Sudbury's Indigenous community honours lives lost

·3 min read

A year after the unmarked graves of 215 residential school students were found in Kamloops B.C., Indigenous community members in Sudbury gathered 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 walk of remembrance Friday through downtown Sudbury, starting at the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre, over the Bridge of Nations, and ending at the lakeside in Bell Park to mark the one-year anniversary.

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

“Canada is awakening to the fact that the history we have is unknown, that our shared history is of a people that were attempted to be exterminated and removed and eliminated,” he said. “If we aren’t prepared to share the pain, we can’t share the benefits of our teachings to start with, and the importance of them for our children.”

Since the first findings 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 more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from the families to these schools, the actual number is estimated to be much higher.

Morin participated in the walk with his family, including his two young sons, which he said was a marker of their community's and culture’s survival.

“There was an attempt to exterminat Indigenous peoples and it was by removing our children from their culture, from their language, from their communities and from their families,” he said. “So having my children 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 spearheaded by organizer Jason Nakogee, a coordinator with the Friendship Centre. 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 Residential School in Fort Albany. It’s a walk of awareness; it’s a healing journey.”

The walk was organized by Nakogee and the friendship centre, in collaboration with Greater Sudbury Police Services. Participants included representatives from the city, including Mayor Brian Bigger, Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe, and a number of residential school survivors who shared their stories and sang with those who participated.

“I was willing to do this walk all by myself, but I asked myself, Why?” said Nakogee. “Because if this is going to be a journey for me, it might as well be a journey for others, as well. I talked to staff members and it just kept getting bigger and bigger by involving the community. I’m really happy with the amount of people that came.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

mjensen@postmedia.com

Twitter: @mia_rjensen

Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star

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