Students have coloured feathers created by Gitxsan/Cree artist from northern B.C. Michelle Stoney. (Special to The News)

Students have coloured feathers created by Gitxsan/Cree artist from northern B.C. Michelle Stoney. (Special to The News)

Pitt Meadows secondary students participating in Honour Walk for children of residential schools

To honour those children who never made it home

Students at Pitt Meadows secondary will be participating in an honour walk on Friday, the last day of school before March break, to remember those children who never made it home from residential schools across Canada.

Organizer Yvonne Desabrais, an Aboriginal support worker at the school, said they held one in December as well, to honour the children who couldn’t go home for winter break and to honour children who never went home ever again.

Students have coloured feathers created by Gitxsan/Cree artist from northern B.C. Michelle Stoney. Inside each feather, the artist said in a statement about the piece, is the spirit of the 215 children – whose remains were discovered on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, using ground-penetrating radar.

“The face on the bottom is not an animal. That is how I draw people , and I wanted to make long flowing hair, that they were forced to cut,” she explained.

Desabrais explained that in December students placed 144 feathers on a board at the school along with a poster of Elders with the seven teachings: love; honesty; humility; respect; courage; wisdom; and truth.

For this walk they will be adding more feathers to the board.

“Each feather represents a child from residential school,” she said.

The walk is open to the entire school and will be led by Indigenous students, whom Desabrais said she is very proud of. There will be drumming and singing.

“One song that gets my heart every time they sing it is Fly Eagle Fly,” said Desabrais, because it is representative, she explained, of the soul that leaves the earth.

“Fly into the spirit world is the way I see it,” she said.

Desabrais wants to keep the conversation going about the intergenerational trauma that residential schools inflicted upon Indigenous, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples across the country.

READ MORE: Remains of 215 children found at former B.C. residential school an ‘unthinkable loss’

ALSO: First Nation says 54 potential graves at former Saskatchewan residential schools

The truth needs to happen, she said, before there can be any mention of reconciliation.

“And it’s not the Indigenous who have to do the reconciliation,” she remarked.

“This is part of our truth. These children didn’t come home from school and those conversations need to still happen. Even though the media hype has gone, this is ongoing,” added Desabrais, saying that until every child is recovered and returned home, only then can the chapter be closed.

“And until then we need to keep that conversation front and centre,” she said.

The walk will be taking place on the upper floor of Pitt Meadows secondary at 9 a.m. on Friday, Mar. 11.

Desabrais is planning to hold another Honour Walk on May 27, the one year anniversary of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation discovery of the graves of the 215 children.

A 24 hour crisis line is available for residential school survivors at 1-800-721-0066.

For more information visit the Indian Residential School Survivors Society at irsss.ca/faqs/how-do-i-reach-the-24-hour-crisis-line.


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