Two minutes and fifteen seconds of silence was held outside the Saik’uz First Nation Band Office after a flag was lowered at 2:15 p.m. Monday afternoon to honour the 215 children found buried at a former residential school site.
The Indigenous community near Vanderhoof was heartbroken to learn that on the weekend of May 22 the buried remains of over 200 children were discovered on the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site, said Chief Priscilla Mueller.
“This horrible revelation grieves us, and our hearts, prayers, and truest condolences go to the people of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation,” Mueller said in a statement May 31.
“Sadly, we do not believe the tragedy of the Kamloops Indian Residential School to be an isolated event,” she added.
“Saik’uz First Nation has also lost children, family, and friends to residential schools, and has residential school survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School among its own members.”
The flag will remain at half-mast for 215 days.
BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said the discovery confirmed a lot of the oral history of survivors that there were missing children.
At least 3,200 children died over 115 years, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
“What we’re seeing and the outpouring of social media and in comments from across the country is just heartbreak, mourning and sorrow at what was found there,” Teegee said.
He attended a ceremony by Lheidli T’enneh First Nation in Prince George on Saturday, where he said a lot of tears were shed.
Many First Nations children in northern B.C. were sent to attend Lejac Residential School that operated on the southeast shore of Fraser Lake until 1976. In isolated communities such as Takla, where Teegee is from he said children were taken to Lejac by horses, train or air.
On Sunday, drumming and singing took place at the former residential school site located between the villages of Fraser Lake and Fort Fraser to remember survivors and those who never returned home or have since passed.
“We must put our lost children to rest—from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, from Saik’uz, from all Nations all over Canada,” Mueller said.
“To put our children to rest, this injustice must be dealt with at the highest level possible,” she continued.
“There must be an investigation. We must find all of our lost children—and we will not rest until we have.”