The community of Knox Waterloo grieves with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, who has just released news that the unidentified graves of 215 children have been found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C. The devastating pain and loss this news triggers are not isolated to Kamloops, but is shared by all who lost family, friends or community members to Indian Residential Schools. So many Indigenous children never came home from the schools where they were forcibly taken, many facing abuse, neglect, non-consensual experimentation, increased illness, and death. The weight of the trauma that loss has wrecked in Indigenous communities, in which the
church shared a large role, is still causing intense harm today.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada operated 11 residential schools and 5 Day schools. The church has confessed its role in running the schools and is seeking a path of reconciliation with Indigenous people (see https://presbyterian.ca/healing/ for the Confession, and a study
guide to work through it.) But the trauma those schools caused for individuals, families and communities continues to significantly impact Indigenous people today. As a church, we are called both to repentance and to action.
In humility, the church calls for a time of prayer and lament to honour the lives of those children whose graves were just found, and for all family, friends and communities who have lost loved ones through the Indian Residential School system—for whom this news opens fresh wounds. We also call for a time of reflection and recommitment to reconciliation. As we approach the month of June, which is National Indigenous History Month, we encourage
all church members to reflect on the harmful history in which we have been involved, and from that reflection seek renewed ways to work for healing and reconciliation with Indigenous people.
To learn more about The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s schools, see The Presbyterian Archives exhibit on residential schools. To learn the names of the children who were known to have died at residential schools, the National Student Memorial is available on the website of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. For residential and day school survivors and intergenerational survivors, please know that support is available 24 hours a day at the National Residential School Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419).
The Revs. Courtney Crawford & Hugh Donnelly
May 31, 2021