Activist community

Sudbury’s Indigenous Community Pays Tribute to Lost Lives

By Mia Jensen

Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative

A year after the unmarked graves of 215 residential school students were discovered in Kamloops, British Columbia, members of Sudbury’s Indigenous community came together to reflect and remember the children who never came home.

Dressed in ribbon skirts and orange shirts with the words “Every Child Matters,” more than 150 people joined a Friday walk of remembrance through downtown Sudbury, starting at the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre, passing through the Bridge of Nations and ending at the lakeside in Bell Park to mark the first anniversary.

For local artists and Indigenous activist Will Morin, it was an opportunity to “honor and acknowledge” the children whose lives were lost, while raising awareness in the wider community.

“Canada realizes that the history we have is unknown, that our common history is that of a people who were tempted to be exterminated, displaced and eliminated,” he said. “If we are not willing to share the pain, we cannot share the benefits of our teachings to begin with, and their importance to our children.”

Since the first discoveries in Kamloops on May 27, 2021, more than 2,000 confirmed remains of Indigenous children who died in Canadian residential schools have been found. With over 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children being taken from families to these schools, the actual number is estimated to be much higher.

Morin participated in the march with his family, including his two young sons, which he says is a marker of the survival of their community and culture.

“There was an attempt to exterminate indigenous peoples and that was by removing our children from their culture, their language, their communities and their families,” he said.

“So to have my kids with me today is to celebrate and be proud of the fact that I can share the culture with them. And they celebrate that with me.

The event was led by organizer Jason Nakogee, Friendship Center Coordinator. For his family, the memories of residential schools are still fresh.

“It’s a lot of unresolved grief,” he said. “My mother went to St. Anne’s boarding school in Fort Albany. It is a walk of conscience; it is a healing journey.

The walk was organized by Nakogee and the Friendship Center in conjunction with Greater Sudbury Police Services. Attendees included city officials including Mayor Brian Bigger, Sudbury MPP Viviane Lapointe and a number of residential school survivors who shared their stories and sang along with attendees.

“I was ready to take this walk alone, but I wondered, why?” Nakogee said. “Because if this is going to be a journey for me, it might as well be a journey for others. I’ve spoken to staff members and it’s only gotten bigger by involving the community. I’m really happy with how many people came.

Mia Jensen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for THE SUDBURY STAR. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible by funding from the federal government.

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