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Stólō event at Coqualeetza honoured the ‘thrivers, survivors’ of residential schools

Leadership shared brief update about ‘important, sacred work’ searching for unmarked graves
Members of the Sts’elemeqw Residential School Thrivers Society Board at Coqualeetza on Sept. 30, 2022. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

It was billed as a way to honour and recognize residential school “thrivers and survivors” and it went ahead outside on the Coqualeetza grounds Friday morning in Chilliwack,

Squiala Chief Dave Jimmie welcomed the good-sized crowd, a sea of orange shirts, gathered to hear speakers. He let everyone know there was seating for elders, and people in the health tent if the stories or feelings were overwhelming.

Bea Silver, residential school “thriver” author, educator, the founder of Sts’elemeqw Residential School Thrivers Society was one of many who got up to say a few words.

She and other board members talked about their experiences, their families, their healing, and more with those gathered at Coqualeetza on the second National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

“It’s not easy what we do,” Silver said.

One little thing made her happy waking up Friday morning to see all the TV journalists wearing orange in recognition.

“It told me word is spreading,” Silver said. “We cannot have reconciliation without people knowing the truth.”

She asked other survivors and thrivers who want to join them to reach out.

“Talk to us, phone us.”

They hope to gather survivors.

“Our long-term goal is to create a family centre, a healing centre. It’s still in our heads yet, it’s still a dream but I know that I make my dreams come true. If I set my mind on something I make it comes true,” Silver pledged.

She shared her admiration for chief Dave Jimmie in supporting their work, and her support for the leadership’s work investigating potential unmarked graves.

“It’s very heartbreaking; it’s very sad because we were there when children died,” Silver said, as she attended St. Mary’s Residential School in Mission. “But what makes me happy is that this reconciliation is going far and it’s going wide.

“As morbid as our story can be, within that history we have hope – or we wouldn’t be here today.”

Facebook live video from Friday.

The Coqualeetza house post, carved from donated cedar by Yakweakwioose Chief Terry Horne was unveiled in 2021 in time for the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, and features a woman in a red dress, two children, and an orange heart.

The honouring event was Sept. 30, at 7201 Vedder Road 10:30 to noon.

RELATED: Memorial house posts unveiled in 2021

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Bea Silver Tallio, Chickie Blakeborough, receive thanks, honoured as members of the Sts’elemeqw Residential School Thrivers Society Board participating in the National Truth and Reconciliation event at Coqualeetza on Sept. 30, 2022. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)
Sonny McHalsie, Chickie Blakeborough, and Bea Silver Tallio at Coqualeetza, Sept. 30, 2022 for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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