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Support Info: If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419. Additional Health Support Information: Emotional, cultural, and professional support services are also available to Survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Services can be accessed on an individual, family, or group basis.” These & regional support phone numbers are found at https://nctr.ca/contact/survivors/ .

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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Blood Money : Indigenous foundation returns $500K to Catholic nuns involved in Kamloops residential school

The Verna J. Kirkness Foundation has severed ties with Sisters of St. Ann

The main administrative building of the Kamloops Indian Residential School is pictured in 1970. (Department of Citizenship and Immigration- Information Division / Library and Archives Canada)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

A foundation that provides university scholarships to Indigenous students across Canada has severed its ties with a group of Victoria-based Catholic nuns by returning a $500,000 donation.

The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation announced this week that it had decided to give back the endowment, received in December 2017, to the Sisters of St. Ann, a Catholic order whose nuns taught at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Board chair Tony Williams says the foundation launched a year-long investigation into the Sisters of St. Ann after the discovery of 215 suspected unmarked graves near the residential school last May. 

Williams says the foundation met with the Catholic group during the investigation and asked for specifics about the abuses that occurred at the residential school, but the request went unanswered. 

"We want to know there's a more complete acknowledgement that these [residential] schools were very bad places, that there was a lot of harm done here, a lot of children who didn't survive, there wasn't a proper education provided," he said.

"It was setting up an entire generation of Indigenous people for failure and to be marginalized in society."

Sisters of St. Ann's involvement in residential school

The Sisters of St. Ann is an order of Roman Catholic nuns founded in Quebec in 1850. In 1890, nuns from the order began teaching at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, one of more than 100 residential schools across Canada.

The children were removed from their families and not allowed to speak their own languages. Many were sexually, physically or psychologically abused, a situation described by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as cultural genocide.

During the opening prayer for the foundation's announcement, Secwépemc elder Evelyn Camille said she had initially been excited to go to the Kamloops Indian Residential School at the age of six, but the experience quickly turned ugly.

"They used cattle trucks to bring the students here," Camille said. "When we walked through the door and into the dormitory, they stripped us and poured coal oil over us — because we were lousy savages."

Secwépemc elder Evelyn Camille, shown in a photo from 2015, says she and other children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School were stripped and had coal oil poured on them. (CBC)

The residential school was permanently closed in 1977. From 2008 to 2015, the Sisters of St. Ann participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings on Indian residential schools.

The group, now composed of only 23 nuns, has been selling their assets and giving away millions of dollars for causes that align with their values. 

Tough decision

The foundation's board secretary, DeDe DeRose, says it was a tough decision to cut ties with the nuns and return a generous gift, but the foundation doesn't want its integrity questioned due to a donation from a group that was historically involved in cultural genocide.

"Now we can say we don't have that money anymore, and we're going to work as hard as ever to ensure that Indigenous children continue to have the opportunities that they deserve to at least be equal to all children in Canada and opportunities to be involved in post-secondary education," DeRose said.

Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation board secretary DeDe DeRose says the organization is returning the endowment to avoid any questions about its integrity. (Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation)

The foundation, established in 2008 in Cochrane, Alta., says its mission is to address the under-representation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students in Canadian universities by providing scholarships to Indigenous students. It partners with B.C. universities including UBC, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and University of Victoria.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Sisters of St. Ann executive director Angela Hudson says her group is saddened by the foundation's decision to return the donation, which she says will be redirected to another organization that also works to create a brighter future for Indigenous people.

Hudson says her group has committed to handing over its residential school records to the Royal B.C. Museum as part of its reconciliation efforts.

"Reconciliation is achieved by listening and learning with humility, and it is always our preference to engage constructively with our critics, while working together towards common goals," she wrote.


Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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Canada's Residential Schools

The religious organizations that operated the schools — the Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Jesuits of English Canada and some Catholic groups — in 2015 expressed regret for the “well-documented” abuses. The Catholic Church has never offered an official apology, something that Trudeau and others have repeatedly called for.

no arrests?

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Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

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Did you know?

New York’s 4o-year battle for OBC access ended when on January 15 2020, OBCs were opened to all New York adoptees upon request without restriction. In only three days, over 3,600 adoptees filed for their record of birth. The bill that unsealed records was passed 196-12.

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As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
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Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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