Ahousaht First Nation receive $75,000 donation to search the grounds of residential schools

WatchThe Ahousaht First Nation received a donation of $75,000 on Saturday. The money will now allow them to search the grounds of two former residential schools in the area using ground-penetrating radar. Hannah Lepine has more.

It was a memorable day for the Ahousaht First Nation.

That’s because the First Nation, located on Vancouver Island’s west coast, received a donation of $75,000, which will now allow them to search the grounds of two former residential schools in the area.

“This definitely will be a kick start to the work that needs to be done,” said Chief Greg Louie from the Ahousaht First Nation.

The $75,000 came from a GoFundMe campaign — called Find Our Lost Children that was organized by Tom LaFortune, Steve Sxwithul’txw and Michele Mundy — that is raising money to purchase ground penetrating radar units for First Nations on Vancouver Island. Ahousaht is the first to receive money from the campaign.

“We’re helping in a small way in this and we hope to continue to do that as long as we can so we can expedite the monies out of these accounts and help First Nations,” said Sxwithul’txw.

The campaign had an original goal of raising $25,000, enough to cover the cost of one radar unit, but as of July 17, has raised nearly $155,000 from donors all over North America.

“To be able to help, it’s huge,” said LaFortune, one of the organizers. “Not on a personal basis but as First Nations we care for each other, all nations, we’re all brothers and sisters,” said LaFortune.

Ahousaht First Nation will be hiring an expert to help oversee the technical work and searches and although the funds won’t cover all the costs, it will bring the nation one step closer to healing.

“It will be very emotional at my levels, some will be angry, some will cry out, but definitely there will be a lot of emotion,” said Louie.

Organizers of the GoFundMe are currently in talks with one other First Nation in regards to donating money. They say nations decide to go ahead without funding, they will look off the Island to other nations across the province and country, who could use the money.

“It’s critically important for us to ensure that this is a nation-to-nation initiative,” said Sxwithul’txw. “Obviously we saw that today and that brings a lot of pride to me in terms of that work and that first step.”

The GoFundMe is still live, to donate you can go here.

Editor’s note: Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can call the 24/7 National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866 925-4419.

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Hannah LepineHannah Lepine

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