Responding to the Loss of 215 Indigenous Children

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On May 28, 2021, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia announced the tragic discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. As regional and nationwide church communities we grieve together with all the families and all those who have been impacted by the news of these deaths. We pray for all those who have memories and scars from their time in residential schools and for those who have been retraumatized by this discovery. 

Settler people of faith are grieving and wondering how to respond.


Through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) we as Mennonites have learned about the devastating impacts of residential schools on Indigenous children and their parents that will continue for future generations. Given the TRC 94 Calls to Action, we not only want to pray but also act in ways that can move in the direction of healing and reconciliation. We especially think of calls 48, 49, 59 and 61, which call for education, financial commitments and other meaningful ways in which practical help and reconciliation can be engaged.

Settler people of faith are grieving and wondering how to respond as the evil of Residential Schools is brought before us again in the heartbreaking form of 215 Indigenous children in a mass grave in Kamloops, BC.  The MCEC Truth and Reconciliation Working Group offers these ideas for responding in word, prayer and action: 

  • Believe Indigenous People - It has always been important for us as settlers to listen and believe when Indigenous People share stories of pain and injustice - from the past and the present.  As Settlers we need to respond to these stories in ways that show they are important to us and that we believe them.  

  • Give Indigenous People Space to Grieve - As heartbreaking as the discovery of the mass grave is for us as Settlers, it is infinitely more profound and painful for Indigenous People.  It will be important over the coming days and weeks for us as settlers to find ways to process our grief, guilt and shame without imposing the rawest form of it onto Indigenous People. It is understandable that we want to reach out, but remember that Indigenous People need space for their own grief without bearing ours as well.

  • Pray and Connect with Others - This prayer was written by Peter Haresnape of Toronto United Mennonite Church:

This morning as we gather to pray, my heart is dwelling on the discovery of mass graves of children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This is the place of pain right now, so it's where prayer begins.

Two hundred and fifteen bodies. Each with a name, a family. Each with a cause of death. There has been no coroner's inquest. No gravestone.

The full Truth of Canada's relationship with Indigenous Peoples is still buried.

That means that Reconciliation is a long way away.

There is no doubt that there are more discoveries to come. Each one is a fresh renewal of this trauma.

There are no adequate words. Together, we simply pray

May there be mourning

May there be outrage

May there be change

May there be answers for the grieving

May there be protection for children

May there be healing for the communities

May there be rest for the souls of the wounded

This, we pray.

  • Connect in prayer with Others Who Are Grieving - Bishop Mark MacDonald of the Anglican Church of Canada announces an online prayer gathering every day at 12 noon Eastern Time from every day this week with Rev. Vince Solomon of Epiphany Indigenous Church.  

  • Learn More - While the discovery of this mass grave is an undeniably painful tragedy - it is not news. Indigenous People have spoken out on past and present evils of colonialism for centuries. Settlers need to listen and learn. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report in 2015, including calls for the federal government and others to address issues of missing children and burial information. Those calls are outlined at Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 71 - 76

  • Here are some more resources to continue learning:
  • Commit to Long-term Action - The Truth and Reconciliation efforts in our churches and broader MCEC must make a long-term commitment to engage in the work required to dismantle the colonial structures and practices that continue to repress Indigenous people in our name and with our money.  We cannot put away our orange shirts and go back to sleep on these issues when this monumentally tragic news inevitably fades from the headlines.  Stay tuned for the MCEC Truth and Reconciliation Working Group report on concrete ways to get involved in work on Indigenous justice issues that emerged from our Treaty as Sacred Covenant series. 

  • More Information: