This article contains details about experiences at residential schools in B.C. and may be upsetting to readers.
Students at Ladysmith Intermediate School have placed drawings of 215 shoes along the school fence to honour the 215 children discovered at an unmarked burial site at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The initiative was led by LIS Indigenous Education Assistant Cindy Blake. Blake said she was inspired by the memorial at the Vancouver Art Gallery to put up a visual representation of the 215 children. The fence also features feathers that were designed by Gitxsan artist Michelle Stoney. All shoes and feathers were coloured by students from Grade 4 to Grade 7.
“They have been learning about this since September — every September is Orange Shirt Day — so the teachers read books and talk about residential schools. Now that the remains have been found it resonates more — it’s more real,” Blake said.
Grade 6 student Jaxon Sylvie said that it’s good to see Ladysmith show their support and honour the memories of children who died in residential schools.
“I feel like we could do more to help, but this is definitely a good help,” Silvey said.
The display will remain up indefinitely. LIS Principal Dionte Jelks said the school is working towards creating a permanent memorial. In the meantime, any drawings on the fence that are damaged will be replaced.
Jelks said that the display speaks to the culture of kindness and compassion at LIS.
“Our students are strong. They have a voice. Just yesterday during our morning assembly I challenged them and told them to be lawyers, to be MPs, to be mayors and city councillors because they are the future. They’re the ones who will create the changes in policy that are so badly needed.”
Residential school survivors who need support can call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.