The Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations will come together on July 1 to honour children lost to residential schools as well as residential school survivors.
The gathering is planned for 7 p.m. at Victoria Quay in Port Alberni, along the Somass River.
“Our two nations are coming together,” Tseshaht Chief Councillor Wahmeesh Ken Watts said. “This is not about our differences, it’s about honouring those children and honouring those who attended residential school.”
Hupacasath First Nation Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder gave credit to Tseshaht First Nation for starting the conversation about holding a gathering. “They thought it was important.
“We don’t want to interrupt people’s Canada Day celebrations,” so the event is planned for evening, she added. All members of the public are welcome to attend.
A display for the 215 children whose remains were discovered in an unmarked burial site in Kamloops will be put up. The discovery was made in May by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“It’s to help survivors and people for understanding and getting through the healing process. We would like it to be visible,” Lauder said.
July 1 was chosen specifically for this event, Watts said. “While Canada Day is some things to some people, we wanted to honour these children…We can all agree it’s been a tough few weeks for our survivors, especially.”
The gathering was planned in response to community requests, he added. “Some of our council and hereditary chiefs have been calling for us to do something on this upcoming day.”
Ed Ross and others from Tseshaht First Nation joined members from Hupacasath First Nation to plan the gathering.
Organizers are encouraging people to wear orange shirts to the event, and for Indigenous relatives to bring their drums, rattles and regalia for some singing. Lauder and Watts are scheduled to speak and there will be others with speeches as well. A representative of Port Alberni City Council has been invited, Watts said.
Snacks and water will be provided.