Truth and Reconciliation in School District No.73 (Kamloops-Thompson)

Posted On Wednesday June 01, 2022

By Diane Jules, Trustee

June 1, 2022


I am a member of the Adams Lake Band and the daughter of a survivor of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. As a Secwepemc First Nation mother, sister, daughter, and auntie, I am proud to also be a trustee who represents the TNRD Areas L and P, the Village of Chase, and the Municipality of Sun Peaks. 

It was one year ago, almost to the day, that our local, provincial, national, and international communities stopped to listen to the widely broadcast announcements of the tragic discovery of Le Estcwicwéy? (the missing).

For residential school survivors and their families, we have known the truth of residential schools for a long time from the stories of our mothers, fathers, aunties, and uncles. Hearing the truth from mayors, premiers, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a moment of reckoning for the world.

Since last spring, investigations across the country have found evidence of more than 1,100 missing children. While the hurt does not disappear, the public recognition of Le Estcwicwéy? (the missing) at Kamloops Indian Residential School opened up a wider conversation.

Six years ago, SD73 Board of Education had started this wider conversation when we signed the first Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement.  It emphasized the need to increase awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture, traditions, languages, and historical and contemporary contributions for all students and staff.

This past week, at the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc powwow arbour on May 23, Governor General Mary Simon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casmir stood together to honour Le Estcwicwéy? (the missing). On May 25, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc opened their arbour to students and staff and hosted School District 73’s first district-wide powwow. Two-years in the making, having the first powwow during the same week as the anniversary was powerful for all who attended.

Being part of the powwow’s grand procession, which led the school communities into the arbour, and sharing proudly my Aboriginal traditions and culture with this generation of students was an unspeakably moving experience.  My mother survived the Kamloops Indian Residential School, so, at the powwow, when Ted Gottfriedson Jr. said, “Each dance step you (students) take power away from that building.” I believe that it was. Only steps away, we could see the school as we danced, and with each step, we honoured the survivors and all of us that have been impacted by the legacy of residential schools.

We will continue to reconcile the past as we celebrate with 230 Aboriginal students from each of the regions’ schools including St. Anne’s Academy, and Skeetchestn Community School, in a district-wide graduation later this week.  I was one of the four Aboriginal students in the original Aboriginal graduation celebration hosted by the Aboriginal Friendship Society in 1983, so this is another example of how we are reconciling the hurt by honoring future generations.

Being an Aboriginal person at this time within our history is quite exciting, never before have our voices ever been so loudly. Truth and reconciliation has been talked about at the table for a long time, but it is happening through district, classroom and school events, and daily conversations.

This column appeared in Kamloops This Week: View from SD73 on June 1, 2022

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