Ceremony offers opportunity for closure

St. Michael's Indian Residential School ceremony Feb. 18

With shouts of “Close that door!” piercing the air, a bulldozer ripped through the entryway of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School bringing a symbolic end to a dark period in Canadian history.

The destruction, followed by the opportunity to release pain and anger by throwing stones and pieces of brick through the glass windows of the school, was part of an I’tustolagalis – Rising up, Together – pre-demolition ceremony held at Alert Bay Wednesday, Feb. 18.

St. Michael’s school, which opened in 1929, held aboriginal children from northern Vancouver Island, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, the Nisga’a territories and Haida Gwaii. It closed in 1975.

“St. Michael’s is a symbol and stark reminder of a dark chapter in our history,” said John Rustad, B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, in a release.

“More than 150,000 Aboriginal children in Canada were removed from their homes and placed in government-funded, church-run schools like St. Michael’s. We recognize the deep scars inflicted on children who attended these schools. And we acknowledge and honour the courage of survivors, their families and all those who suffered. As we look to the future, we share a great hope and optimism for healing and reconciliation,” said Rustad.

The ceremony included drumming, prayers and the lighting of candles as well as a moment of silence for children who never returned from the school.

The day was filled with pain and many tears, but also hope for the future.

“We want to turn our own page. We are the only ones who can turn our own page,” said Alex Nelson.

“It is my great honour to stand here today, to welcome you to the ancestral lands of the ‘Namgis people, to celebrate our resilience and to support one another on our healing journeys,” said ‘Namgis Chief Debra Hanuse.

“It’s a real honour to be a survivor’s voice today,” to speak “for all the little children from across this land who had to come to schools like this,” said Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, Reconciliation Canada ambassador.

Joseph said children were taken from their homes and placed in 130 schools like St. Michael’s where they were stripped of their language and their culture.

“It’s difficult to comprehend how people could treat other people the way they treated us,” he said.

“This is such an historic moment for us. This building is a blight upon this land and a blight upon our consciousness,” he said.

Graduation is typically a time of celebration, but Joseph, who was taken away from his family and placed in the school at the age of five, remembers when the time came for him to leave “I stood at those steps broken and in despair.”

But, “it’s not all sadness,” he said. “People agree with us that we can build a new future together. You’re part of something great,” he told the crowd.

“We can change the world. We are not alone any more,” he said.

“We’re not going to be victims forever. We’re going to heal and one day we will be free.”

“I am humbled to be here today. I present a part of my heart that is heavy, that is dark,” said Anglican Diocese of British Columbia Bishop Logan McMenamie.

“These children suffered physical, sexual, cultural abuse. On behalf of myself, I reiterate our (the Anglican Church’s) apology to you, McMenamie said.

“We were wrong and we failed you.

“I am sorry that we failed you. That we failed ourselves and that we failed the Creator,” he said.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Christmas decorations at Gus' Pub. (Opal Tesch photo)
Gus’ Bar and Grill gets into the holiday spirit

Gus’ Bar and Grill has been a fixture in Port McNeill since… Continue reading

Mike Aldersey, the Port McNeill base manager for West Coast Helicopters has been awarded the prestigious Agar/Stringer Award by the Helicopter Association of Canada. (Submitted photo)
Vancouver Island pilot receives coveted helicopter industry award

Port McNeill based Mike Aldersey is the recipient of the 2o2o Agar/Stringer Award given out to select few Canadians

The notice at Port Hardy Secondary School’s athletic track. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
SD85 school tracks closed to the public during school hours

To keep P.E. classes safe, the restriction went into effect Nov. 30

Shoebox Project logo
Donate now to the Campbell River/North Island Shoebox Project

There is just over a week to go in The Campbell River/North Island Shoebox Project campaign

The entrance to the Port Hardy aquatic centre. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Port Hardy council will decide fate of pool revitalization project at next meeting

The pool revitalization project will be on the agenda at the Dec. 8 meeting for council to vote on.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are inviting audiences into their home for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’. (Submitted)
Natalie MacMaster coming to you through Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Here’s your chance to enjoy the famed fiddler in an online show with her husband Donnell Leahy.

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Most Read