Jesse, grandnephew of Jacqueline Bercier - Indigenous Student Centre teacher at the Comp - looks on and pays his respects at the Medicine Garden on Manitoba Avenue. Here he witnesses Orange shirts hung on the fence and the 300 little pairs of shoes to commemorate the 215+ Indigenous children found in a mass grave outside the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia over the last May weekend.
He is 5 years old and Metis Anishinaabe. According to the historical Residential School mandate he is of the age to be taken to Residential School. He would have been taken from his mother, great-grandmother, uncle, and his loved ones. He would have been taken to a Residential School far from his community so that he could not be influenced by his mother or his relatives. His braid - his connection to his spirit and his culture - would have been cut off. His language would have been beaten out of him. His identity would have been extinguished.
The 215+ children found at Kamloops Residential School were around Jesse's age. Some were younger, and some were older, but they were all children. Loved and missed by someone.
Thankfully, Jesse does not live during a time of Residential Schools, even though the last one closed in Saskatchewan only 25 years ago. Jesse will attend a Lord Selkirk school, and have opportunities to celebrate his culture and identity and grow up proud to be Indigenous surrounded by his family. As his Great-Auntie (Tantie) writing this story, we are all eternally grateful.
These last few days have been difficult for many Indigenous families. It is the reliving of past trauma of Residential Schools, and the effects of intergenerational trauma. It is important for us as a community to recognise that many people are grieving this incredible loss of the 215+ lost children. We must be kind and compassionate. It is not just the Indigenous community who are grieving, it is all parents, all grandparents, all relatives, all community members etc., that cannot fathom the absolute disregard for a child's life.
During May 31st - June 3rd, 2021, the Lord Selkirk School Division community will fly all school flags at half-mast, and have staff wear Orange to collectively honour the spirits of the 215+ lost children and honour their grieving families. These four days are held in ceremony to help these young spirits make their final journey home to the stars.