By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

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On March 30, the Shuswap Band offered a prayer and a moment of silence for the 215 bodies of children found in Kamloops’ residential school. 

“We were honouring the children and the residential school survivors,” said Clarissa Stevens, the Cultural/Family Liaison & Indian Registry Administrator of Shuswap Band. 

Stevens explained that these prayers started in 2020 when the remains of the 215 children were discovered. 

“There have been more and more kids who have been found in school,” said Stevens. “And the sad part about it is that it’s wiped under the rug. There’s not much publication on it anymore.” 

When they honoured the prayer in Shuswap Band Hall, they all wore orange T-shirts that symbolized the theme of “every child matters.” 

Stevens shared that they spoke about the residential school, the genocide, and the intergenerational trauma for many Indigenous communities. Her parents went to residential schools as well.

“I was sitting there with my sister . . . I get heavy-hearted. Because when you get really sad, you could almost feel those emotions,” Stevens explained with a feeling of sorrow in her voice. “I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to have my kid taken away at five years old and not seen for 10 months out of the year.” 

Stevens feels heavy and disappointed in what has happened to her ancestors and what they went through. And whenever she looks at her nieces and nephews, she can’t “imagine and understand what that generation went through then.”  

After the prayers, they sang a Shuswap honour song for the children. They had chairs for the children who had gone and passed in residential schools and chairs for all the children who escaped and those who didn’t return.

 “Sometimes I get angry. How can any human being do that to another person? The boys and the girls couldn’t talk,” explained Stevens. “My mom didn’t know what to do when she came home, and her brothers were there. I’m hearing many stories now from my parents, but a lot more about their feelings too.”

Stevens said she also lost an aunt to a residential school. Her aunt was only seven years old. 

“They just never made it home,” Stevens said. 

She noted that we’ve “got to start somewhere to start getting people to understand more” on this National Indigenous Peoples Day.

“I always have had the hope. This is not something that’s going to end tomorrow – as long as I’m alive and teaching these younger ones. I will continue doing these things. Hope is always there,” said Stevens. 

She noted they plan to offer another prayer on September 30, the Indigenous National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

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