In Mission, B.C., the Stó:lō community, along with Residential School Survivors, is embarking on a journey to honour and remember the children who never returned from St. Mary’s Residential School. The Xyólhmet ye Syéwiqwélh (Taking Care of Our Children) Ceremony seeks to heal wounds, acknowledge pain, and reclaim cultural heritage.
Stó:lō leadership, Survivors from Katzie and St’at’imc Nation and cultural leaders have formed a united committee. Their goal: hosting commemoration ceremonies at the former school sites. These events will be open to former students of St. Mary’s Residential School, their families and communities. Allies and partners who are supporting the events will be invited as witnesses, a role with immense cultural responsibility.
Funding from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) will go towards the acquisition of ceremonial items and help provide overall event logistics and support.
The Stó:lō Tribal Council recognizes the strength within their communities to conduct these ceremonies. The initiative signifies healing on many levels, aiming to ease the trauma caused by residential school abuse and providing a space for cultural reclamation. The Stó:lō people are looking for healing, envisioning a country that learns from the past and prevents its repetition.
St. Mary’s Residential School was a Catholic-run Residential School for 110 years from 1863 until 1973. It closed 11 years later in 1984. In BC, St. Mary’s was the first Indian Residential School to open and the last to close. Hundreds of children from over 70 communities attended the school.
Archdiocese of Vancouver