrence could only have happened ‘long ago’/’in the past’; and, more importantly, humanity therefore could/would not allow it to happen again in our much more civilized, modern times. I, however, doubt that is the way large-scale societies — let alone border-segregated, independent nations — necessarily behave as collectives.

    After almost 35 years of international/national news consumption, I have found that a disturbingly large number of categorized people, however precious their souls, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to an otherwise democratic nation. When the young children of those people take notice of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin perceiving themselves as beings without value. When I say this, I primarily have in mind indigenous-nation (and Black) Canadians and Americans. But, tragically, such horrendous occurrences still happen on Earth, often enough going unrealized to the rest of the world.

    Residential schooling (et al) may not have been a genocide of an entire race of people, but it definitely was a serious attempt at annihilating their native culture(s). The indigenous children’s mass grave, as sadly anticipated as the find was (and others are expected), must not be in vain. Rather, it must mark the start of a substantial progressive move forward for indigenous nations, especially regarding life’s fundamental necessities (i.e. proper shelter and clean air, water and food).

  2. John Noakes // June 3, 2021 at 7:53 PM // Reply

    The souls of those youngsters have been crying out for years. Finally, there is no denying their voices can be heard.

  3. tony brumell // June 3, 2021 at 12:48 PM // Reply

    The feds have refused to accept any responsibility for the cultural genicide that came out of the RES schools. The church has refused to release historic records dealing with res schools. The police deny any responsibility. WHO THE HELL IS TO BLAME ???? .

  4. P. Graham // June 3, 2021 at 8:16 AM // Reply

    The greatest crime and shame of our history, and Ottawa decides to pay for it rather than to denounce the whole Catholic empire that perpetrated the crimes, hid them, posed smugly as saviors of souls, and forgave the guilty…time to confiscate church properties and give the proceeds to the victims…

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