Residential school survivors of the Splatsin First Nation are taking healing into their own hands. They plan to build a monument to show their strength and resilience.
“After the 215 children were found in Kamloops, we knew we wanted to do something to honour all the survivors and it really made us realize that we didn’t even know who all the survivors in our own community were,” says executive director of Splatsin Teaching Centre, Deanna Cook.
Her mother was only 13 years old when she was taken away from her family on the Splatsin First Nation to attend a residential school in Kamloops. It’s a history Tswum Williams is still learning to come to terms with. She’s also learning she’s not alone.
Williams and Cook have been able to identify 150 Splatsin members so far, as survivors of residential schools. 45 of whom are still living.
Donna Felix is part of the planning committee and says the community recognition the monument will signify, is needed. “They need to be able to heal and to be able to help their families and to understand, to get rid of that shame and that pain and all of those things,” Felix says.
In September survivors met as a group to plan their monument. Through their discussions, there was one resounding theme; home.
“When they were away from home, that was their primary focus, “ says Williams, "They wanted to know, what was happening at home, what’s happening with my parents or my younger siblings…”
With a host of ideas and a common theme, the monument committee put out a cross Canada call to artists.
Survivors will have 4 submissions to choose from. All Indigenous artists with previous national installations to their credit.
A location has been chosen by survivors, fundraising is ongoing and once the monument is complete it can be visited by everyone.
Support from Enderby and surrounding communities has been amazing and Cook realizes residents have their own pain. “I think the monument can serve as a place that we can all come together on Truth and Reconciliation Day...and we can help heal each other.” says Cook.