On Friday, April 5, the Nuxalk Nation Transition House will hold a celebration to honour the survivors of the infamous Canadian residential school system.
In 1861, St. Mary’s Mission, the first residential school in Canada opened in B.C. It was also the last school in B.C. to close in 1984. Between those dates, at least 15 other residential school and 10 boarding schools opened and closed. This meant that B.C. had more residential schools than the other provinces. Over the years, all school-aged Native children in the province were targeted for removal from their homes to these schools.
Children who went to residential school suffered a loss of culture, identity, language, family and more. Their only models on how to live and have relationships came in the form of institutional rules and school staff and clergy. In addition, the children were treated as second-class citizens or worse.
Clothing, food and living conditions were generally sub-standard in residential schools and screening of school staff was minimal, leaving the children vulnerable to many kinds of abuse and neglect. The impact of this mistreatment was a silencing of young and innocent voices. Since the Truth and Reconciliation process began in 2008, many Canadians have been shocked to learn of the atrocities committed against Native children that took place during their lifetime.
The Nuxalk Nation people have four generations who have gone to the residential schools, and an estimated 100 or more survivors are still living in the community today. Sadly, many of the survivors have died from alcohol, drugs and illness from the effects of the residential schools.
To honour survivors past and present, the Transition House has organized a day-long celebration that will include the unveiling of a plaque listing the names of the Nuxalk survivors, a community feast, speeches, healing ceremonies, and traditional songs and dances. The entire community is invited to take part in the celebration, which will begin at 10am, April 5, in front of the Qw’asmals building in downtown Bella Coola.