On Wednesday, June 9, members of the Laurentian community gathered in person on the Brush Quad and virtually to honor the lives of the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Canada in May 2021. Melissane Schrems, Coordinator of Native American Studies, and Rev. Shaun Whitehead, University Chaplain, rang the Gunnison Memorial Chapel bells 215 times in honor of the innocent lives lost. During the event, Kimberly Flint-Hamilton, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, delivered the following remarks:
"Thank you all for coming.
Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge that St. Lawrence University occupies the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee nations. The United States is granted continued claim on this territory through a diplomatic relationship with the Iroquois Confederacy, which includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations.
We’re gathered here today, to honor the memory of the children found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. At the end of May, a mass grave with the remains of 215 children was discovered there. The youngest child was only three years old. We don’t know yet how these children died. Whether they died from disease, or succumbed to neglect, or abuse, or something different. We will learn more about this in time. But we do know something about how they lived. Run by religious institutions and by governments, the purpose of Native American boarding schools, both in Canada and in the U.S., was to force children to abandon and forget their native culture, and to assimilate to western cultural ways. Survivors of these schools in the U.S. recount the trauma they experienced and have compared these schools to prisons. Generations of indigenous peoples were raised in these institutions, apart from the bosom of their families. Away from the love which all human beings deserve and need.
We will not forget these children, and the thousands of others who lived in these institutions, and who died there. We stand with their families, and their communities, and we grieve with them. And now, we honor the memory of these children discovered there, by ringing the Chapel Bells 215 times, once for each child who was discovered there."
This event was organized by Office for Diversity & Inclusion, Coordinator of Native American Studies, Native American Student Alliance, Chaplain’s Office, Community Based Learning, & International Student Services.