I am speechless.
I want to claim ignorance, to distance myself from the white, religious perpetrators of this, to say I am not like this and this is not me.
Yet as I see so many of your children distancing themselves I wonder, who is left to stand?
We distanced ourselves so much we made the children disappear.
So I am trying to stand – shaky and uncertain.
Stand by those graves and weep, and say I am so, so, sorry over and over again.
Place a marker over each one, calling them by name, not numbers, saying you matter and never again and I will not forget.
Those graves were hidden because everyone had distanced themselves, because nobody was willing to see.
I will try to stand close. I will open my eyes to see. And I will say: I am so, so, sorry.
I am sorry you were stolen.
I am sorry you were silenced.
I am sorry you were made invisible,
I am sorry for your story, lost but not forgotten.
I am sorry for not seeing.
I am sorry for not speaking.
I am sorry.
I am so, so sorry.
And as I stand here, may the images of your lost lives open my eyes to the lives still being stolen, silenced, or disappearing.
May I hold out my hand to hang on to the child who is being taken away.
Amplify the voices that are not being heard.
Shine a light on those who feel invisible.
Because if I say you matter to the 5 year old’s unmarked, unnamed grave, I say you matter to the kindergarteners across the street with empty bellies and unruly hair and an overwhelmed single mama.
If I say you matter to the stolen, I say you matter to the children in foster care, or being bounced around between family and friends, without a stable home.
If I say you matter to the disappeared, I say you matter to the murdered and missing Indigenous women whose cases have been abandoned, buried, forgotten.
If I say you matter to the forgotten, I say you matter to the teenager who is convinced he’ll never amount to anything and has given up on himself already.
To choose to stand here by these graves means to choose to see – not just then, but now. To become aware of the powers that work against the lives of my indigenous brothers and sisters that have no effect on me, or the things I take for granted that are not available to them. I notice how poorly represented our indigenous population is in positions of power and authority. I notice the lack of indigenous students in my university. I notice the way conversations seem to make out indigenous people as privileged, rather than acknowledge the deck that is stacked against them in our society.
It is uncomfortable standing. I don’t belong here, my mind tells me, but this is exactly where I need to be whispers my heart.
So I’ll stand.
Standing in mourning over the 215 unmarked graves found May 2021 at a residential school in Canada, representing a lost generation that was stolen by the church and government, and whose effects our world continue on today. This is not ancient history. The last residential school closed in 1996 in Canada. I graduated in 1997. This is my generation. This is my Canada. But this is not the Canada I choose to pass down to my children and grandchildren. So I stand, hoping to be part of the change that will make a more equitable and compassionate nation for future generations.