Salmon Arm Observer [Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada]
September 12, 2021
By Martha Wickett
[Photo above: Splatsin members and their supporters walk on Sept. 10, 2021, the last day of the five-day Walking Our Children’s Spirits Home Journey from the Kamloops residential school. Here they were walking the spirits of the children who died in Kamloops to meet the spirits of children at Splatsin’s Shihiya School in order to join past, present and future. (Martha Wickett – Salmon Arm Observer)]
As their feet touched the ground, so did emotions touch their hearts.
From Sept. 6 to 10, a group from the Splatsin First Nation walked more than 100 kilometres to ensure the spirits of 215 children whose remains were confirmed at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May, were not left stranded, were not kept away from their home as they had been in life.
Splatsin Tkwamipla7 (Councillor) Edna Felix, the main organizer of the Splatsin Walking Our Children’s Spirits Home Journey, spoke of how the emotional weight of the journey rose and fell.
When community supporters and area politicians met up with the walkers on the last day, not far from Splatsin’s Shihiya School, Felix spoke of how heavy her emotions were at that time.
“It hurts the heart so much.”
Felix was joined on the five-day walk by a core group of organizers and walkers which included her daughter Laureen as well as Splatsin Tkwamipla7 (Councillors) Theresa William and George William.
Theresa William spoke of how powerful the walk was, that she felt driven to walk quickly as she was on a mission to get the children home. She said her mother was a residential school survivor, an experience and its effects that the walk was helping her to understand. She said a lot of Splatsin are the children or grandchildren of residential school survivors.
Kukpi7 (Chief) Wayne Christian spoke with emotion of his mother, who he said was one of the little children who survived the abuse day after day, year after year – the reason that he is alive and has children and grandchildren today.
On the way to Splatsin Cemetery 2 and the closing ceremony at Splatsin Community Centre in Enderby, the walk stopped at the Shihiya School, where children could be seen and heard playing and laughing outside.
Edna Felix explained the walk was bringing the past, present and future together – the past being the children who died in Kamloops, and the present, the current students at Shihiya who are Splatsin’s future.
Kukpi7 Christian addressed the students, saying the community had come to honour them, and to ask the spirits to lift them up, to give them strength and to nurture their lives. He said he hoped they know and understand they’re Secwépemc, which encompasses the songs, the prayers, the language.
“That’s who we are, that’s what was taken away at these places they call residential schools.”
He also thanked the teachers.
“In your hands, our future lies.”
One person on the walk said the children who died in residential schools were never forgotten. The elders have been talking about them for decades, but nobody listened.
“Now they’re awakened.”
Kukpi7 Christian emphasized the need for a new public school curriculum, a project that would be a legacy for people to work on together. He said the history and effects of institutions like the one in Kamloops are not widely known or understood.
“That’s why I think we have to invest in the future and change the curriculum of the public schools so we can really tell the story.”