This message contains sensitive content and could be triggering. For crisis supports here in BC please contact the KUU-US Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717 or visit the First Nations Mental Health and Wellness Support page for additional support services. A complete listing of support services is included at the end of this statement.
The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA), and First Nations Health Council (FNHC) are today issuing support and solidarity with the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) First Nation following the release of tragic information about the buried remains of children at the former site of the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) on Vancouver Island.
On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Tseshaht First Nation announced findings from Phase 1 of their ʔuuʔatumin yaqckʷiimitqin (Doing It for Our Ancestors) research project. Over the past 18 months, with the help of a BC-based land surveyor using ground penetrating radar, Tseshaht First Nation found 17 geophysical features representing a suspected grave of children. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Memorial Register has recognized 29 students who passed away while attending AIRS. Tseshaht First Nation estimates that number to be a minimum of 67 children.
The FNHA, FNHDA and FNHC stand with the c̓išaaʔatḥ people, residential school survivors, their families, and all Indigenous people who have been traumatized by the ongoing and horrific legacy of Canada’s shameful residential school system.
This devastating news—along with other tragic findings identified in the past two years by the T'exelcemc in Williams Lake, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc in Kamloops, and Penelakut Tribe on Vancouver Island—is difficult to accept. Even as we continue our work to eradicate Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system in BC, we know we cannot undo the atrocities of the past that continue to impact Indigenous people today in ways that are profoundly damaging.
The FNHA will be working with the Tseshaht First Nation and Island Health to provide mental health and cultural supports to those impacted or triggered by this news. As well, Tseshaht First Nation is providing counselling supports to Tseshaht members, Elders, survivors and all other survivors of AIRS.
As the health and wellness partner to over 200 First Nations throughout BC, with supports for those living urban or away-from-home, the FNHA is committed to providing culturally safe mental health and wellness supports across a wide spectrum of services. Please download and print this page or open it in Adobe Reader: fnha.ca/Documents/FNHA-Mental-Health-and-Cultural-Supports.pdf
Richard Jock, CEO, FNHA
“As partners in wellness for First Nations in BC, the FNHA is committed to supporting families and communities impacted by residential schools. We are available to work with any First Nations communities in supporting the mental and cultural health of its members and in connecting them with culturally safe services.”