Students at Ecole la Prairie were adorning trees outside their school with heart-shaped messages on National Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday.
For the project Chaque Enfant Compte (Every Child Matters), students at the francophone school decorated paper hearts in remembrance of the 215 found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
“Every kid matters,” said Grade 6 student Felix Maltais.
He said when people see the hearts he hoped they will think about respecting one another, and being fair.
“They are going to stay up all summer long so that everyone can see them. It’s a beautiful message,” added Grade 6 student Maya Bryant about the hearts.
In May, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation announced that the remains of 215 children were found buried on the site of a former Kamloops residential school. The school operated between 1890 and 1969.
In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day, students also attended an outdoor drum ceremony led by the Black Horse Singers.
Principal Jean Doyon said it was the first time for such an event at the school.
“We’re really happy to have them. I think it will be a good way to share their culture with us,” Doyon said.
Maltais said it was the first time he has seen an Indigenous drum circle and dancer perform.
“It was fun to see in real life, not just on the Internet,” Maltais said.
In a statement, Mayor Tara Veer encouraged all Red Deerians to extend recognition and honour to Indigenous peoples during National Indigenous Peoples Day, and every day, in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation.
“The City of Red Deer acknowledges the Indigenous traditional territories represented by Treaty 6 and Treaty 7 as the land the city is situated on. This land is also acknowledged by the city as an historic Métis gathering site. The goal of the City of Red Deer is to work together with Indigenous and Métis peoples in building welcoming and inclusive community life,” Veer said.
“Central Alberta is a significant historical landscape of the ancestral territories of the Cree, Blackfoot and Métis people. It was a place to meet in peace and trade, hold ceremonies and co-exist. It was an area that marked the crossing of the province from north to south, as well as a place for traders to venture into the mountains in the west, with east of Red Deer marking the largest Métis Settlement West of Red River.
“The first Europeans to arrive here found a populated continent with thriving cultures and extraordinary traits of skill, bravery, consensus and compassion. Indigenous peoples who met those who came here to settle taught newcomers the medicines, food sources, mode of dress, and other methods of transport that allowed them to survive.”
She said challenges exist for Indigenous peoples to reclaim their legal and rightful place in Canada, but there is a renewed sense of empowerment.
“We stand with you in remembering the past, and look forward to affirming our relationship and partnership in actioning our local commitment to Truth and Reconciliation,” Veer said.