s 18 Indian residential schools
Article content The number of children who died at the residential school where Kat Norris endured for several years was unthinkably large, even if the island where it was located was small.
“That’s one of the schools where children tried to escape, and drowned by trying to escape on logs or trying to swim,” recalled Norris, a Coast Salish community activist.”That was known as the Alcatraz of residential schools.”
Norris and her siblings were sent to the Kuper Island school, on a tiny Gulf Island that has since been renamed Penelakut in honour of the local First Nations people. She remembers a hermes travel bag replica
nun cutting off her long dark hair and she and her classmates being forced to walk by the still hanging body of a student who had committed suicide.
It was horrendous for a girl who was torn from her parents around the age of six and forced to live at the school for several years.
Article content Norris, who said she has spent the last four decades healing through counselling and therapies, speaks regularly to law students and others about the residential school system. She organized a memorial called “Remember the Children” in Vancouver’s Grandview Park, attended by hundreds earlier this week, to provide strength and support to other survivors traumatized by the discovery in Kamloops.
The emotions that Norris is feeling are less about shock, and more about affirmation.
“Now the world knows another part of our reality,” she said. “The things that leaders and residential school survivors have been sharing, now people will know that it’s the truth, that they’re not fairy stories.”
Kat Norris speaks to hundreds attending a memorial on Wednesday Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified more than 4,100 children who died at residential schools across the country, although officials believe the number is much higher.
The memorial lists 51 students who died at Kamloops a number that is less than one quarter of the buried bodies confirmed recently by using ground penetrating radar.
Article content Tsilhqot’in Nation Chief Joe Alphonse said his community has many stories of children not returning from the residential school in Williams Lake run by the St. Joseph’s Mission, but those concerns were largely ignored by generations of governments. He hopes action will finally be taken.
“It takes the discovery of 215 unmarked graves to suddenly make this real. Well, people have been talking about this for years. Some of the stories are so horrific that people don’t want to share them,” said Alphonse, who has heard that boys fell through the ice while skating and no school officials tried to save them.
“We need to search all the properties, not only the properties, but all the surrounding lakes nearby.”.