The New Westminster school district has lowered all its flags to half-mast and is inviting staff and students to wear orange shirts this week in recognition of the children found in a mass grave at a former residential school.
On May 27, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation shared the news that the remains of 215 children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“We know and understand that Indigenous children were facing atrocities like this at residential schools. The reality of how this news feels may be very different than knowing. For many of us, this news is both heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, and it is hitting many people in a very impactful way,” school district superintendent Karim Hachlaf said in a letter to families.
“Our hearts go out to families of those 215 children, to the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc community who is mourning, to the Indigenous students and families we support here in New Westminster who may be feeling the weight of this, to our staff who are Indigenous, and to Indigenous peoples throughout Canada.”
The district’s team of aboriginal support workers are reaching out to students and families this week with support and resources, Hachlaf said.
The district is also inviting everyone to wear orange shirts on Friday, June 4.
RESOURCES FOR LEARNING AND SUPPORT
School District 40 has provided a list of resources for those who are learning about residential schools and their legacy of intergenerational trauma:
- The Orange Shirt Day website, to understand its connection to commemorating the residential school experience, and to witnessing and honouring the healing journey of survivors and families.
- A historical timeline of B.C.’s First Peoples:
- Age-based resources from the education page of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
- Gord Downie’s project, The Secret Path.
- A list of books, listed by school level, that may be good tools for families.
For those who need additional personal support:
- Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
- The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
- Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's toll-free and can be reached at 1-800-588-8717 or online at kuu-uscrisisline.com.
- list of resources provided by New Westminster School District