215 children

I’m going to guess that if you read anything I write, you care about children. If so, you’re probably as shattered and horrified as I am to read about the discovery of the remains of 215 Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc children in unmarked graves at the Kamloops “residential school” as we politely call those former institutions where First Nations children were taken from their families and horribly maltreated. There’s an article from the Globe and Mail here which tells a bit of history.

I remember learning about these schools a little when I was in middle and high school. I got the impression it was a bad thing to do because of the impact on the culture: the erasure of language, family ties severed, generational gaps widened to chasms. I knew some of the priests and nuns did bad things.

We didn’t read any Rita Joe. We didn’t hear personal accounts. We had no idea about unmarked mass graves of 215 children whose parents were waiting and waiting and grieving and never, ever knew– knew for sure— what happened to their kids as young as the age of 3. Each of those 215 kids came from someone, somewhere. Each lost child is a lost story, or, really, stories: the story of the child, the story of the family waiting, the gap of everything that might have happened if they’d been together. All that was left was grief, destitution, rancor.

It’s sickening to look directly at that history and see that it’s not ancient history; it’s quite recent, and the implications are being quite literally excavated and disclosed today. I’m linking you back to these books from Nimbus, I Lost My Talk and I’m Finding My Talk in humility for my lack of knowledge and gratitude to Nimbus for publishing these accounts.

There are, thankfully, more materials being published today directly from First Nations authors and illustrators and I encourage everyone to seek these out and read them with your kids. Not just stories of pain, but narratives of all kinds, featuring joy, the genuine lives and feelings and culture of real living people, with an eye to history, the present, and the future. Don’t leave those graves unmarked.

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