IMPORTANT INFO: Youth, but not young children, will be able to come to the burning ceremony. The burning ceremony is in no way to be filmed, photographed, or recorded, organizers say. Young children can attend at noon for the vigil, when the ceremony has concluded.
Local Indigenous elders will lead burning ceremony in Mission’s Fraser River Heritage Park at 11 a.m., June 3, to speak about their experiences at St. Mary’s Residential School.
Three elders will speak, the burning ceremonies will have a food offering with traditional Indigenous foods, and a brush-off ceremony will cleanse off negative spirits afterwards.
“It’s going to be a heavy event,” said Augusta Gladstone, elder co-ordinator at Mission Friendship Centre. “Have an open mind and an open heart when you come.”
The event has been spurred on by the discovery of the bodies of 215 children on the grounds of Kamloops’ former residential school, after ground penetrating radar detected the remains.
The discovery has sparked calls for similar investigations to take place at residential schools across Canada, as well as further re-examination of the country’s colonialism.
Elders in Mission had a long meeting on Monday at the Mission Friendship Centre, May 31, to decide the format of the ceremonies. The elders will be supplying the traditional foods.
“When we put a little bit (of food) in the dish, we’re sending it off to the spirit world to feed the ones that didn’t get to eat. There was a lot of starvation at (St. Mary’s),” Gladstone said. “We wanted the elders’ input … because it was them that went through this experience.”
Attendees are encouraged to wear orange shirts, usually worn for Orange Shirt Day on September 30, in remembrance of Indigenous Children sent to residential schools. COVID protocols will be in place.
On June 17, Mission School District’s Principal of Aboriginal Education, Vivian Searwar, will gather with elders for a vigil of the original St. Mary’s Residential School.
Healing ceremonies may be planned in the future as well, Gladstone said.