Indigenous community to host vigil for 215 children

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – There will be a vigil in Fort St. John for the 215 children who never made it home from …

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – There will be a vigil in Fort St. John for the 215 children who never made it home from the Kamloops Residential School.

The vigil will be on Friday, June 4th at 7 p.m. on 100th Avenue and 100th Street.

Connie Greyeyes, of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, says it took a couple of days to process the news of the tragic discovery.

“I went into deep grieving. And then I started getting lots of messages asking what we were going to do,” says Greyeyes. “After much thought, Helen [Knott] and I had a meeting, and we decided that we had to do something. We knew we were going to, we just didn’t know what.”

For Greyeyes, a cloud surrounded her until the decision was made to hold a vigil.

“I was in a really dark place, and then, talking with Helen (Knott), we decided to have a vigil. Honestly, once we made the decision of what we were going to do, it was almost like the healing started.”

Greyeyes stresses this is an inclusive vigil, not just for Indigenous people.

“We’re going to give people the opportunity to speak from the heart about their feelings towards both non-Indigenous and Indigenous.”

Greyeyes says for non-Indigenous people, this is an important learning opportunity.

“Not only are non-Indigenous people grieving these children who have been found, but they’re also grieving this notion of Canada being the immaculate, incredible nation, and to find out there are some dark secrets. A huge majority of Canadians are utterly shocked at what was found, and they’re going to have to re-evaluate their thoughts about the residential school.”

While the wounds touch so many people, Greyeyes believes there’s a reason those children were found when they were.

“Now, it’s time to process and learn and grow from it. Maybe some people can see when they see people that are deep in trauma, that are dealing with addictions, that are on the street homeless, they can empathize and understand that this is a direct result of intergenerational trauma that occurred to all Indigenous people across this land.”

Greyeyes actually attended classes at the Kamloops Residential School.

“I was in a program called the Native Indian Teachers Education Program. I went to U.C.C. when it was University College of the Cariboo, and I actually attended classes inside the residential school structure. It was actually there where I fell deep into addiction while I was there, and now it makes sense. I have blood memory from that place.”

Greyeyes hadn’t returned to Kamloops for over 30 years, but something drove her to return to the school.

“I went there this past year, and I put some tobacco down at that school and I said I was reclaiming the pain. I was reclaiming and letting go of the pain that I had experienced there. I was going to move forward and let that go, and then this happened. Now I feel the need to go back, so I will likely head back there sometime next week with some ceremonial items to leave at the site.”

While many people and companies and city council members have reached out to Greyeyes, she says this needed to be an Indigenous-led vigil.

“I appreciate that non-Indigenous people wanted to do something, but I do believe it needs to be Indigenous-led, and who better than employees of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.”

Greyeyes encourages people to come to the vigil, listen to the singing and drumming, and wear ribbon skirts and shirts.

“I wanted to reclaim that. Many of the elders and people from this region actually were sent to day schools and residential schools, and we must remember to honour them in a good way.”

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