My deepest condolences…

Please click here if you need help with this grief and trauma: Indigenous Crisis Support Lines.

This past week the remains of 215 children were found at the former grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. It was an unmarked mass grave on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation land.

I offer my deepest condolences and heartfelt grief to the families and communities these children belonged to. Like so many in Canada, I have been in mourning myself, and trying to find ways to mark these lives and offer support to Indigenous friends, colleagues, and family members. I have been holding my children extra tight and letting the tears fall.

The reaction of many settlers in Canada has been shock. I was not, unfortunately, shocked. The TRC’s Missing Children Project says over 4000 children died at the schools. Some estimates put it closer to 6000. These 215 children in Kamloops, unfortunately, are just the tip of the iceberg.

From the TRC’s Missing Children Project website

The work I’ve been doing on the Camsell Hospital the past seven years has also shown how easily and often Indigenous children and teens and adults could “disappear” from life and from the official record. And how hard it is to find that missing information and the remains of a loved one.

The sheer number of children in a mass, unmarked grave is what is shocking. It is once again rattling Canadians’ self-image as kind and polite. It is bringing up images of the mass graves at concentration camps in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It is bringing up that word so many of us have danced around for decades: genocide.

We have all been through so much during this past year of COVID, and I think we’ve been cracked open by the grief and trauma of this time. We have seen and experienced firsthand in our own families and communities what it is like to not be at a loved one’s side when they are dying or attend their funeral. We have collectively experienced ambiguous grief and pain piled on pain. At many times we have gotten frustrated, upset, angry, and hopeless.

This is the experience of so many Indigenous families, communities, and Nations. Not just because of this discovery or Covid, but for decades upon decades.

When we have dried our tears, gathered up the tiny shoes, and returned the flags to the tops of the masts, let us not forget how much work we need to do as settler-Canadians. Let us stay cracked open enough to be present with this past, with this call for action from beyond the grave.

Here are some links to learn more about this discovery, the process, and the history of residential schools:

5 thoughts on “My deepest condolences…

  1. Roger Ellis June 2, 2021 / 1:55 am

    My heart goes out to all Kamloops FN families that this horrible news of the children 💔😢


    • Roger 48 June 5, 2021 / 8:46 pm

      What is happening with these claims been over 2,3 yrs since this started & no reply back from anyone


      • Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail June 6, 2021 / 2:17 pm

        I’m not connected directly with any of the claims processes, but if you send me a private email I can try and help you find some answers.


  2. Roger Ellis June 6, 2021 / 3:54 pm

    I Charles campsell hospital for 2 years & was treated like badly plus other personnel things done to me there & I was only 13-14 years old & no contact with my mom or any other family members
    Then when these claims against the hospital came out I applied & told my story & never heard back again from anyone


    • Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail June 7, 2021 / 10:31 am

      It sounds like your time at the Camsell was incredibly hard and damaging. Thank you for sharing your experiences publicly to help people like me understand. I’m sorry to hear that the claims process has been frustrating and even re-traumatizing. Waiting so long for answers and not hearing back from anyone isn’t right. I am not directly involved with the process, but if you send me a private email I will try my best to help.


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