UVic honours the 215 Indigenous children found at residential school

library in orange
The front of the Mearns - McPherson Library was lit in orange as a visual symbol of the university's awareness of the need for ongoing reconciliation. Photo Christine Walde

The UVic community gathered at noon on June 1 to honour the 215 Indigenous children found by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.

UVic alumnus Ry Moran, BA ’02, alumna Qwul'sih'yah'maht (Robina Thomas), BSW ’93, MSW ’11, PhD ’13, and President Kevin Hall were among those giving moving speeches.

“A big part of what’s been happening is breaking the silence and making sure that we listen to the voices of the people that we have not been listening to. Those children at Kamloops Residential School were long talked about. They were loved. We knew they were there,” said Moran, UVic’s inaugural associate university librarian – reconciliation.

“Today, we’re here to honour the children who never came home from Canada’s residential schools and to support and hold up their families and communities,” said President Hall, who committed to leading the change at UVic and to breaking down colonial systems and barriers.

A Sacred Fire ceremony was held in the quad followed by cultural drumming and singing to offer support to Elders, students, staff and faculty. Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, and Métis singers and drummers shared healing through song. The gathering, limited in attendance by COVID protocols, was live-streamed.

Those gathered held two minutes and 15 seconds of silence. The university’s flags were lowered on May 28 to honour the thousands of children who died while they were students at residential schools.

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