On the afternoon of June 4 community members co-ordinated a commemorative community vigil in Iqaluit Square, in honour of the 215 victims found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

The vigil took place in accordance with COVID-19 public health measures and started with a qulliq lighting.

There was an impetus to hold a vigil with Nunavut being majority Inuit, and it got organized as many families in the territory were impacted by these institutions.

“The whole country is mourning and we’ve been seeing a lot of vigils put up in other communities and we thought it would be important to also hold a vigil in Iqaluit, in the capital because a lot of Inuit families have been affected by residential schools,” said Rachel Seepola Michael, who works with the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation as the Inuit Child First Initiative’s Service Coordinator.

An Elder lays down a pair of children’s shoes at the community vigil for the 215 Kamloops Indian Residential School victims. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

The vigil took place for 215 minutes.

Ceremonies and moments of silence were repeated on the hour to ensure all Iqalummiut have a chance to attend.

While it was a community-led effort, the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation helped spearhead this effort to hold a vigil.

“As an organization our staff decided that we would help take a lead on co-ordinating with the community. Everyone has come together really quickly to make this happen, a lot of people have supported us and different organizations have contributed in their own way,” said Michael.

Flags across Nunavut were lowered to half-mast following the news of the bodies found in B.C. and once again Nunavummiut came together to mourn those who died in Kamloops and other parts of Canada.

“It’s really nice seeing everyone come together during such a hard time. I think a lot of us are feeling really helpless, angry and sad,” said Michael. “This is a safe space we created to come together to be able to share a moment of silence and share those feeling of grief as a community.”

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, roughly 150,000 indigenous children were made to attend Canadian residential schools with thousands dying in those institutions.

Vigil volunteer Jukipa Kotierk lays down a candle at the community vigil in Iqaluit Square. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo
Two people attending the vigil hold a sign in support of the 215 found. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

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