One year ago I began my drawing of the 546 leaves I had collected that day from the Pacific Spirit Park after learning about the children who had been so cruelly separated from their parents at the US border. In the following few weeks we learnt, as my daily drawings continued, how many more separated children there were. Sadly, as of today too many of these children have yet to be reunited with their parents.
In May of this year the remains of 215 children were discovered in unmarked graves in the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Reservation School, children who were never given any opportunity of being reunited with their parents and families. And so began the discovery of generations of children buried in unmarked graves of Indian Reservation Schools across the country in this sad chapter of Canadian history, a chapter that continues today through the vital and heartbreaking process of Truth and Reconciliation.
My 215 leaves today are in memory of all the beautiful children who are being grieved and remembered by their families and communities everywhere. They were very much in our thoughts yesterday as we walked in the Pacific Spirit Park on a rainy Friday with so many beautiful fallen leaves carpeting the trails and woods around us.
On this 1st National Day for Truth and Reconciliation our thoughts all day have been of the generations of children who died alone, away from their families whilst attending Indian Reservation Schools here in BC and across the country, together with thoughts of their families, those who survived, and all the communities still grieving this unbearable legacy every day.
We began the day walking the trails of the Pacific Spirit Park, the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people. The orange shirts we wore were designed by the Tsimshian artist Morgan Asoyuf. Thank you Morgan.
From the trails we joined so many others at the Vancouver Art Gallery and were moved by the powerful and heartbreaking display on the Gallery steps together with the sight of 6,128 orange ribbons placed in the gardens opposite by the Haida artist Tamara Bell to honour and remember the lives of all the children lost at the residential schools. We then joined many hundreds of others in the Gallery Square and hope the love and support shown by us all will help in the healing and ease so much of the pain we witnessed today.