With the news of the discovery of Kamloops Residential School mass graves on the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory, the Indigenous people across Canada are heartbroken and are grieving.
On the announcement of the news that 215 residential school children who died at the school, some as young as 3, were buried at the school, we the Indigenous people are outraged, horrified and traumatized. Our survivors have shared for over a century these stories of students being forced to bury other students during their time at these schools. However, with the discovery and the news coverage, it is now not just Indigenous nations who know this news. All of Canada and the world are just now understanding the plight of our survivors.
My daughter dancing Pow Wow Jingle Dress. The Jingle Dress was created to heal through dance. She dances for the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc children who were murdered & for our Sḵwx̱wú7mesh children who attended this school with them. #215CanadaDayOfMourning #CanadaSubmitToJustice pic.twitter.com/dfPpr5GaMs
— Swalklanexw🌺Dallas Guss🌺 (@SeaWolf510) May 30, 2021
Upon hearing myself Swalklanexw Dallas Guss and my 6-year-old daughter Geneva who are members of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations had it in our spirits and hearts to do what we can. On the morning of Sunday May 30th, 2021, we headed to the Squamish Nation part of Ambelside beach in West Vancouver where our peoples welcome figure stands.
Geneva changed into her Jingle Dress Pow Wow regalia, I hit record and she started to dance for the 215 children who were placed in undocumented and unmarked graves.
Geneva has been learning about the importance of her dance. That its creation goes back to the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and the dance helped heal those in the Indigenous communities at that time. She has learned that when she dances, the dance is not for herself, that while she dances she is asking the Creator to heal those who are ill or are in need of other healings and is dancing to bring that love to others.
Geneva has practised her whole life to bring this energy into the world and into the lives of others. With the ocean water of the Burrard Inlet, the mountains of the North Shore, Stanley Park and her Squamish Ancestor Slhxi7lsh (Siwash Rock) in the background, Geneva danced her huge heart out for the spirits of those beautiful babies who never got to live a long life. Then we went home, and I edited and posted her dance on social platforms, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter. And like the shining little star Geneva is that video shined across those platforms.
Later that evening Geneva and I were interviewed for CBC Vancouver and aired that night at 11 pm. Our video at time of this writing had over 166k views and over 13.4k likes. And over 200 replies like “this made me cry”; “I have watched this multiple times, cry & feel so touched”; “those children lost the opportunity to dance”; and “this is so healing, but I am horrified & saddened by the news”. As I read her these messages, Geneva smiled and wrapped her arms around me.
Geneva and I want everyone to know that we are only at the ‘Truth’ part of Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation journey. and we still have a long way to go before we reach ‘Reconciliation’ as an Indigenous peoples and the country of Canada. We want to thank all the Canadians joining us on this path of healing and of learning the atrocities of residential school and the impact it still creates in all Indigenous lives. Chen kwenmantumiyap, Usiyem. (Makes our hearts feel glad, All my relations.)
Swalklanexw Dallas Guss (@Seawolf510 on Twitter & Instagram) is a public speaker, workshop facilitator, life skills coach, shaman, Indigenous culture consultant and an Indigenous culture teacher for the NVSD44.