Nanaimo honoured and mourned 215 children whose remains were discovered outside a Kamloops residential school, and also gave to a good cause.
Kw’umut Lelum issued a press release Friday, June 11, thanking organizers of a May 31 vigil that resulted in more than $4,000 in donations to the child and family service agency.
Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris said in the press release that they were grateful to event organizers Tsatassaya White and Anna McKenzie for thinking of Kw’umut Lelum.
Those who attended the vigil were asked to consider donating plush toys with donations pinned to the stuffies. White said the idea came from Musqueam Elder Gina Grant who told her children in residential schools weren’t allowed toys.
“I know that the money and the toys collected will go to help our children in care and our families who are still suffering the effects of colonization and that it’s going to an amazing organization who will support health and wellness programs in our communities,” White said in the release.
Bill Yoachim, executive director of Kw’umut Lelum, said in the release that the money will go to cultural and wellness programming and contribute to developing positive Indigenous self-identity. He added that the toys will be cleansed in a cultural ceremony, as they were given by people who may have been experiencing hurt and sadness.
“We don’t want to pass on that grief through these toys,” Yoachim said.
He said Kw’umut Lelum strives for a different approach from child welfare systems that place disproportionate numbers of Indigenous children in foster care.
“Our Nations have made it clear that their children need to stay with their families, with their communities – and that is what we are doing at KL today,” he said in the release.
Kw’umut Lelum noted that it is seeing a decrease in the number of children in care and an increase in children supported by the agency to remain either with their parents, or with other family members in their home community.