Williams Lake First Nation turns to ceremony, one another in search of healing

Williams Lake First Nations Chief Willie Sellars leads the May 28 ceremony. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Williams Lake First Nations Chief Willie Sellars leads the May 28 ceremony. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Mike Retasket, cultural assistant from Bonaparte Indian Band, uses his eagle fan to brush participants in a ceremony honouring victims of Canada’s residential schools held Friday,May 28, at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake Campus field and organized by Williams Lake First Nation. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Mike Retasket, cultural assistant from Bonaparte Indian Band, uses his eagle fan to brush participants in a ceremony honouring victims of Canada’s residential schools held Friday,May 28, at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake Campus field and organized by Williams Lake First Nation. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake First Nation Elder Edith Wycotte gives WLFN Chief Willie Sellars a hug following a ceremony May 28. Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake TribuneWilliams Lake First Nation Elder Edith Wycotte gives WLFN Chief Willie Sellars a hug following a ceremony May 28. Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson speaks to the crowd May 28 in Williams Lake, calling for the government to support investigations of residential schools across the country, including St. Joseph’s Mission. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson speaks to the crowd May 28 in Williams Lake, calling for the government to support investigations of residential schools across the country, including St. Joseph’s Mission. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Chief Fred Robbins tells of his experience as an Indigenous person in Canada. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Chief Fred Robbins tells of his experience as an Indigenous person in Canada. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Cecil Sheena helps lead a ceremony May 28 to honour the 215 Indigenous children found at the former Kamloops residential school in May 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Cecil Sheena helps lead a ceremony May 28 to honour the 215 Indigenous children found at the former Kamloops residential school in May 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
WLFN cultural coordinator David Archie has been instrumental in leading traditional ceremonies for his community. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)WLFN cultural coordinator David Archie has been instrumental in leading traditional ceremonies for his community. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Participants of the May 28 ceremony in Williams Lake were brushed off using eagle feathers and sage. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Participants of the May 28 ceremony in Williams Lake were brushed off using eagle feathers and sage. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Drumming and singing is an important part of traditional Indigenous ceremonies. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Drumming and singing is an important part of traditional Indigenous ceremonies. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
(Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)(Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
(Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)(Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
(Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)(Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
(Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Cheryl Chapman and Mike Retasket. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Cheryl Chapman and Mike Retasket. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Chief Hank Adams and Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Chief Hank Adams and Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake First Nation Elder Edith Wycotte says a prayer to start the ceremonies Friday, May 28 to honour the lives of the 215 Indigenous children confirmed to be in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school.Williams Lake First Nation Elder Edith Wycotte says a prayer to start the ceremonies Friday, May 28 to honour the lives of the 215 Indigenous children confirmed to be in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school.
Cheryl Chapman holds up a picture of her mom, who was photographed before she was taken to residential school. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Cheryl Chapman holds up a picture of her mom, who was photographed before she was taken to residential school. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
(Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)(Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Former WLFN Chief Anne Louie watches over the ceremony May 28.(Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Former WLFN Chief Anne Louie watches over the ceremony May 28.(Rebecca Dyok photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

A sacred fire will burn in the community of Sugar Cane for four days and four nights starting June 2 at 5 p.m. as Indigenous communities such as Williams Lake First Nation, and those across the country, try to come to grips with the finding of the remains of 215 Indigenous children found in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Secwepemc WLFN Chief Willie Sellars said anyone is welcome to come to the fire as needed for drumming, prayers, support and healing. A closed ceremony is also being planned for cultural leaders from across the nations to attend at the site of the St. Joseph’s Mission, a former residential school just six kilometres from WLFN.

The event will be kept small with security, as requested by the Elders, Sellars noted. That ceremony is intended to let the ancestors know that they will be proceeding with an investigation similar to the one in Kamloops at St. Joseph’s Mission.

Sellars himself, who has been in close contact with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir since the news broke, has expressed feeling heavy-hearted and, at times, angry about the findings at Kamloops.

He, along with cultural leaders such as David Archie, held a ceremony Friday evening (May 28) where leaders spoke of the trauma of residential schools, the need to support one another and the path forward.

“We’ve all felt the impacts of residential schools in our communities whether it’s direct descendants or survivors or those that have passed on, those suffering from inter-generational trauma. We start talking about reconciliation and how that’s going to be achieved, we always say that’s going to be generations from now,” Sellars told those in attendance. “There’s a lot of these unwritten stories that we continue to hear throughout our communities and one of those stories has come to light at KIB (Kamloops Indian Band). It’s going to cause a reawakening of our warrior spirits. It’s going to start us on our healing journey 2.0 so that we can finally achieve reconciliation throughout every single one of our communities.”

Sellars, who is the spokesperson for the WLFN council, confirmed Wednesday (June 2) preparations are underway to identify areas around St. Joseph’s Mission and investigate using the latest technology.

“Right now we don’t know what we have out there,” he said, noting everybody is holding each other up through this difficult time.

“It’s not just one community that’s shouldering the load, it’s all of us who are going to have to do that in order to heal.”

Read More: VIDEO: Canadian outpouring over residential schools can bring healing, says survivor

Read More: Senate unanimously passes bill creating national day for truth and reconciliation


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