Oct 12, 2021
In May 2021, a harrowing discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children was found buried at the former Kamloops Residential School. This tragedy sent shockwaves across the entire country and prompted many First Nations to begin radar ground searches for remains on former residential school grounds. Today, thousands of unmarked graves of children have been uncovered at the sites of various residential schools sites across Canada.
More than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children attended residential schools, dating back to 1870.1 These institutions, created by Christian churches and the Canadian government, were designed to forcibly separate Indigenous children from their families and strip them of their cultural practices, languages, and ways of life.2 These schools were also rampant with severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse—with a mortality rate between 40-60%3Over 130 residential schools were located across Canada, the last being closed in 1996.4 The impact of residential schools still lives on today, with effects of abuse felt throughout generations.
In solidarity with the survivors and relatives of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children who never made it home from residential schools, GDI employees worked together to make children’s slippers. These slippers represent the loss of the children’s natural path and acknowledge the stolen childhoods and lifelong trauma that is ongoing among survivors and their families and communities. The children’s slippers were then curated into a special display by Karon Shmon and Tracey Verishine and installed by Tracey Verishine, Brenda Hrycuik, George Gingras, and Ryan Nordmarken.
This display is located on the main floor of the GDI central office in Saskatoon, and was installed in commemoration for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th, which has recently become a federally recognized statutory holiday. September 30th originally began as Orange Shirt Day to acknowledge the painful experience of Phyllis Webstad, who was stripped of her orange shirt on the day she arrived at the residential school.
After the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the slippers were donated to the neonatal unit of the children’s hospital and some were sold to those who want them. All the profits will go to the local Residential School Survivors’ Group under the administration of the United Way.
Kahkiyaw lii zaañfaañ i sooñ sheer—Every Child Matters