Syilx Nation members participating in the annual Spirit of Syilx Unity Run made an emotional journey to the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) on Saturday (June 5) to pay tribute to the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were recently discovered at an unmarked grave on the site.
Those who participated in-person event made the trip from nkm̓ apəlqs (Head of the Lake) to the KIRS on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc territory in just one day.
Chief Chris Derickson of the Westbank First Nation (WFN) said that watching the youth run for the 215 children was a historic event, describing it as a humbling and emotional experience.
“It was healing for our people, healing for our survivors, and lifted the hearts of a Nation in mourning,” said Derickson. “Witnessing this historic run and to be welcomed with song and ceremony by Tk’emlups te Secwepemc people is something we will all remember.”
Sylix Okanagan members were joined by leaders from multiple nations as they welcomed the runners as they made it over the hill at the KIRS, which included Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Cheif Chris Derickson from the Syilx Okanagan Nation, kukpi Rosanne Casimir, councillor Marie Baptiste and councillor Jeanette Jules of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation and kukpi Judy Wilson from the Neskonlith Indian Band.
This year’s Syilx Unity Run began on June 2 and concluded on June 5. The annual event began in 2009 when Syilx youth requested a run to promote unity, as well as bring awareness to the issues of suicide and violence within the Syilx Okanagan Nation.