Walpole Island First Nation, out of respect for residential school students and survivors of the First Nation community, will not be observing Canada Day this year.
First Nation officials said the recent news of the discovery of hundreds of bodies in graves at the sites of former schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan highlighted “a dark period in our history,” according to Walpole Island Chief Charles Sampson.
Walpole will instead close its First Nation operations on July 2 as a day of mourning.
“The abuse and mistreatment that took place at residential schools was meant to eliminate us as a people,” Sampson said in a media release. “While it did not accomplish that, it has harmed our families and our community in incalculable ways. The presence of unmarked graves has been known to us through oral history, even as the mainstream considers this a ‘discovery.’ This is but one manifestation of the horrendous conditions that our elders and ancestors faced.”
Walpole Island council has committed to meet with survivors and develop a plan to address the wounds that exist in the community resulting from the residential school legacy.
Walpole Island members attended various residential schools, including Mohawk, Mount Elgin, Spanish, Mount Pleasant, Shingwauk, and Carlyle. In 2002, survivors erected a Residential School Memorial Monument with names of approximately 400 survivors etched in granite.