'It's genocide': Alberta Indigenous leaders welcome name removals of residential school architects, but call for further action

Students from the Old Sun Residential School which was located at Siksika Nation until it 1971, when it was changed to the Old Sun Community College.

A day after Premier Jason Kenney said it was 'cancel culture' to remove names of residential school architects from Calgary schools, Siksika Chief Ouray Crowfoot said the names had to go and that was just the start.

The news of name removals of some of Canada’s prominent residential school architects came just days after the remains of 215 children were found in a mass unmarked grave at the site of a former Kamloops, B.C. residential school.

Crowfoot said he agreed with removing names of schools, adding that much more has to be done.

“It was genocide. Changing a name, removing a statue? That’s not going to bring these bodies back, that’s not going to heal these,” Crowfoot said.

“Now I’m not saying erase history," he added. "We have to acknowledge it and let people know why it was these names were removed and not a simple, spell check, delete and put a new name on there.

"These names were removed for a reason," he said, continuing. "These churches need to come out and acknowledge what happened, why it happened, you know not a simple whitewash, not a brush under the rug.”

Crowfoot added that proper action must be taken, which starts with education at young age and raising awareness of what actually happened.

His mother, Amelia attended the Old Sun Residential School on Siksika Nation land decades ago, where she was brutally beaten for speaking her native Blackfoot language.

Crowfoot went on to say that other students lost their traditional names, practices and culture because the whole goal of the residential school system was to ‘kill the Indian, save the child.’

“We cannot let these bodies be dug up in vain, these kids lives were taken, they need to stand for something,” Crowfoot said.

“We cannot whitewash our history; we have to teach people what really happened in these residential schools and we need to go back to these areas at these schools and do the work necessary.”

The Old Sun Residential School was transformed into the Old Sun Community College back in 1971.

Crowfoot's mother, Amelia, served more than 30 years as the school's president prior to her passing in 2019.

KENNEY: IT'S CANCEL CULTURE TO REMOVE NAMES OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL ARCHITECTS 

Crowfoot's comments came in response to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's comments Tuesday, when he said he believes in honouring and recognizing Canada’s founders of confederation, despite their historically racist policies such as residential schools.

“If we go full force into cancel culture, then we’re cancelling most if not all of our history,” Kenney said at a Tuesday press conference.

“Instead, I think we should learn from our achievements, but also our failures.”

Kenney’s remarks came just hours after the Calgary Board of Education announced it would change the name of Sir Hector-Louis Langevin School – a prominent contributor to residential schools – and revert to its former name of Riverside School.

The Calgary Catholic School Board has also decided to consult with stakeholders on whether or not Bishop Grandin High School should be renamed.

Tuesday Kenny said he wasn’t aware of the name change, but called it wrong to create a new standard of cancelling any figure historically associated with injustices.

He went on to say that that he co-sponsored a bill in the House of Commons to recognize a ‘Sir John A. MacDonald Day’ to acknowledge Canada’s founding prime minister.

“It’s an imperfect country, but it’s still a great country,” he said.

“If we want to get into debate about cancelling Canadian history, we need to understand that it means all of our history.  I think that kind of destructive spirit is not really the spirit of reconciliation, which is to learn from the wrongs of the past, to seek remedy while knowing our history and moving forward together.”

ALBERTA LEADS IN RESDIENTIAL SCHOOL DEATHS

According to volume four of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, the highest number of deaths in residential schools (both reported and unreported) across the country occurred in Alberta.

Canada had 146 residential schools and at least 25 were in Alberta.

According to research conducted by University of Calgary sociology professor Cora Voyageur, there were about 4,200 students estimated to have died in Canadian residential schools.

“There is a lot of work to be done and I don’t for one minute believe that the preliminary findings from the Kamloops Indian Residential School is an isolated incident,” she said.

“There are many more secret cemeteries attached to residential schools across Canada.”

Voyageur is a residential school survivor herself, having attended the Holy Angels Residential School in Fort Chipewyan, Alta.

She called for greater awareness and acceptance amongst others, along with action.

“We had a residential school in our community for 100 years so we had generations and generations of families go through this system and I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed, we just want people to know the history,” she said.

“I would just like to ask that the relationship between Indigenous people and mainstream society start again and that we are seen as contributors to our great country.”