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We Stand Together: Ray (Coco) Stevenson

On May 27, the First Nations community was shaken when the remains of 215 First Nations children were found in unmarked graves on what was once a Catholic-run Residential School in Kamloops, B.C. Some of the children were as young as three years old.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,

“Residential Schools for Indigenous people in Canada date back to the 1870s. Over 130 residential schools were located across the country, and the last school closed in 1996. These government-funded, church-run schools were set up to eliminate parental involvement in Indigenous children’s intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were placed in these schools during this era, often against their parents’ wishes. Many were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. While there are an estimated 80,000 former students living today, the ongoing impact of residential schools has been felt throughout generations and has contributed to social problems that continue to exist.”

These are the voices of our First Nations pained by the loss, frustrated by systemic racism and oppression, and the stories of survivors.

Ray “Coco” Stevenson is a well-known traditional singer and drummer from Manitoba and has seen the devastating effects Residential Schools had on survivors living in Winnipeg. 

“I can only speak for Winnipeg and not the rest of Canada, but we did have a lot of people who ended up losing everything because of that. People with families who couldn’t look after their children because some were too involved in drowning their sorrows from some of the things they had to endure. What they went through in Residential Schools is something you can never forget as it is planted in your mind. I’m almost positive when you talk to Residential School survivors; nearly every day, one or more thoughts go through their heads haunt them.”

Indian Residential School Survivors Society

A helpline for residential school survivors can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is a British Columbia-based organization providing services to residential school survivors for over 20 years. It started by helping residential school survivors navigate the court systems and has since expanded to help residential school survivors and engage in community education for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. You can donate here.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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