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Vigils held in honour of children found at former Kamloops residential school

A vigil at St. Eugene Resort saw attendees gather Tuesday evening, with more planned this week, in memorial of the children whose remains were found at the grounds of a residential school in Kamloops.

Last week, a search by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc using ground-penetrating radar found the remains of the children, some as young as three years old.

The school opened in 1893 and closed in 1969, which housed up to 500 students at any given time from First Nations around B.C. and beyond.

“The Kamloops Indian Residential School now stands as the eternal resting place for these children. The Ktunaxa Nation Council thanks the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Leadership for acknowledging their responsibility as their caretakers. We know there are thousands more children who died in these institutions who are buried in graves marked and unmarked across Canada,” said the Ktunaxa Nation Council.

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More: Ktunaxa Nation Council offers comments on Kamloops Indian Residential School discovery (June 1, 2021)

Tuesday evening’s event was well attended and featured the Sioux Kootenay singers. Organizers plan to hold another memorial vigil on Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. at St. Eugene Resort.

“I am one of the survivors that attended the school here (St. Eugene). I feel that we need to recognize that there are kids, even from our valley here that have gone missing,” said organizer Annanete Eugene. “Even after the residential school, to this day, you can see the evidence it has left on some of the homes.”

Eugene asks attendees to bring their own chair, and if possible, a teddy bear, child’s shoes and/or a flower.

“Objects were taken away from us,” said Eugene. “It was like they were ripping us away from anything that reminded us of home.”

On Thursday, another vigil will be held in Invermere to honour the children. The event will be held at the Shuswap Indian Band Office field at 7 p.m.

The Shuswap Band is asking to keep numbers low, allowing only 50 people to attend in person, with priority given to Elders and residential school survivors. Anyone else wishing to attend may do so virtually, via a live stream.

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