Tseshaht First Nation in Port Alberni has released 26 calls to action after a research project revealed that at least 67 children died while attending Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) on Tseshaht land.
The ?uu?atumin yaqckwiimitqin (Doing it for our Ancestors) team revealed on Feb. 21, 2023 that it also discovered 17 suspected burial sites of children who never made it home.
“We cannot let these findings become just another statistic,” said Tseshaht elected Chief Councillor Wahmeesh (Ken Watts) in a press release. “Our 26 Calls for Truth and Justice ensure any further investigations into what happened at this ‘school’ are done independently and that survivors, their families and our community are given wellness support they need to heal.”
The calls for action are directed to all levels of government (federal, provincial, regional and municipal), as well as the RCMP and the Presbyterian Church and United Church of Canada.
They call for further investigations into AIRS, done by an independent body, and full funding for this work. Tseshaht also calls for new, age-appropriate curriculum for K-12 students so that future generations continue to learn about residential schools and those who did not make it home.
Another call to action asks for the federal government to fund deconstruction of the still-standing AIRS structures on Tseshaht territory (Caldwell Hall and Maht Mahs gym), as well as replacement of these structures with a new multiplex and community centre.
Tseshaht First Nation also wants to see Canada, B.C. and the churches fully fund any memorialization projects. Tseshaht has plans to construct a memorial gazebo on AIRS land with the names of all students who attended AIRS.
Tseshaht has called upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier David Eby, the RCMP and leaders of churches and faiths to meet with Tseshaht First Nation “as soon as possible” to develop a solid action plan and resources to implement the 26 calls for truth and justice.