The horrors of Kamloops

Sitting in horror as the news of the remains of 215 Indigenous children found at Kamloops Residential School sink in.

My thoughts are open loops because what has happened fails to make sense. Few things symbolize the terror of the Indian Residential School system as this mass grave of 215 unnamed children. I don’t know what grieves and upsets me the most. The loss of life of these children? The salt in the wounds of Indigenous friends, many of which themselves went to residential school and suffered abuse and saw peers being killed, or whose parents and grandparents went to these schools and despite their bravery and strength, passed down trunks of unresolved trauma? The lack of wide-spread recognition that what happened at Kamloops and across Canada and the US has in fact been genocide? I’m thinking of the mass graves found in Germany, Rwanda, Namibia, Bosnia, that served as evidence of genocide. How is the find of 215 unnamed Indigenous children at Kamloops Residential School any different? Richard Henry Pratt, the founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, one of the first and most influential residential schools on Turtle Island, described the purpose of these school as “kill the Indian, save the man”. Kamloops shows that he succeeded with the first part of this equation. This genocide was conducted in the name of the church, of progress, and of White supremacy. The genocide was conducted so that folks like me can have a great time. But a great time dancing on the remains of 215 children is not to be had. I’m also sitting in horror for the emotional dulling of those who committed these killings or those who were in authority and could have stopped the abuse. I’m sitting in horror of a world looking the other way as this was happening. I’m sitting in horror of the unresolved perpetrator trauma that these people have passed down and on which our colonialist Western society is built. I’m sitting in horror because I remember the testimonies of Indigenous Elders who long knew about these graves. How many dead bodies are we yet to find and how many will we never learn about? I’m also sitting in horror knowing that although the residential schools closed, Indigenous kids are still dying in disproportionate numbers at the hands of institutions meant to serve them.

They found the bodies but can they ever capture the pain?