There is content in this article about residential schools that may be triggering to some readers.
The turnout was strong for a march across Enderby to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Friday, Sept. 30.
More than 200 people formed a sea of orange shirts and banners that made its way from the Enderby Visitor Centre to the Splatsin Community Centre Friday morning.
The proceedings were done with the input of Splatsin survivors of residential schools; the committee in charge of the event met the day prior to share ideas.
Funds raised from the sales of orange shirts have totalled more than $7,000 in two years, and the proceeds will be used to build a monument to commemorate survivors in the community — a monument that is also being designed with input from survivors.
Deanna Cook, executive director of the Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn daycare, said they are hoping to have the monument ready in a year’s time.
“The ideas that came out yesterday were just amazing,” Cook said.
Cook said Splatsin has 141 people who as children were taken away to residential school, including 46 who are still alive in the community. She said the list of names started being collected in May this year, and the list may not be complete. The crowd at the community centre listened solemnly as the names of those survivors were read aloud.
A number of residential school survivors led the walk to the Splatsin Community Centre, tailed by dignitaries from the City of Enderby.
“The importance of this day cannot be understated,” Splatsin Kukpi7 (Chief) Doug Thomas said to the gathering. “By you showing up you’re bringing light to the dark past by standing beside our survivors and our community, because the many things that happened, these systems of oppression, created a lot of misunderstanding, racism, prejudice.”
Thomas said the residential schools almost led to a “total disconnect” from Indigenous languages, culture and customs.
“We were raised to be labourers and nothing more because we were looked upon as savages and uneducated people, and for you to come out to learn about us, I can’t say enough about my gratitude for each and every one of you that are here, because you are part of the change,” Thomas said.
Splatsin Elder and residential school survivor Ethel Thomas led a prayer after remarking on the meaning behind the day’s events.
“The memories come flooding back,” she said. “When I was a child, all I spoke was Secwepemctsin. And when I was taken away that was taken away from me.
“I know that sometimes people say ‘get over it,’ but when you go through such trauma, it’s hard. It’s something that some of us can’t get over.”
Last year’s discovery of 215 suspected unmarked graves at the former site of a Kamloops residential school was traumatic for many, but Thomas said it was also “a big step for all of us to start moving forward, to start healing.”
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience. Non-emergency calls to The Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society can be directed to 1-800-721-0066.