Updated: Jun 14, 2021
At a vigil on May 30th at Swy-a-lana in Nanaimo, good-hearted citizens donated money and toys in remembrance of victims and survivors of residential schools. The organizers, Tsatassaya (Tracey) White and Anna McKenzie identified the recipients of the donations – Kw’umut Lelum – in light of their ongoing work to address the impacts of residential schools on Indigenous children and families.
More than $4000 was collected – much of it pinned to the toys with notes of love and prayers – as well as hundreds of toys and stuffed animals.
Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris were at Kw’umut Lelum to receive the contributions from the community.
“We are so grateful for the generous hearts of Tracy and Anna for thinking of Kw’umut Lelum. The discovery in Kamloops, it’s triggered a lot of people. We feel the impacts that residential schools have created, even if we didn’t go there ourselves, and KL is supporting all of our people up and down the Island.”
Tracy noted that the idea to include donations of toys came from Musqueam Elder Gina Grant who told her that children in residential schools weren’t allowed to have toys. “They were separated from their families and their territories and communities and didn’t even have a toy to comfort them. I know that the money and the toys collected will go to help our children in care and our families who are still suffering the effects of colonization and that it’s going to an amazing organization who will support health and wellness programs in our communities.”
Before being distributed, the toys will be cleansed in a cultural ceremony, in recognition of the hurt and sadness some of the donators may have been experiencing “We don’t want to pass on that grief through these toys,” says William Yoachim, Executive Director of Kw’umut Lelum. Yoachim added that the money will go directly towards cultural and wellness programming – to reconnect children and families to their culture, to contribute to developing a positive Indigenous self-identity that was not only denied, but violently removed from the victims and survivors of residential schools.
Kw’umut Lelum offers a range of cultural and wellness programming – from their Canoe Life paddling and leadership program for Indigenous children and youth in care, to weekly online drum circles, Hulq’umi’num language classes and parenting groups.
“For a long time, we were seen as just another child welfare organization - part of the system that contributes to the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous children placed in white foster care like what happened during the 60’s scoop.” says Yoachim, “But we strive for a different approach. Our Nations have made it clear that their children need to stay with their families, with their communities – and that is what we are doing at KL today.”
Despite a recent expansion that saw them take on all the files of member Nation families residing in Nanaimo and Duncan, the agency is continuing to see a reduction in the number of children in care, and an increase in children supported by the agency to remain either with their parents, or with other family members in their home community. They are also dedicated to providing crucial prevention and wellness programs that strengthen families and communities and lift up those who are struggling - many of them as a result of intergenerational trauma caused by the residential school system.
ABOUT KW’UMUT LELUM
Kw’umut Lelum is a Delegated Aboriginal Agency delivering a full range of coordinated, culturally informed child safety and family wellness services to address the unique needs of Indigenous families and communities. Our approach is informed and guided by Coast Salish values. Our Member Nations include: Halalt, Lyackson, Ts'uubaa-asatx (Lake Cowichan), Malahat, Penelakut, Qualicum, Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose), Snuneymuxw and Stz'uminus.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Communications and Information Officer
250-797-6735 | firstname.lastname@example.org