Manitoban residential school survivors bring sacred fire bundle to former Kamloops residential school site

WINNIPEG — Residential schools survivors who travelled from Manitoba to Kamloops, B.C. are returning to the province after gifting a sacred fire bundle to Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, the local First Nation community.

The journey was sparked when the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children were found at the former Kamloops residential school site in May.

After a several day drive, the group of survivors handed over the sacred fire bundle on Friday afternoon, which contained a star blanket, medicine, a drum rattle and the ashes from the sacred fire burning at the Manitoba Legislature Building.

“We met with chief and council at the Kamloops residential school,” said Gerry Shingoose, a residential school survivor who was on the trip. “We presented them with the sacred fire bundle from Treaty 1 territory.”

Shingoose said some elders who attended the school before it closed came out and shared their stories.

“I just brought Manitoba’s prayers to them and offered our support,” said Shingoose. “Just hearing the words of sorrow. Hearing the words of compassion and love. They made us feel comfortable in their moment of sorrow.”

The elders have been looking after the grounds of the school, smoking a ceremonial pipe every day in honour of the children.

“They are taking care of them, and it is so beautiful to hear that. I leave here humble,” said Shingoose.

Shingoose said the trip has been difficult both logistically and mentally.

“We had some walls and challenges,” she said. “Travelling through Saskatchewan was very emotional with the 751 children in Cowessess First Nation.”

According to Shingoose, the team of survivors received many words of encouragement along the way.

“It was so beautiful to see the support on the way. It’s so good to hear and feel,” said Shingoose.

Leading up to Canada Day, Shingoose said many people asked what they could do to honour Indigenous lives on the holiday.

“People approached us and wanted to know what they could do. They said, ‘I’ll do whatever you tell me to do,'” she said.

Shingoose said she told them to wear orange and listen to stories of residential school survivors.

The team of survivors will now make their way back to Manitoba. They’ll make a pit stop at the residential school Shingoose attended in Saskatchewan before returning home on July 5.

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