Queen’s death triggers strong feelings in Cowichan Tribes after ‘very painful era’

CHEK

Making bannock the way her mother once taught her, Eileen Ramirez says she feels a deep connection to her Indigenous culture.

“I grew up with mom making bread, my grandmother making bread,” Ramirez, a member of Cowichan Tribes, said Wednesday.

But strong feelings are also bubbling to the surface for Ramirez and others in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and her link to residential schools.

“I know a lot of people look up to her like a grandmother, a matriarch, but for me, it was done,” said Ramirez. “With the Queen knowing about residential schools and what First Nations children went through — she visited residential schools.”

Both of Ramirez’s parents were survivors of residential schools and suffered the abuse that generations of Indigenous people are haunted by. She is one of many struggling with the hurt and triggers the monarch’s passing has brought to the surface.

“I am not in mourning of the Queen. On Monday I am wearing my orange shirt proudly,” said Ramirez.

Crystal Mitchell is too. On Monday, which has been declared a federal holiday to mark the Queen’s funeral, the Cowichan Tribes member plans to focus on remembering her parents who both survived residential school.

“They would not talk about it because it hurt them so much. And when I heard about the Queen dying I had no sympathy for her because of what happened,” said Mitchell.

“I feel like there’s been a little bit of closure,” said Ramirez.

These complex feelings are shared by many in Cowichan Tribes, so on Monday all of its offices will be closed for the funeral, though officials say it will be a time for sombre reflection of the lingering impact the monarchy has had on their people.

“There’s many different perspectives of people in Cowichan. I think some will feel the loss, others will feel a sense of relief. This is really an end of an era that has been a very painful era in terms of our people’s relationship with the monarch,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum.

Instead of black, Ramirez and many First Nations people plan to wear orange to salute the survivors of residential schools, like her parents, and on the National Day of Mourning, raise their memories up instead.

RELATED: A brief history of Vancouver Island’s five residential schools, and the children who died there

Skye Ryan

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