“A time for change:” Teepee standing tall on Edmonton’s Winterburn Road to raise awareness of unmarked graves and residential schools
Author of the article: Kellen Taniguchi Publishing date: Aug 25, 2021
After spending 50 days outside the former Charles Camsell Indian Hospital, Lorelei Mullings and Andrea Jenkins are hoping to call attention to one more of Edmonton’s unmarked gravesites.
A large teepee was erected along Winterburn Road Tuesday to help mark a new site where Mullings and Jenkins, along with other members of the Free Our Indigenous Children Facebook group, aim to raise more awareness of residential schools and unmarked graves leading up to Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30.
Mullings said she believes discussions have died down and it is important to keep talking about the effects residential schools had on Indigenous people.
“We want to bring awareness and it still needs to be heard. The only way I can do it instead of just sitting back and posting and sharing is to be here,” said Mullings. “It’s part of my own healing, too, as well and to stick up for our people who don’t have this voice or can’t stand out, and for the ones that have died and suffer, that’s all I can do, that’s all we can do.”
Mullings said there is another unmarked gravesite at 7301 199 Street NW, but the site they chose shares a connection to the former Camsell site.
“A lot of bodies were brought from the Charles Camsell and buried here and according to people who live out here … there are bodies out here that don’t have a name, no identity,” said Jenkins. “So, we just felt we wanted to maintain that connection while still bringing awareness to people.”
The group plans to have representatives on location from Tuesday to Saturday starting at 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. weekly until Sept. 29.
Jenkins said anyone is welcome to stop by the new site to ask questions, learn about Indigenous culture or learn to smudge. Mullings added they don’t have a set schedule of things to do and they don’t want to set one.
“If they come here and want to sing, if they come here and they want to dance, they want to tell stories, they just want to talk and heal, that’s what we’re about,” said Mullings.
At the conclusion of their time at the Charles Camsell Hospital, those who stopped by and took part in the activities there made a list of things they learned during the seven-week period. One group made a list of 19 things they learned or took away from the site, including taking steps to reconciliation, learning from the stories, making friends and supporting others with their healing journey.
Alberta had the most residential schools, said Mullings, and she believes that means there will be many more unmarked gravesites found in the province.
Mullings and Jenkins hope Edmontonians who stop by the site will leave with a similar experience.
“This is a time for change with these children being discovered,” said Jenkins. “I think there needs to be change now for people to recognize that we’re not going anywhere, we’re here to stay and we’re just asking for a little more respect, a little more recognition. We are not who you think we are, get to know who we are as people.”
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line for survivors is open 24-hours for emotional and crisis referral services 1-866-925-4419.