On May 27th, 2021 the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc announced that with ground penetrating radar, they found 215 remains of children on the grounds of a former residential school.
The announcement shocked Canadians, most of us whom knew about the horrors of residential schools, yet couldn’t fathom the thought of so many children losing their lives away from family and loved ones and not even being acknowledged with a grave or headstone.
Like most people, I felt helpless but also sad and guilty for being able to live my life as a Canadian settler without the knowledge of these unmarked graves and only learning more about residential schools outside of a Canadian public school curriculum.
In response, I decided to paint 215 wild flowers found in the Kamloops area as a tribute to pay my respects to the children who never made it back home.
I was lucky enough to have a friend I met through Instagram express interest in this piece. In exchange for the painting, Sharon made a donation to an organization that supports Indigenous people of her choice: the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society.
Sharon is a professor at the Fashion Design and Technology Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and she has even used my painting to discuss Truth and Reconciliation.
Change is slow but hopefully settlers can keep our government accountable for all the promises toward reconciliation it has made and we’ll be able to see past wrongs rectified.