After carefully planting a lodgepole pine, Scarlett Purdaby and Reuben Roy at Salmon Arm West Elementary put the finishing touch on by adding water. Twenty nine trees were planted on April 28 in recognition of the children who did not return from the Kamloops Residential School. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

After carefully planting a lodgepole pine, Scarlett Purdaby and Reuben Roy at Salmon Arm West Elementary put the finishing touch on by adding water. Twenty nine trees were planted on April 28 in recognition of the children who did not return from the Kamloops Residential School. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Students in Salmon Arm plant trees to honour residential school children

Salmon Arm West Elementary holds tree planting ceremony for children who didn’t return from Kamloops

This article contains content about residential schools that may be triggering.

The children who did not return from the Kamloops Residential School were honoured at Salmon Arm West Elementary by students and staff in a way that would recognize them for years to come.

On April 28, students planted trees in the field behind the school, following a ceremony at the school’s Shannon Sharp Learning Circle.

“We hope that our small act of truth and reconciliation helps create a natural learning space for students now and for generations to come,” wrote Principal David Wellingham in an invitation.

Knowledge keeper John Jules spoke to Salmon Arm West students and guests gathered in the sunshine. He spoke of life in his community, culture and traditions. He said children in his community would learn by listening to the language. He said he attended residential school but was fortunate enough to keep his language.

As he spoke, he stopped to acknowledge an eagle flying nearby.

Read more: Gathering in Salmon Arm honours ‘tiny ancestors’ at Kamloops residential school site

He spoke of having a good teacher in Grade 8 when he went to public school in Kamloops who helped him succeed with his studies, how he carried on to be on the honour roll and participate in a number of sports.

He said it’s wonderful when people come from all over the world to Quaaout Lodge to learn aboug the culture of the different First Nations in the Secwépemc territory, Secwepemcúĺecw.

“Today’s the time we remember the young ones that went on to the residential school that never returned home,” he said, going on to speak of the Indigenous people who have walked from far and wide to Kamloops.

“You know, our people walk, some of them come from the Yukon, walk for months on end… Some of the people come from Manitoba, walking on the highway all the ways to Kamloops. Even some come up from the United States that were walking. All parts of our Secwépemc territory, people come to walk. They come there to bring home the spirits of the ones who never made it back home. Yes. And one day as you get older you will learn more.”

Read more: Winnipeg walker stops in Salmon Arm on journey to Kamloops with tiny moccasins

Read more: From Saskatchewan to Salmon Arm, walker speaks of wish for healing for all people

He said earlier that morning he lit the smudge where the trees are going.

“Sometimes we have tobacco, we put tobacco in there, sage, those kinds of things that we do, we will do our prayers. And when we do our prayers we always have water with us. Water’s the most powerful thing on earth.”

He taught the children a couple of Secwépemc words that everyone said together. He said one means humans are related to the grass and to the trees.

“That’s the knowledge we have. All the things we consume, all the berries out there, all the plants we used to eat. It all comes from mother earth. Kukwstsétsemc. (Thank you)”

He spoke about prayers and gratitude.

“See all those trees that we’re going to plant, that they grow very tall and healthy and that we not forget…”

Read more: Hearts fill with emotion as children’s spirits return from Kamloops to Splatsin

Mishel Quaal, District Principal for Indigenous Education, told the gathering her heart was smiling inside when she looked at all the wonderful faces. She expressed her appreciation for all those who contributed to the day.

She said she wanted the children to carry their joy and happiness through the day as part of the Salmon Arm West family.

“Keep that with you today as you think about reconciliation, as you think about the children, as you think about why we’re doing this. We’re doing this in hope for a better future. And when you come back, once you’re in Grade 10, maybe 12, maybe when you come back and you’re my age and you look at these beautiful trees and they’re growing up to the sky, think about that smile that’s inside of your heart here today.”

Read more: Orange Shirt Day: Salmon Arm students connect through the land

Read more: Reconciliation project at Salmon Arm school catches elder’s eye

Amanda Krebs, chair of the School District 83 board of education, said she is very hopeful for the students’ generation.

“My generation, the generation before me, we didn’t do a very good job of taking care of people, so I hope when we plant these trees that you’ll remember that our actions matter, how we treat people matters, how we treat the land matters…”

She also said she was happy to see the Sewcépemc flag flying at the school, adding they will be flown at every school in the district.

Principal Wellingham expressed his thanks to everyone who put the day together. Among them, he thanked Barb Craven with the BC Small Wetlands Association, who put in grant proposals which made the tree planting possible.

He also thanked Kim Fulton, Molly Cooperman and Brenda Melnychuk from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation who made sure the plants went into the ground properly, Diane Jewell who made bannock for all the guests, the parent advisory council members for all their contributions, and for Jake Jakobsen’s class who dug 29 holes for the 29 trees.



martha.wickett@saobserver.net
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Secwépemc knowledge keeper John Jules speaks to students, staff and guests at Salmon Arm West Elementary during a tree planting ceremony on April 28 to honour the children who didn’t come home from the Kamloops residential school. In the background are some of the trees about to be planted. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Secwépemc knowledge keeper John Jules speaks to students, staff and guests at Salmon Arm West Elementary during a tree planting ceremony on April 28 to honour the children who didn’t come home from the Kamloops residential school. In the background are some of the trees about to be planted. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Small orange flags mark the 29 trees planted April 28 on the grounds of Salmon Arm West Elementary, with Mt. Ida in the background. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Elementary)

Small orange flags mark the 29 trees planted April 28 on the grounds of Salmon Arm West Elementary, with Mt. Ida in the background. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Elementary)

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