CK students showcase memorial in honour of 215 Indigenous children

Tracy McLaughlin is pictured placing an orange flag into the grass outside of Ursuline College Chatham in honour of the 215 Indigenous children found outside of a residential school in B.C. Photo taken Monday, June 14. (Photo by Millar Hill)

A group of students in Chatham-Kent is showcasing a public memorial in honour of the 215 Indigenous children that were found in Kamloops, B.C.

On Monday, a group of Ursuline College Chatham students could be seen creating the memorial alongside Grand Avenue in Chatham. The memorial was organized by the school’s Indigenous Student Leadership Group named Kidwin Zhingwaak, meaning Voice of the Pines in Ojibwe. Leela Mclaughlin, a Grade 9 student and an event organizer, said they wanted to honour those children who were discovered in late May.

“We wanted to honour all of those who didn’t make it home as well as those who have survived and live with that trauma,” said Mclaughlin.

The memorial was made up of 215 orange flags which were placed in the grass outside of the school. The students also tied red and orange ribbons to the fence and displayed messages such as “every child matters,” so they could be seen from the road.

Jeff Phaneuf, one of the Kidwin Zhingwaak group’s leaders, said the memorial was entirely driven by the students.

“They are reclaiming their heritage,” said Phaneuf. “I think it’s empowering. We don’t come up with the ideas, the kids do. We give them the tools to get their message out.”

McLaughlin said the students are also encouraging members of the public to take part in the memorial by adding their own red or orange ties or pieces of fabric onto the fence.

“We hope to make that whole fence orange and red,” said Phaneuf.