June 3, 2021
Community Voices / A moment of pause. A time to grieve.
Terri Thayer

“The trees wept for them ….” wrote Abigail Echo-Hawk, in a poem in memory of Indigenous children after bodies were discovered buried near a former residential school.

photo: Amy Nelson © 2021
June 3, 2021
Community Voices / A moment of pause. A time to grieve.
Terri Thayer

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This post was originally written for the Whatcom Community College community, and is reprinted here with permission.

Editor’s note: While the essays, analyses and opinions presented as Community Voices express the perspectives of their authors on topics of interest and importance to the community, and are not intended to reflect perspectives on behalf of the Salish Current, in this case we stand in respectful support of the author’s comments.

On Friday, May 28, the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found near a residential school in Canada. It has been a difficult weekend for our Indigenous communities.

From the beginning of colonization there has always been an effort to eliminate Native peoples; mind, body and soul. Invisibility is a war that Native peoples have been fighting for generations. It is not an action of years past but a strategy still in place today. The memories of boarding/residential schools and the trauma that has impacted generations are resurfacing. Many of us are watching our elders and boarding school survivors relive the violence of their childhood. We are all feeling the pain.

In the coming weeks, I would ask that you be aware and sensitive to Indigenous students, staff and faculty. This is not the time to lean on them for resources. I respectfully ask you all to do your own homework and educate yourselves if you wish to know more. The emotional labor is just too much right now for us. I am asking you, as non-Indigenous community members, to be an ally and create the much-needed space for us.

To my Indigenous family, friends and colleagues: The sorrow is deep and creates a physical pain. I have an ache in my chest that causes me to gasp for breath. Remember to take care in all the ways you need.

The depth of this pain is not always easily expressed. Abagail Echo-Hawk has put into words all the feelings that are taking place in my heart. When we recognize the land, we acknowledge all that it does for us. It is not just the keeper of our resources but it is the healer of our souls.

When they buried the children
What they didn’t know
They were lovingly embraced
By the land
Held and cradled in a mother’s heart
The trees wept for them, with the wind
they sang mourning songs their mothers
didn’t know to sing
bending branches to touch the earth around them. The Creator cried for them the tears falling like rain.

Mother Earth held them until they could be found.
Now our voices sing the mourning songs.
With the trees. The wind. Light sacred fire ensure they are never forgotten as we sing JUSTICE.

 — Abigail Echo-Hawk

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