A total of 215 orange marigolds have been planted at Williams Lake First Nation’s Sugar Cane community in honour of the children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Donated by Canadian Tire, the flowers were planted Wednesday, June 9, by students and staff from Little Chiefs Daycare and Primary School, as well as WLFN staff and community members.
Organized by Anna Gilbert, who chose marigolds because they will bloom until the ground freezes, the project will also include some signage and lighting.
She said one of the signs will read: “These 215 marigolds are to honour the 215 children who lay lost but never forgotten in the unmarked graves at the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc. May their little souls bloom from the protecting arms of Mother Earth and soar to the sun.”
Gilbert’s husband, WLFN Coun. Rick Gilbert, said the band wanted to do something.
“Anna does a lot of landscaping around the community and saw a perfect spot to plant some flowers.”
Marigolds were chosen because the colour orange would reflect the Every Child Matters and Orange Shirt Day.
Rick went to Canadian Tire and ordered 215 marigolds and did not ask for a discount or anything.
“The next morning the manager phoned me and said the marigolds were in and “no charge.” I asked if she was donating them and she said ‘yes.’”
When he arrived at the store, the manager also told him to pick out the nicest ones.
“We didn’t expect that, but it was super,” Rick said.
He praised the students for their help.
“Without them it would have taken us all day to put in the flowers. I am going to suggest to the band that maybe we rename that lane 215 Way or Survivor Way. We do have St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School site six kilometres away.”
People from Williams Lake are welcome to drive by to see the flowers and leave shoes or teddy bears if they choose, he added.
Coun. Shawna Philbrick said she was super proud of the support.
“The community came together to plant the marigolds at the last minute,” she said. “It looks amazing. There’s been a lot of traffic going by.”
Philbrick enjoyed planting with her nine-year-old daughter and other students from at Little Chiefs Primary School, she added.
“Just knowing that opportunity was taken away from other individuals, it’s very touching. It rained a bit, but I almost felt like it was tears from the students who attended residential school coming.”