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We Stand Together: Vivian Ketchum

Warning: This post contains details some readers may find distressing.

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. On June 24, 2021, the discovery of 751 unmarked graves was announced near a former Saskatchewan residential school.

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

Vivian Ketchum is an accomplished freelance photographer and writer, winning the Citizen Journalism Award in 2015 and the Presbyterian Record in 2016. As a writer, Vivian understands the importance of storytelling and ensuring stories are not forgotten.

“I understand when the story dies out, and you move on to the next news of the day, we need to keep our stories out there. The media needs to keep on this and find other ways to keep this story alive.”

When the news surfaced of 215, the shocking revelation was incredibly impactful to Vivian, as both she and her parents are residential school survivors. As a survivor, the wounds of the oppressive institution cut deeply, but she has healed enough to share her story. However, asking someone about their experiences could do more harm than good.

“For others who really want to learn, don’t go up and ask a survivor, as you can’t know what state of healing they are at, especially as this story is opening up a lot of old wounds. You may do more harm by asking them about their stories. There are a lot of books with information or places where you can talk to survivors who are healthy enough. There are other ways you can help by advocating on our behalf by the Catholic Church or politicians.”

She adds there is much more an ally can do than just asking to hear survivor’s stories by advocating for real action from those in power, not just sharing empty words.

Hear from other voices of Manitoba:

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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