Sardis Save-on-Foods team member Lianne Kosterman created orange ribbons as a fundraiser for the Stó:lō Nation’s Xyólhmet ye Syéwiqwélh (Taking Care of Our Children) fund.

Sardis Save-on-Foods team member Lianne Kosterman created orange ribbons as a fundraiser for the Stó:lō Nation’s Xyólhmet ye Syéwiqwélh (Taking Care of Our Children) fund.

Sardis Save-on-Foods team member shows support for residential school victims

To date, there are an estimated 6,509 unmarked graves of indigenous children who died at residential schools across the country. In May 2021, authorities announced an estimated 215 unmarked graves found at the residential school in Kamloops.

These discoveries have shocked our nation from coast to coast. The stories behind the atrocities are heart-breaking and have rocked us to our core.

For Sardis Save-on-Foods team member Lianne Kosterman, the news compelled her to take action.

“I was approached by management to make 100 orange ribbons for staff,” says Lianne, who is well-known among colleagues as a seamstress. “Our customers were asking why we were all wearing orange ribbons, and they wanted to wear them too.”

From there, a fundraiser was born. Lianne’s mission was to make and sell one ribbon for every unmarked grave. All proceeds would go to the Stó:lō Nation. The Stó:lō Nation is the political amalgamation of 11 Stó:lō communities

“Many days after work, Lianne would come back to the store and spend several hours of her own time selling ribbons to our customers,” says Leigh Yochlowitz, Save-on-Foods manager. “After many days of selling and a lot of hard work creating, Lianne was able to raise more than $1,700.”

Sitting at the storefront allowed Lianne to greet many loyal customers.

“They asked if I was Indigenous,” says Lianne. “Only if you count my New Zealand heritage, I replied. But this affects all of us, Indigenous or not.”

With all proceeds staying local, the fundraiser generated repeat and generous donations from customers. The Sardis Save-on-Foods community was supportive, with 318 ribbons and pins sold.

“I am pleased to recognize Lianne, someone I have great admiration for,” says Leigh. “When the atrocities first went public, so many communities rallied to help show sadness and support for all people affected by this terrible discovery and to push for change.”

“Again, this is an issue that affects all of us. Neither race, age, or gender have any bearing,” says Lianne. “This gives us a chance to learn. While we can’t change the past, we can create a better tomorrow.”

Tzeachten First Nation Chief Derek Epp was presented with the donation.

“On behalf of Tzeachten First Nation, and Stó:lō Nation, I would like to thank and acknowledge the staff and management of Save of Foods store 952, which is located on Tzeachten First Nation land, for their generous donation to the Xyólhmet ye Syéwiqwélh (Taking Care of Our Children) fund,” says Derek.

The fund will directly support the culturally sensitive work to recover the children they lost to the residential school system. The work entails advancing research and commemoration activities at three former residential schools that operated in the Stó:lō Nation territory — Coqualeetza (Sardis), St. Mary’s (Mission) and All Hallows (Yale).

“My hands go up to allies like Lianne and store 952 for their continued support and collaboration with communities like Tzeachten First Nation,” says Derek.