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To Honor and Educate, Unveiling of Syilx Indian Residential School Monument

November 28th, 2017

snpíntktn (Penticton), Syilx Territory: Today the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) held an official public unveiling ceremony for the new Syilx Indian Residential School monument. This monument is placed where the train and the cattle trucks came to gather Syilx children and take them away to Indian Residential Schools, next to the kł cpə̓ lk) stim̓ Hatchery, on the Penticton Indian Band reserve. Over 200 people attended the unveiling ceremony from both Syilx communities, including many Indian Residential School survivors, and general public at large..

The monument houses a series of five panels that are intended to educate all about the Syilx Nation and the effects of the Indian Residential School system had on our communities. As a central feature of the monument Syilx artist ‘Smoker’ Virgil Marchand created a sculpture titled “kwu səckm̓ antaʔx iʔ scəcmalaʔtət kl” citxwtət (Bringing Our Children Home)”. Marchand is a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, and himself a survivor of the Indian Residential School system. This sculpture is significant in that it honours the many ways in which we are calling those children who had been torn away from their parents, families, and communities back, to heal and move forward.

Overall, the purpose of this monument is to bring all communities together to acknowledge former Syilx students of the Indian Residential School system, while recognizing our continued resilience, culture and spirituality of the Syilx Nation. Eric Mitchell, a Syilx Indian Residential School survivor implored other Indian Residential School survivors to “Find it in your heart to share your story. The more you talk about it, the more you understand.”

The Indian Residential School system significantly impacted the Syilx Nation and the effects continue to be felt today. ONA Chairman, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip stated “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared that the Indian Residential School system represented a deliberate policy of cultural genocide perpetrated against the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. A policy designed to destroy and obliterate Indigenous languages, culture and Indigenous spirituality. Today’s ceremony seeks to honor the victims of the Residential School experience and celebrate the heroic resilience and ongoing recovery of our Residential School Survivors.”

About Indian Residential Schools: Starting in the 1800s and ending in 1996, the Indian Residential School system sought to aggressively assimilate Indian children and “take the Indian out of the child”. The Canadian government funded these schools, and most were run by religious denominations. The main focus was on removing children from their families, to strip away ancestral languages and cultures, and then replace them with English and Christianity.

For further information please contact:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, ONA Chairman: 1-250-490-5314

Jennifer Houde, ONA Wellness Manager: 1- 250-707-0095 ext. 128