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The Piikani Nation Hope for Healing group organized a walk on June 1 to commemorate the lives of the 215 children whose remains were found near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Community members gathered at the Piikani Nation Travel Centre and walked along Highway 3, holding up signs to bring attention to the genocidal acts perpetrated by Canada’s residential school system.
Following the walk, Elder Vera Potts said a prayer before participants hung teddy bears and shoes along the fence by the highway.
According to the National Centre for Truth of Reconciliation, the Piikani Nation had two residential schools located on the reserve: the St. Cyprian Residential School, opened in 1890, and the Sacred Heart Residential School, opened in 1898.
Chief and council released a statement on June 8 announcing their plan to conduct searches for any possible undocumented graves. They are concentrating on four specific sites and will be working in conjunction with the University of Lethbridge.
Residential schools were established in Canada in 1831 to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children, separate them from their traditions and indoctrinate them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living. The last school closed in 1996.
Sissiinakii, commonly referred to in English as Tawnya Plain Eagle, is a journalist from the Piikani Nation. She currently manages the new Piikani Nation radio station and the online newspaper Piikani Tsi Nii Ka Sin. She has previously worked at Global Calgary and hosted a show at Shaw TV, and now enjoys sharing homegrown stories from her community.