(From left) Tseshaht Hereditary Chief Josh Goodwill, Elder Willard Gallic Sr., Hereditary Chief James Peters and Tseshaht member Martin Watts prepare to welcome visitors to Port Alberni for the healing and memorial event entitled Reclaiming Lost Souls of the Alberni Indian Residential School, Sept. 27 and 28.

Invitations extend across province for residential school healing event

Tseshaht First Nation hosting weekend to reclaim lost souls, in Port Alberni Sept. 27-28

Healing the pain and suffering caused by the residential school system is an ongoing process. You’re invited to share in a special event in Port Alberni designed to help those affected move forward in their journey.

The Tseshaht First Nation in Port Alberni is extending an invitation to members of 203 First Nations across B.C., and anyone else wishing to participate, to attend a broad-based healing and cleansing event Sept. 27 and 28.

Reclaiming Lost Souls of the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) is designed to create a pathway home for the children who died at the school and whose spirits continue to have their presence felt on the former grounds of the AIRS, as well as help survivors navigate their difficult healing journey.

“There were so many children that never went home, they never had funerals – they just went missing,” Tseshaht member Gail K. Gus told Ha-Shilth-Sa in an interview. “And so, they’re around our reserve all over the place.”

Children from many nations arrived at Tseshaht

The residential school in Port Alberni has been closed for 46 years, but the memories remain for many current Tseshaht members and those around Vancouver Island and the province. Children from multiple nations were brought to AIRS over its 80 years of operations, which is a big reason why the Tseshaht are reaching out to nations around B.C.

“People that died [from] trauma or died unexpectedly, it’s important that we release that,” said Tseshaht member Ed Ross told Ha-Shilth-Sa. “We want to give the opportunity for other nations to come and clear that energy and to take back whoever is there.” Gus added that the children who died may not know the Nuu-Chah-Nulth language, which makes it important that their own descendants come to release their souls.

Cultural healers to provide supports

The Tseshaht are partnering with the Quu’asa Program to provide mental and emotional support resources on site, with cultural healers offering their services to anyone who may be triggered during the event or afterward. An invitation has been extended to cultural healers from other nations to attend to assist their own nations’ participants in the weekend.

Memorial, cleansing followed by celebration

The weekend begins with a commemoration ceremony honouring those who lost their lives, followed by a cleansing ceremony at the Maht Mahs gymnasium, part of the former AIRS. Healing-centred activities also start that day, and day two will celebrate the presence, strength and resilience of survivors and how the events of the past served to make aboriginal people everywhere stronger.

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If you’d like to participate in the weekend’s activities, please register at tseshaht.com or call 250-724-1225. For out-of-town guests, travel assistance is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Organizers will contact those who have requested help.

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