The discovery on the grounds of what was Canada's largest Indigenous residential school was announced Friday by Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation.
The school operated from 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over from the Catholic Church. It was a residential day school until 1978.
At local schools, flags were lowered to half-mast on Monday, May 31st, at the Squamish Nation’s request, according to district 48 spokesperson Jennifer Morris.
At Howe Sound Secondary, orange ribbons circle the school.
Principals and site supervisors have also sent out a notice to students and staff asking for everyone to wear orange shirts to work and school until June 9th (215 hours), Morris said.
Other ways of wearing orange are also available, for example, orange ribbon or strips of an orange t-shirt can be worn on a wrist.
Some schools have used paper to cut out small orange t-shirts to pin onto their students’ clothing.
This symbolic gesture is not something that is going to be enforced, Morris noted.
The District of Squamish lowered its flags to half-mast Monday and they will remain that way for 215 hours, in remembrance of the children found.
“This symbolic action is in solidarity with the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation, Indigenous peoples across Canada, and all Canadians who share in the shame and sadness of this dark period in our history,” reads a statement from District spokesperson Rachel Boguski.
“Our work toward Truth and Reconciliation continues and this discovery only intensifies the painful reminder of the travesty that was the residential school system,” reads the statement.
“Building a new relationship with Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation and all Indigenous peoples must be built on the truth of the past, no matter how painful. It is through this acknowledgment that we can learn, make amends and create a more just, equitable, and meaningful path forward together for those of us here today and the generations that will follow.”
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is open at 1.866.925.4419 with 24-hour support for former students and those affected, along with referrals to emotional and crisis services.
Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society, providing First Nations and Indigenous-specific support, can be reached toll-free at any time at 1-800-588-8717 or online at kuu-uscrisisline.com.
~With files from The Canadian Press