Walk remembers children

Many people left teddy bears in memory of the Kamloops Residential School victims. This was one of three sites in the High Prairie Civic Square where stuffed animals and shoes were left.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

The news that horrified a nation brought people in the High Prairie region together in the spirit of recognition and reconciliation June 3 in the Civic Square.

On June 1, it was reported that 215 children cared for at the Kamloops Residential School were found buried on the site, most from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community in the southern interior of British Columbia.

Almost immediately, a shocked country began to mourn. High Prairie did its part by organizing the High Prairie Memorial Walk. About 250 attended.

“It was fantastic to see so many people come for the Memorial Walk to remember and honour the 215 children discovered at a residential school in Kamloops,” says Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk.

“The attendance at the walk shows this cause resonates with people in our region, likely due to the fact that we have many locals that attended residential schools in our area,” he adds.

“I was also amazed at how many people left teddy bears and other items at the base of the flag poles,” Panasiuk adds.

“It amazes me how our community can come together.”

Big Lakes County Grouard Councillor Fern Welch agrees.

“I was very pleased with the turnout. It’s a good example of what can happen when people want to work together. It shows us if we want to contribute to a cause. It’s possible if we work together.”

Other partners in the walk were High Prairie School Division, High Prairie Aboriginal Interagency and the High Prairie Friendship Centre.

Jamie Chalifoux acted a master of ceremonies. He delivered a moving speech before inviting people to be smudged, take part in the walk, and leave teddy bears in the civic square.

Amanda Anderson and her daughter, Niya, were many who left teddy bears. She says she attended to support the cause.

“It’s a very worthwhile cause.”

Chalifoux started his address by noting he was “blown away” with the attendance and that “215 young lost souls” perished at Kamloops.

“I thank you for being with us here today. It’s nice to see us come together as a community. It’s so nice to see.

“We have work to do as a community,” he adds.

“Reconciliation and reconciliaction!”

He then asked everyone to “keep in mind in our hearts those who didn’t make it home.”

Elder Alma Desjarlais, who attended a non-Catholic residential school in St. Albert, led everyone in prayer in her Cree language.

“It’s heart-breaking,” she said before her prayer.

“But we’re all healing. We have to help each other.”

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