“Part of healing is accountability”: Indigenous women’s organisation mourns Kamloops victims
The remains of 215 First Nations children, some as young as three years old, were found last month at the now-defunct Kamloops Indian Residential School in the provincial capital of Canada’s British Columbia, in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as a “painful reminder” of a “shameful chapter of our country’s history.”
The discovery was deeply unsettling on so many levels, said the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) in a statement on Friday.
The NIWRC is a Native-led non profit organisation in the United States dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. Many of the members are boarding school survivors or descendants of, and have struggled with their own memories. Writing this statement has been an incredible challenge, they said.
“This news has paralysed us”, they wrote.
“This was both an act of physical genocide and of cultural genocide. Generations of First Nations children were stolen from their homes and placed into institutions of unspeakable darkness. They were forced into assimilative, church-run government-sanctioned ‘schools,’ where they were intentionally and systematically stripped of everything that made them Indigenous. They endured acts of sexual, physical, emotional and cultural abuse and violence generation after generation.”
“The impact of this state sanctioned violence cannot be overstated. Communities continue to be devastated by historical and intergenerational trauma and by a genocide and occupation that continues up to this very moment. Canada must answer for this.”
These children were invisible and dispensable to the settler world as a result of intentional settler violence, like many of missing and murdered Indigenous people in the United States, the NIWRC said.
“Part of healing is accountability,” they wrote. “The US’ history of boarding schools and state violence is well-documented, and yet the general public is largely ignorant of the legacy of their institutions. We seek to hold them accountable.”
“But today, we mourn. Today, we remember. Today, we offer our prayers for our relatives impacted by this incident to embrace family, culture and community in healing.”
Full statement available here.