Residential School Healing Ceremony

A healing ceremony was held on February 18, 2014 to help residential school survivors and others come to terms with the demolition of this building and to help turn the page on this dark period in our history. The ceremony began with a welcome to the traditional territory of the ‘Namgis people, followed by a prayer from residential school survivor Pauline Alfred and words from intergenerational survivor Carla Voyageur and residential school Survivor, Robert Joseph Sr. This was followed by a moment of silence for survivors who never returned home. Anglican Bishop Logan McMenamie was also on hand to apologize on behalf of the Anglican church. Bishop McMenamie stated: “We failed you, we failed ourselves and we failed the creator,” and for this he said that the church was “sincerely sorry.”

Demolition of the building had not yet begun when the healing ceremony was held on February 18, 2015, as crews were still working on the removal of hazardous materials at this time. A screen was erected on the front stairs of the residential school building. The screen was lifted up and down four times to symbolically represent demolition of the building. This occurred to the sound of beating drums, sobbing and eagles circling overhead. Lifting of the screen was followed by destruction of the schools’ front porch by heavy equipment, which occurred to the sound of cheers, cars horns honking and chants of “close that door” and “tear it down.” Residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors were then afforded an opportunity to unleash some of their anger by throwing rocks at the building. Candles were also lit as a symbol of hope for the future. The ceremony continued at the ‘Namgis Big House where mourning songs were sung for those who never returned to their homelands followed by the burning of food for loved ones and a brushing off healing ceremony, all of which culminated in the singing of a celebration song. Special guests, including National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Regional Chief Jody Wilson Raybould, Union of BC Indian Chiefs Vice President Bob Chamberlin, and Eric Magnusson, Regional Director General of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, were on hand to offer words of support and inspiration. Karen Joseph, Executive Director of Reconciliation Canada also shared information about the important work being undertaken by this organization to bring together all Canadians to move towards healing and reconciliation. The ‘Namgis Nation will raise funds to establish a memorial on the site of the residential school. We will work together with Reconciliation Canada to seek input from survivors and from members of our community.
Survivors can contact us memorial@namgis. bc.ca to provide input or they can contact Reconciliation Canada at memorial@ reconciliationcanda.ca.

 

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Residential School Cliff Emery

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