On May 28, 2021 it was reported in the news media that the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found buried on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia. A second announcement on June 23, 2021 reported in excess of 600 hundred remains of Indigenous children have been found in unmarked graves at Marieval Indian Residential School on the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. On June 30, 2021 a third discovery of 182 human remains have been found by the Lower Kootaney Band at the St. Eugene’s Mission School in Cranbrook, British Columbia. On July 12, 2021 the Penelakut Tribe in British Columbia’s Southern Gulf Islands uncovered a fourth site with more than 160 “undocumented and unmarked” graves linked to the Kuper Island Residential School. Tragically, it brings to light a painfully devastating history of genocide that is all too familiar to Indigenous people in Canada.
In 2018, Ace created the work How can you expect me to reconcile, when I know the truth? during his OCADU Nigig Visiting Artist Residency addressing this horrific and shameful legacy of the residential schools and the pain and suffering the survivors who attended them, along with their families and communities who are still enduring these memories and inter-generational trauma and culture loss.
This work is dedicated to the memory of all children of these residential schools and their families. It is a call for debwewin (truth) and public awareness about this devastating scar on Canada’s history. We must never forget what happened at these schools, and Canada must fully address and implement the Calls to Action tabled by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission if we are ever going to collectively heal.
In two earlier works from 1997, Ace also addresses the devastating impact of residential school. Splendour in the Grass and Public Dream / Private Myth are included here in the sidebar images.
For more information on the Spanish Residential Schools (St. Joseph for Girls and St. Peter Claver for Boys) in Spanish, Ontario: The Shingwauk Project. Residential School Research, Archive, and Visitor Centre. Algoma University