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‘Today is about truth’: Prince George’s school district raises Lheidli T’enneh memorial flag

In a special ceremony SD57 raised the orange ribbon flag in memory of residentials school victims

After an emotional flag raising ceremony, School District No. 57 (SD57) is now displaying the new Lheidli T’enneh memorial flag in its board room offices.

In early June 2021, Lheidli T’enneh Chief and Council asked all of its partners who fly the Lheidli T’enneh flag to lower them to half-mast for a period of 215 days in memory of the unmarked graves confirmed at Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Lheidli T’enneh has now raised a new flag that features an orange ribbon in the lower right corner which serves to honour the kids found in Kamloops and all who died at residential schools.

SD57 raised the new flag during a ceremony this afternoon (Jan. 24) that began with drumming from Nusdeh Yoh elementary school students who performed the Grandmother Song and the Water song, followed by an opening prayer by Lheidli T’enneh Elder Darlene McIntosh and speeches by SD57 board members and staff.

“When the 215 unmarked graves were found it shocked the world. It really truly shocked the world and our Elders have always been telling that things like this happened but nobody would believe them and so when this came to the fore and we found that it was now the truth has been told,” said McIntosh.

“The truth is out there now and we need to always be in awareness of it and to support knowledge, education and awareness to keep that going.”

McIntosh said to have it acknowledged at the highest level of SD57 is positive information to be relayed to the public.

“Today we come together to remember the dark history of the residential schools and the repressive laws generations of Indigenous people have endured. Today is about truth. It is about the truth about the dark and tragic past we must remind ourselves before we can begin the path of reconciliation we must acknowledge and understand that truth,” said board chair Sharel Warrington.

“The orange ribbon must be a constant reminder that we must not forget and we must seek to understand to work together and ensure we have learned those lessons in the past and to build a future of promise for today’s youth and for generations to come.”

SD57 acting superintendent Cindy Heitman echoed Warrington’s comments.

“We service almost 4,000 Indigenous students in this community and we have an opportunity to make the lives of those 4,000 students very different than historical. I am honoured and moved to be in this position and to be able to do this work alongside our Nation's community.”

Lheidli T’enneh Indigenous Education Officer Mel Aksidan said he looked forward to working in partnership with SD57 and called the memorial flag raising a great start.

“It is very hard for Indigenous people to speak about Indigenous issues within the school district because we have had a horrendous history with the education system moving forward though we look forward to the partnership that we are going to have with SD57.”

The Board of Education will return for its first public meeting tomorrow night (Jan. 25) since the by-election earlier this month.