This altar is titled Kamloops 215. I created it in the woods last week after learning about the remains of 215 children excavated from an unmarked grave on the site of the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia.
It features rose petals, pine cones. lavendula. sweet pea flowers, lupine and a bunch of other flowers from Nina & Jacob's garden. All nestled into the base of an old oak tree.
I was so saddened by the news of this discovery.
As I sat with my grief, though, I realized I was not at all surprised. I did not learn about the brutal history of US and Canadian policies toward Indigenous peoples when I was in school. It's only as an adult that I've had my eyes opened to the systematic harm and trauma inflicted on Indigenous communities - in both the past and present.
Kamloops 215 is my memorial to all the children who were stolen from their parents and from the family of humanity.
Below, I share more context and offer resources for engagement. Much of this I gleaned from information shared by a Canadian friend Jodie Tonita. (Thank you Jodie!)
In late May, 2021, a mass grave with the remains of 215 children was discovered at a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. 30 other similar graves have been found so far. More than 150,000 children were stolen from their homes by the Canadian government and taken to residential schools where they were subjected to abuse and violence by their teachers and administrators. Nearly one in four did not return home. The last school was closed in 1996.
Governments pursue these policies of cultural genocide because they wish to abdicate their legal and financial obligations to Indigenous people, and to gain control of their lands.
All of us non-Indigenous people are settlers. This is a history our lives are built upon. It’s important to learn, mourn and act. We can help transform systems and laws to ensure this never happens again.
To learn whose traditional territory you live on, visit the Native Land website.
Here is an article on the history of residential schools in Canada. Read here about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and its 94 Calls to Action.
For background on the United States’ engagement in a similar program - American Indian Residential Schools - please see this Wikipedia article.
Places where you can make a donation to support residential school survivors and their families:
• Indian Residential School Survivors Society - https://www.irsss.ca/donate
• Legacy of Hope Foundation - https://legacyofhope.ca/english/get-involved/donate
• Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign - https://woodlandculturalcentre.ca/the-campaign
• National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation - https://give.umanitoba.ca/
• First Nations Child & Family Caring Society - https://fncaringsociety.com/donate
• Reconciliation Canada - https://reconciliationcanada.ca/get-involved/donate/
• Indspire - https://indspire.ca/ways-to-give/donate
• Native Women’s Association of Canada - https://www.nwac.ca/donate
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I love playing with words and things in nature to create impermanent nature art (earth altars) and poems. This blog is a place to share. I post more regularly on Instagram & Facebook - @lauraloescher.art.