Message from Incoming AVP, Indigenous Engagement

By Lori Campbell Posted: May 31, 2021 10:00 a.m.

Lori Campbell is the Incoming Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Engagement at the University of Regina.
Lori Campbell is the Incoming Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Engagement at the University of Regina. Photo provided by Lori Campbell.

It is with deep sadness that my inaugural statement as the Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Engagement at the University of Regina is in response to the tragic news of the uncovering of a mass burial site containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the residential school site inTk’emlúps te Secwépemc. It has been confirmed that some of these children were as young as three years old. 

Residential schools existed from 1863 until 1996 and more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were forced to attend. That is seven generations of Indigenous peoples over the course of 150 years. Many survivors are still alive today, including some within my own family. 

Between 2008 and 2014, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) heard and documented the testimonies of approximately 7,000 residential school survivors. The summary report states that, "Residential schooling was always more than simply an educational program: it was an integral part of a conscious policy of cultural genocide." 

Conservative estimates suggest that the odds of children dying in residential schools over the years they operated were the same as for Canadian soldiers during World War II. Those who did make it out suffered unimaginable trauma from the violence of physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. The lasting effect of the intergenerational trauma is still deeply felt today in our communities. 

It is said that the deaths of the 215 children were not documented by the residential school, however our old ones have told us of these deaths. Our families knew when their children did not come home. They were loved. They were missed. They were grieved. 

Here in Regina, we have our own story of such horrors. The Regina Indian Industrial School, which operated as a residential school from 1891 to1910 has at least 38 children buried at the site. The Regina Indian Industrial School Commemorative Association worked for years to raise public awareness and finally received provincial heritage status in July 2017. 

For those who have not done so yet, I encourage you to read the TRC Final Report and Calls to Action. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring steps are taken to address the Calls to Action in our institutions, and, more broadly, in our communities. 

My heartfelt condolences go out to Chief Rosanne Casimir and the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community as well as Indigenous communities and nations across Turtle Island as we collectively grieve and come together to support one another. Every time we bring our children home, I am reminded of what my old ones tell me, “Remember, we are more than our trauma, victimization, and pain. Our experiences and our stories are stories about Indigenous survival and the undeniable strength of our ancestors.” As much as we suffer from intergenerational trauma, we also hold intergenerational strength and wisdom. We honour the children and their families and will not forget. 

The University of Regina has lowered its flag to half-mast to honour those children, as well as the thousands of children who are still missing. 

Kiskisitotawātānik, let’s remember them, aniki kīkā kākī-pīkiwīcik, those that did not come home.

Lori Campbell

Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Engagement