Tseshaht First Nation in Port Alberni has started a fundraiser to set up a memorial for all the children who attended Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS).
Local business Twin City Brewing started the ball rolling by making a commitment to donate 25 percent of all lounge sales on Canada Day (July 1) to Tseshaht First Nation. They wanted to assist in creating a commemoration and memorial in recognition of all the children who attended the school and those that did not make it home.
Other local businesses Cloud City Apparel, Dave Ralla Real Estate and Jays Lace It Up committed to matching Twin City Brewing’s donation.
After consulting with survivors, the nation opened a bank account at Bank of Montreal (BMO) under the name “Tseshaht AIRS.”
Businesses and individuals have two options to donate:
1. E-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org (please comment or make a note that it is a “Tseshaht AIRS donation”).
2. Write a cheque to Tseshaht First Nation and deliver or mail it (5091 Tsuma-as Drive, Port Alberni, B.C., V9Y 8X9) with a note that it is a “Tseshaht AIRS donation.”
Over the coming weeks and months, Tseshaht First Nation says it will be researching and gathering names of former AIRS students to prepare for the construction of a memorial that will include a gazebo sometime in 2022.
The nation is also reaching out to the federal government for some funding to replace the two remaining AIRS buildings on Tseshaht First Nation land (Maht Mahs gymnasium and Caldwell Hall).
“We want to build a multiplex to help provide a space for health, wellness and healing for Tseshaht, Nuu-chah-nulth and survivors,” said Tseshaht Elected Chief Councillor Wahmeesh (Ken Watts) in a letter. “This multiplex would include a new gymnasium, office space, a fitness gym, kitchen and possibly a smaller hall.”
The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) board of directors agreed to provide a letter of support for Tseshaht’s request during a July 28 meeting.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is offering toll-free 24-hour telephone support for survivors and their families at 1 (866) 925-4419. KUU-US Crisis Line Society’s 24-hour line is available at 1-800-588-8717.