A memorial stone for four residential school students who died almost 100 years ago now sits in the Red Deer Cemetery.
The Remembering the Children Society unveiled the monument in honour of Jane Baptiste, Georgina House, David Lightning and Sarah Soosay at the cemetery on Thursday.
Richard Lightning, society president and nephew of David Lightning, said it was an emotional moment for many.
“My daughter had tears in her eyes. That’s the kind of emotion you see here,” said Lightning, who is a residential school survivor.
The four children attended Red Deer Industrial School, which had one of the highest mortality rates in Canada before closing in 1919. During the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, they died and were buried in the Red Deer Cemetery.
Before the stone was unveiled to the public on Thursday, there was a pipe ceremony in honour of the children.
“The spirits have been freed to go into the spirit world,” said Lightning. “The monument is beautiful and it certainly represents the little warriors that never made it home.”
READ MORE: Memorial stone to be unveiled in Red Deer
Following the pipe ceremony and prior to the stone unveiling multiple people spoke about residential schools and reconciliation at the Roland Michener Recreation Centre.
Lightning said he wants all people understand what his family went through at these schools.
“We want to create awareness to mainstream society because many people don’t understand.
“There’s a lot of work ahead. I may not be around to do it, but someone will,” said Lightning.
A number of students from the Red Deer Public School District and Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools were in attendance for the ceremony.
“I was very happy to see young urban students listening and learning. They can go home and hopefully tell their parents what they learned,” he said.
Hayley Christen, coordinator of Red Deer Public Schools’ First Nations Métis and Inuit Learning Service, said it’s important students learn about what Aboriginal people went through.
“They are the future generation who will carry on the work of reconciliation,” Christen said. “The children who attended residential schools weren’t honoured or remembered when they died and for who they were.”