Non-Indigenous people — here’s what you can do, right now

7 ways to support Indigenous people grieving in wake of news about 215 children.

This article contains content about residential schools that may be triggering. Support for survivors and their families is available. Call the Indian Residential School Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066 or 1-866-925-4419 for the 24-7 crisis line. The KUU-US Crisis Line Society also offers 24-7 support at 250-723-4050 for adults, 250-723-2040 for youth, or toll-free at 1-800-588-8717.

Communities across so-called Canada are grieving after the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Many Indigenous people are overwhelmed with the tasks of caring for themselves, their families and communities. And many non-Indigenous people are wondering what they can do to help.

This article is a collaboration between The Discourse and IndigiNews. It seeks to amplify calls to action from Indigenous people and communities that have been shared in recent days. We’ve drawn heavily from this list of actions shared by the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s 94 calls to action, and conversations between IndigiNews reporters and Indigenous leaders at the forefront of this work. 

Here are seven ways that non-Indigenous allies can support healing for Indigenous people in the wake of this tragedy.

1. Donate to organizations that support residential school survivors and their families.

2. Learn about the residential school system and its ongoing impacts. 

3. Call on your MP and other elected representatives to take action.

  • Ask for the perpetrators of crimes against Indigenous children to be held accountable for their actions.
  • Demand a comprehensive search for unmarked graves at all residential school sites, as per the TRC’s call to action #75. 
  • Demand that the Kamloops Indian Residential School and other residential schools be protected and funded as heritage memorial sites.
  • Ask for place names, such as schools and public parks, to be renamed if they bear the name of individuals involved with residential schools.
  • Demand action to end ongoing colonial violence against Indigenous children, which leaves them subject to disproportional abuse, violence, sickness and death.
  • Demand action on the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth involved in the child-welfare system.
Due to colonial policies and systemic racism, Indigenous children are grossly overrepresented in child-welfare systems across the country. Screenshot from Indigenous Services Canada’s website.

4. Demand action from the Catholic Church.

  • Demand an apology from the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church,  as per the TRC’s call to action #58.
  • Demand that lands owned by the church be returned to Indigenous Peoples.

5. Prioritize the safety of survivors and their families when sharing this story and others like it.

  • Understand that many Indigenous people are retraumatized right now and that many truths are coming to the surface. Images, news articles and personal recollections of residential school experiences are triggering. 
  • Lead with a content warning and include information on support services for those affected when sharing images, news articles or other information.

6. Talk to non-Indigenous friends, family and children about the residential school system and its ongoing impacts.

Prioritize Indigenous-led resources to ground your conversations with others. (This IndigiNews story includes many resources created by Indigenous people.)

7. Attend memorial events where non-Indigenous people are invited.

Many are taking place virtually and can be viewed after the fact. Wear orange to demonstrate your support for survivors and their families.

The Discourse is indebted to the wisdom and expertise of the team at IndigiNews for helping us understand how to contribute to this story in a respectful way that honours survivors and intergenerational survivors of Canada’s residential schools. As sister media organizations, we are committed to trauma-informed ethical reporting, which involves taking time and care, self-location, transparency and safety care plans for those who come forward with stories to share.

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