Thamesville memorial honours 215 residential children found in unmarked grave

A memorial to honour the 215 Indigenous children that were found in an unmarked grave at a former residential school in B.C. grows near Thamesville in Chatham-Kent.

Chatham teacher Mary Kate McTavish organized the day-long vigil, where people have been leavingflowers, small shoes, stuffed animals and candles at the Tecumseh monument.

“It’s so important to educate our children and us as adults as well, so we don’t have to answer those questions again for another generation.”

McTavish says volunteers give people information pamphlets about residential schools and orange ribbons in exchange for attending. She notes the memorial must remain drive-thru style in order to follow COVID-19 public health restrictions.

“I know that there is a lot more out there and there is a lot more that we can do to make things better in the future.”

Grade 12 student Holly Peters volunteered Friday morning, saying the event has special meaning.

“It’s hard on me because my grandparents and my great-grandparents went to residential school, so I feel that effect.”

Peters and friend Chanelle Kelly tell CTV News it’s important memorials like these bring attention to former residential schools.

“It shouldn’t be swept under the rug like nothing happened because it’s been going on for a while and it just sucks that it took 215 children.” Peters adds, “215 children for people to finally recognize how wrong Canada has done to indigenous people.”

Kelly believes this is just the start of eventual healing “I think that this is going to turn into something more and it’s sad that it’s just starting to be talked about. It should have been talked about years and years ago.”

People are encouraged to use the hashtag #ckhonours215 on social media with any posts or photos to spread awareness in the local community.