New banner names those known to have died at the Kuper Island Residential School

New banner names those known to have died at the Kuper Island Residential School

Chemainus was among the communities to hold Indigenous People’s Day ceremonies Tuesday, and it included a new banner naming those known to have died at a residential school and experiences shared by a survivor.

Raymond Charlie spoke after a song was performed welcoming home survivors of residential schools. He arrived at Kuper Island Resident School when he was 6 years old.

“I was there for 10 years. It was hard,” said Charlie.

The new banner displays the 147 names of the children known to have died at the school.

“My brother up there. I came down to see,” said Charlie, pointing at the banner. “His name was Richard Thomas.”

Police ruled Thomas’ death a suicide but his brother and other family dispute that to this day.

“I’ll tell you the truth. He didn’t,” said Charlie.

Organizers say today is about honouring the survivors of the cultural genocide that happened at residential schools, but it’s also a chance to raise awareness about missing and murdered women and children.

“Recently, a month ago, Carsyn Seaweed was found nearly dead in Duncan,” said Connie Crocker, the First Nations liaison to the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society.

Fifteen-year-old Carsyn Seaweed died shortly after being discovered along the Trans Canada Highway covered in branches and cardboard. Initially, police released a statement saying no criminality was involved, but the next day admitted they were investigating potential criminal wrongdoing.

“This has to stop happening. We need to create awareness around this type of thing happening,” said Crocker.

The community also wants to keep attention on 19-year-old Delores Brown, who went missing from Penelekut Island in July 2015.

“Dee-Dee. She was such a nice girl, and today we want to do that memory in honour of her so that they could keep her memory alive, and they have yet to find her murderer,” said Florence James, Delores’ auntie.

Her body washed up on Norway Island in August 2015.

Police today say both are active investigations, and new tips are welcome though they provided no update.

The First Nations involved in today’s ceremonies say being able to share their stories is healing and a positive step on the path of reconciliation.

It involved song and dance but also a new banner honouring the dozens of children who died while attending Kuper Island Residential School.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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