In an act of remembrance to honour the 215 lost lives discovered in a mass grave on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Red River College has lowered the flags at all of our campuses for nine days, and beginning today, with the guidance of our Elders, we will light a sacred fire at our Notre Dame Campus that will burn from Tuesday to Friday.
LOCATION: Medicine Wheel Garden behind the Notre Dame Campus
TIME: The fire will be kept from 7 am to 7 pm, Tuesday June 1 – Friday, June 4
CEREMONY: The fire will start with a Sunrise Ceremony at 7 am, Tuesday, June 1 with Elder Una Swan
- A sacred fire is lit when someone passes to help them find their way home. It is traditionally held for four days and four nights as to allow spirits to wander and visit relatives. Everything also happens in fours within many Indigenous cultures – the four directions, four sections of the medicine wheel, the four seasons, the four stages of life (children, youth, adults, Elders) etc…
- Masks and social distancing is required (spaces are marked) as per current public health guidelines to maintain proper distancing.
- Staff and students are invited to attend the sacred fire to offer tobacco and prayers to honour the 215 children. Please keep in mind drop offs and short visits are permitted, but to maintain distancing, but we must avoid gathering and extended stays. There are four colored sections to the Medicine Wheel and with distancing, one person can stand in each colour. Please limit your visit to no longer than 10 minutes.
- Elder Una will be using a pillar candle to light the candle and put it in a glass enclosure and transport to her home. It will remain lit until she returns the next day. This will be repeated throughout the four days.
- We are looking for volunteers to maintain the Scared Fire and support this ceremony. Volunteers will be required on a limited basis as to maintain safe distancing.
- Firekeepers: as per the good way, one man will be asked to be present to ensure the fire is kept burning (male fire keepers are required to respect the traditional role of a fire keeper)
- Women are invited to attend and are encouraged to wear a long skirt.
- Protocol/wayfinding: one person will need to ensure that people are following the social distance restrictions as well as knowing the protocol for bringing tobacco to the fire.
- Fire keepers will receive the information/teaching upon arrival.
- Suggested volunteer slots are 2 hours. The first shift will start at 7am each day and each shift will occur in 2 hour intervals.
- Water and refreshments will be provided.
Sign up for a time slot by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteers will receive a confirmation email notifying them of the date and time they are scheduled to support this important ceremony on-campus.
COVID 19 PROTOCOL
- We recognize that many members of our community may want to, in addition to volunteering, visit the fire, pay their respects, and make an offering. In keeping with the current public health orders, we ask that if you choose to visit the sacred fire that you keep your visit to no more than 10 minutes and consider attending at various points throughout the week.
- The use of masks and appropriate physical distancing is required at all times while visiting the site.
- Please consider visiting at some point during the week as opposed to all attending on the first day. This will ensure we are not gathering in contravention to the public health orders, while providing necessary space for those who wish to briefly visit the site to honour the 215 children.
Planning is happening in real time, so please be patient as questions arise. With guidance and support from our Safety Health Services, Elders, and Indigenous Supports team, safety and ceremony will be the priority. Updates will be shared through Staff Forum and Staff News over the coming days.
Conor Lloyd, Director, College and Public Relations