Healing Regalia: Reclaiming Dignity and Identity

The Healing Regalia Project is an initiative by the syiyaya Reconciliation Movement that hopes to heal the deep intergenerational trauma experienced by survivors and families from the St. Augustine’s Residential School. The school operated in Sechelt, British Columbia between 1905 and 1974.

The project brought together survivors and their families to engage in a ceremonial process that included weaving regalia for the survivors, honouring their shishalh identities, restoring ancestral names and undertaking private healing work with a Coast Salish healer.

Funding from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund supported the endeavour to give back what was taken from survivors and their families. Ɂakista xaxanak Garry Feschuk, former Chief of the shishalh Nation and his wife Pauline visited each survivor to listen to their experiences. Four expert weavers taught and helped participants weave cedar shawls or sashes, headbands and hats, for the approximately 180 school survivors. 

Marking the project’s culmination in the fall of 2023, the survivors were honoured in a healing ceremony and feast at the shishalh Longhouse, as all of them stood up in their Healing Regalia, publicly reclaimed their ancestral names and received a ceremonial brushing with cedar. 

A newly carved Totem Pole will also be raised and dedicated to the survivors of all 48 Nations whose children attended the school, publicly renewing a collective commitment to reconciliation, justice, decolonization and healing.

The impact of this project is profound, addressing the intergenerational trauma of the survivors of St. Augustine’s Indian Residential School, who endured abuse, cultural suppression and the loss of vital practices, traditions and identities.

More about the syiyaya Reconciliation Movement

syiyaya, meaning “family and friends” in she shashishalhem, the language of the shishalh people, is the name given to the local initiative dedicated to fostering reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within the shishalh homelands on the lower Sunshine Coast of BC. Founded in 2018, the Movement seeks to create collaborative projects that build relationships and dialogue, aligning with the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.

To learn more about the work of the syiyaya Reconciliation Movement, visit their website at https://syiyayareconciliation.ca/

Archdiocese of Vancouver