Tk'emlúps, Archdiocese sign historic sacred covenant affirming commitment to truth and reconciliation

Historic covenant signed

The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc band and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver signed a sacred covenant on Easter Sunday in order to formalize a commitment to truth and reconciliation.

The plan was announced last week by Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir and Archbishop J. Michael Miller, who signed the covenant on March 31 at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Commitments of the agreement include honouring and memorializing residential school students, sharing historical records and retaining scientific experts available to support the band at its direction.

The diocese will also offer healing services for family members of loved ones who attended the residential school.

The band announced in May 2021 it had found signs of more than 200 probable graves on the grounds of the former residential school through a ground-penetrating radar survey.

In a joint statement issued Monday by Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, they said the covenant reflects a mutual acknowledgment of the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system and a shared commitment to truth, reconciliation and the future.

“This Easter Sunday was a testament of allyship. Inasmuch as I participated virtually while I recoup from a broken leg, it was clear that there were many hands that shaped the positives outcomes of today,” Casimir said in the statement.

“The Archdiocese of Vancouver and the Diocese of Kamloops have made it clear that they are embarking on this new journey of truth, justice, and healing with us.”

Casimir said Northern Secwepemc Elders traveled from Canim Lake, Esketemc, Canoe Creek and Williams Lake First Nations to join the band and sing hymns as part of Easter Sunday Mass at St Joseph’s Church.

Northwest Territories Regional Chief Gerald Antoine, Williams Lake First Nation Kukpi7 Willie Sellars, Upper Nicola Band Chief Dan Manuel, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Frank Caputo, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar and Kamloops Coun. Bill Sarai were also present at the event.

In his address, Miller noted the signed document wasn’t transactional in nature — it was relational.

“A covenant involves people committing to a way of caring and communicating. A covenant also entails a profound and significant undertaking, not a trivial matter,” Miller said.

“In our case, the sacred covenant involves the honouring of your ancestors and the children who died or endured great suffering during their time in a residential school.”

A message from Pope Francis, conveyed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed the Pope's support of the agreement.

“In light of the sufferings of the past, his Holiness hopes that this generous gesture will be a further step on the path towards truth and reconciliation,” the message stated.

Casimir travelled to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis in spring 2022, along with other First Nations leaders, residential school survivors and Elders. The TteS Kukpi7 also travelled to Alberta to meet with the Pope upon his visit to Canada later that year.

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