Dene Nation hosting memorial walk for 215 Kamloops children

Shoes and toys left ouside the St. Patrick's Parish Hall on 52nd Avenue. (Supplied by Briana Morrison.)
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The Dene Nation is hosting a memorial walk in Yellowknife in memory of the children found buried in a mass-grave underneath an old residential school in Kamloops.

In a statement, Dene Nation Chief Norman Yakelaya called on the Churches of Canada to participate in reconciliation efforts and for all levels of government to help participate in similar excavation efforts for other burial sites at residential schools in Canada.

“We call upon all levels of government to work together to immediately begin similar search and excavation sites of former residential schools – sadly, we know this is not the only unmarked grave at one of 139 residential schools in Canada,” Yakelaya said in a statement.

The route for the walk. (Supplied by Dene Nation.)

MLA Katrina Nokleby made similar calls for surveys of NWT’s one residential school site to be conducted. The memorial walk starts at the former site of Akaitcho Hall, which was home to Yellowknife’s residential school until 1994.

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Fourteen residential school sites existed at some point in the Northwest Territory’s history.

But despite saying she wanted to begin surveying old sites in the territory, Premier Caroline Cochrane said the GNWT couldn’t lead efforts to do that work.

Cochrane said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says that local Indigenous communities are supposed to lead strategies dealing with unmarked burial grounds.

“My commitment will not be that I will take the horse and run and say this is what we shall do,” she said.

Cochrane said she would bring the issue forward in meetings with Indigenous governments

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The walk will be held on Friday, June 4 between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. starting at the former Akaitcho Hall Site, at École Sir John Franklin High School. 

Prior to the walk there’ll be a presentation at 11:00 a.m. given at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre.

A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support. Support services can be accessed by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866 925-4419.

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