The spirits of indigenous children will not be released until the VAG memorial falls: City

City officials said they would meet with vigil volunteers for respectful talks to remove the monument before May 28, the second anniversary of its installation.

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The memorial to indigenous children who died in residential schools outside the Vancouver Art Gallery will be removed before its second anniversary at the end of May, the city of Vancouver said Friday.

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The ancient teachings of the three local First Nations, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tseil-waututh), say that “as long as the monument stands, the spirits of the children will remain bound to the items placed on the steps. and it can’t go on,” he said.

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The city repeated an earlier admission that it was wrong to allow the monument to be erected without consulting local First Nations because it failed to follow their protocols regarding the temporary nature of such monuments.

“The city should have acted sooner to close the monument once it learned that local nations were not consulted,” he said in an unsigned statement.

The monument was installed in May 2021 by a Haida artist, Tamara Bell, a few days after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation said ground-penetrating radar had detected 215 possible unmarked graves at the site of a residential school in Kamloops. The Vancouver memorial includes 215 pairs of shoes, one for each unmarked grave.

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Bell’s cousin, Desiree Simeon, a Haida woman who has lived in Vancouver for 50 years and works on the Downtown Eastside, took over maintenance of the monument three days later, and she and about 20 others have been keeping vigil ever since.

Some of the original pairs of shoes have been replaced after they were degraded by weather and their number has grown to around 1,000, according to Simeon, who leads a 24/7 vigil of the site. In the past two years, stuffed toys, banners reading All Children Matter and Genocide, a fire pit where guardians can burn wood, perform ceremonies and keep vigil, have been added to the monument. The area has been fenced off and there is a teepee for overnight volunteers, a covered meeting tent, a donation/T-shirt table and a portable toilet.

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The city and representatives from each of the three local nations sent letters to the artist.
in November, saying that the monument was erected without his knowledge or input, does not follow his memorial protocols, and has to be torn down.

They said they have not received a written response, but private negotiations are continuing.

“The City of Vancouver remains committed to the imminent closure of the temporary residential school monument on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery in a culturally respectful manner” by May 28, it said.

He said he has the support of the three local nations and has invited the artist and volunteers to a meeting to discuss the next steps. The statement said it would be a private meeting to allow for a “meaningful and culturally sensitive conversation” and that the city would provide a public update “in due course.”

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The statement acknowledged that the memorial was “initially installed in response to the deep need for spaces of grief and healing for residential school survivors and indigenous peoples.

The city also said it will continue to work with the three local nations and urban indigenous communities to create a permanent memorial and other interim spaces until then.

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