To honour the 215 Indigenous children who lost their lives while attending residential school in Kamloops, Douglas College and the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) have affixed local trees with 215 orange ribbons.
At the New Westminster Campus, ribbons were tied to trees last week at the crossing of Royal Avenue and Eighth Street. Near the Coquitlam Campus, they can be seen in three trees at Pinetree Way and Town Centre Boulevard.
The ribbons will remain in the trees until Jan. 9 — exactly 215 days.
“The discovery of the 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School is heartbreaking,” said Dave Seaweed, Indigenous Student Services Coordinator at the College. “In this difficult time, we offer our prayers and support for Indigenous people whose lives have been impacted by residential schools, for those who are descendants of residential school survivors, and for those whom this news has subjected to more pain and trauma.
“In solidarity with them, these ribbons acknowledge and honour the 215 children and their families."
The ribbon-tying was proposed by Aly Hillaby, a third-year Bachelor of Social Work student, a Student Assistant with Indigenous Student Services and the Indigenous Students’ Representative on the DSU’s Board of Directors. She is from the Pinaymootang and Kitasoo First Nations.
“When I attended elementary and high school, there were no discussions about residential schools, and barely any on Indigenous cultures,” said Hillaby. “My hope is that the sight of 215 ribbons for 215 days will promote the need for change in Canada and will remind people of how much residential schools have taken away: lives, families, community, culture, languages and self-esteem.
“There were 51 reported deaths at the Kamloops residential school, but 215 bodies found. There were 130 residential schools across Canada. Their impact passes through generations, and the conversation and awareness-building must continue.” Indigenous people have been talking about mass graves existing at residential schools for decades, said Deepa Singh, the DSU’s Campus Life Organizer.
“The children's remains found at the Kamloops Residential School was not an isolated incident. Graves have been found in Brandon, Regina and Lestock,” she said.
“We must listen to Indigenous voices,” Singh added. “We must believe Indigenous voices. Let us unlearn misinformation, relearn the truth and take action. We’re aiming for these ribbons, visible and accessible to the broader community, to be one step in that ongoing process.” To prevent any arboreal damage, the inch-wide, grosgrain ribbons were fastened to the bark without staples or nails.
Throughout the month of June – National Indigenous History Month – Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus sign at Royal Avenue and Eighth Street is lit orange as another way to honour the 215 children.
Douglas College is the largest degree-granting college in B.C., combining the academic foundations of a university and the employer-ready skills of a college to graduate resilient global citizens who adapt, innovate and lead in a changing world. For more information, visit douglascollege.ca
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