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Every child matters: N’Swakamok hosts walk for Kamloops 215

On the second anniversary of the discovery of the remains at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, organizers honoured those who never came home

It was May 22, 2021 when the news of the discovery of the Kamloops 215, the remains that were found at the former site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, near Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation, BC, were announced. 

On May 26, to acknowledge the second anniversary, N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre hosted a walk from their downtown 110 Elm Street location to the shores of Ramsey Lake in Bell Park, where a ceremony took place to honour both the survivors of the residential schools, and those who never came home. Attendees tossed orange carnations into the waters of Ramsey Lake at exactly 2:15 p.m. and offered semaa (tobacco) and prayers to the sacred fire, lit at sunrise and kept burning all day. 

Jason Nakogee, organizer of the event and co-ordinator for N’Swakamok’s Kizhaay Anishnaabe Niin (I am a kind man) program, told today should be a time for reflection, awareness and learning. 

Hailing from Attawapiskat First Nation, Nakogee’s mother attended Ste. Anne’s residential school, known as one of the worst.

Dozens of other nations have begun searching the sites of other schools, finding the remains of hundreds more, including Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced in June 2021 that as many as 751 unmarked graves have been discovered near the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

Nakogee noted the continuing school site searches, and the number of remains being found. “The numbers are still growing. That's a whole generation there. Today is used to honour the residential school children that didn't make it home.”

Nakogee said the day is also for those children who did come home, and asked the group to think of them as well. 

“They all suffer from intergenerational trauma, a broken family structure and that lateral violence was then brought home to their children. We had that loss of language, culture, and a good home.”  

Julie Ozawagosh is an Atikameksheng Ansihnaabek elder and residential school survivor. She told that she believes the key to healing is an open heart. 

“In Canada, (residential school) was doing away with the ‘Indian problem,’ that was why the original children were put in residential schools, why the ’60s Scoop happened,” she said. “And then the government supported the schools and never believed the families, that these atrocities were happening to our people until those little bodies were uncovered, that's when the truth came out.”

Ozawagosh said the memorial is to “honour the little ones who never made it to where we are today, they never had the privilege to tell their story.”

She said that many Canadians still do not fully recognize what happened at the schools and there needs to be awareness, as well as compassion and understanding.  

“When we come to these beautiful gatherings, we need to come to listen and to really feel and understand: ‘what would it be like to me, if I ever lost a child? My child is missing? What would that really feel like, that grief for all those years,” Ozawagosh said. “It's that time to have ceremony, to have fire. It's time to be at the water. It's time to be on the land, it’s time to begin that healing process.”

Jenny Lamothe covers vulnerable and marginalized populations for



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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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