It’s Time to Sing the Mourning Songs

Take a moment and listen to the experience of Emma Baker, a 84-year-old survivor of the Kamloops residential school. I knew about the residential schools and how bad things were, but this hits harder than any of the presentations, courses, books, plays or movies about the experiences of indigenous families in Canada.

I have heard this discovery called “Canada’s George Floyd Moment” and what happened to First Nations people in Canada referred to as genocide. The news of the uncovered remains of 215 children buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school is shocking. Here is an excerpt about it from the CBC news.

“Preliminary findings from a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School have uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said Thursday (May 27).

“The First Nation said the remains were confirmed last weekend near the city of Kamloops, in B.C.’s southern Interior. 

“In a statement, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said it hired a specialist in ground-penetrating radar to carry out the work, and that its Language and Culture Department oversaw the project to ensure it was done in a culturally appropriate and respectful way. The release did not specify the company or individual involved, or how the work was completed. 

“‘To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,’ Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said in the statement. ‘Some were as young as three years old. We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children’.” (CBC News)

We need to feel outraged about this We need to recognize the horrific impact residential schools has had on our First Nations’ sisters and brothers. I am grateful for this Ted Talk by Ginger Gosnell-Myers of Nisga’a and Kwakwaka’wakw heritage and this Guided Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation.

I am grateful too for this pastoral letter from the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster and this Facebook post from my friend, Kim, whose father-in-law attended the Kamloops residential school. It says what non-Indigenous people can do right now.

I hope you will take the time to read this poem by Abigail Echo-Hawk, a Pawnee artist and poet. I will close with some of her words: may “our voices sing the mourning songs with the trees. the wind. light sacred fire ensure they are never forgotten as we sing JUSTICE.”


© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
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