A traditional honour song was performed on the shoreline of the Thompson River and tobacco was put in the water as part of a ceremony to bring home the spirits of the many children who were forced to attend the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Many of them crammed onto cattle trucks from communities across B.C.
For family members and survivors – it was very emotional.
The Adams Lake Indian Band organized this event to bring home the spirits of their children who attended the residential school – with the belief that many are trapped inside this building after enduring horrific abuses – and others never made it home.
“The 215 found in the graves we are going to honour them with some prayers with some songs with some unity,” says Cliff Arnouse, chief of the Adams Lake Indian Band.
Countless stories have emerged of former students who would run away through a field in the front of the school, along the riverbank and end up at the red bridge – but they didn’t know which way was home. They would eventually be caught and brought back to the school and severely punished.
The Walking Our Spirits Home was organized to bring the spirits home and began on the red bridge with close to 400 descendants, survivors, supporters and leaders. APTN News met Leonard Ignace along the walk.
“My three sisters went to the residential school here and they all passed away because of the abuse they suffered in there – it wasn’t a good story,” says Leonard as he carried pictures of his late sisters.
The walkers then gathered in the pow wow arbour before going the rest of the way. The discovery of the 215 graves was heavy on everyone’s mind knowing that just steps away they laid here in unmarked graves until now – confirming what survivors have been saying for years.
Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, Chief of the Splatsin First Nation spoke to the crowd.
“Some carried this for 80 years. Seventy, 60, 50, 40 years they carried these memories they carried these stories so these children today they’ve shown themselves to the world and they’ve shown themselves for a very specific purpose – its to heal,” she says.
The Tk’emlups te Sepwpemc say they will continue to offer full support to all the Nations that want to conduct ceremonies for the children found so far.
The Walking the Spirits Home walk began with elders in wagons pulled by a team of horses, kids being pushed in strollers and families and supporters walking to honour the lost children.
We caught up with Leonard Ignace again as the walkers were leaving the school grounds and we asked him this question.
He’s asked when he looks back at that building right now what does he see?
As Leonard stared back at the former school he says, “Trauma, abuse, physical, mental, sexual, and I just want to use flaming arrow- it’s just an eye sore for all the victims of what happened every time they drive by I imagine its just bringing back memories of what happened to them.”
The walk lasted three days and ended 65 km away on the Adams Lake Indian Band traditional territory with drummers lined up welcoming the spirits of the children home finally.