Orange heart event in Vernon honours 215 Indigenous children whose bodies buried at Kamloops residential school

'More than just history'

Victoria Femia

The North Okanagan Friendship Society marked National Indigenous Peoples Day with an orange heart event to honour the bodies of 215 children found buried at the former Kamloops residential school.

The friendship society put together a sidewalk event in Vernon, inviting people to write a message on an orange heart and clip it onto the wall.

Outreach worker Maggie King the notes form a memorial for the children found in Kamloops and those in other residential schools across the country.

At the end of the day, the hearts will be put into a sacred fire in memory of the children.

“The process of that is to put it in the sacred fire so that all of these messages can be sent up,” said King.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that it's more than just history – that this is just a short time ago that the last residential school was closed down, so we still have a lot of trauma in our society,” said King.

“This is an awareness of what happened in the very recent past, and so we need to understand that we need to have kindness and understanding for all of the people.”

Local security guard Rock Van Den Nieuwendyk put his own message on a heart, and plans his own show of support for the children.

Nieuwendyk says one night a man who lived on the streets asked him if he would purchase a tricycle from him. Nieuwendyk had $20 to give the man.

He cleaned and painted the tricycle, and placed a teddy bear in its basket, and now plans to bring the tricycle to a growing memorial at the Kamloops school site.

Exposing the tension exposed by the tragic discovery, National Indigenous People’s Day was marked by two church fires on First Nation reserves in the Okanagan.

Churches were burned on both Penticton and Osoyoos Indian Band land overnight. RCMP are investigating both fires as suspicious.

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