The Okanagan Indian Band federal government office, 12420 Westside Road. (File photo)

The Okanagan Indian Band federal government office, 12420 Westside Road. (File photo)

Okanagan Indian Band calls for removal of 3 ‘colonial structures’ on band land

The current OKIB band office is among the structures that have become ‘symbols of trauma and pain’ in the community

The Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) is calling on the federal and provincial governments to remove and replace three day-school buildings on band land, all of which they consider part of the country’s residential school legacy.

Like other First Nations across the country, OKIB members are working through trauma associated with the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the former site of a Kamloops residential school.

Symbolic displays of solidarity have abounded since the discovery was made public by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. on May 27.

But having listened to local members, the OKIB wants to see a more concrete change.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday (June 8), OKIB Chief Byron Louis said the band has identified three structures that are “symbols of trauma and pain that our community can no longer be asked to endure.”

“As the trauma of the discovery of the 215 children’s bodies at the Kamloops Residential School continues to ricochet throughout our community, we are calling on you and your government to take specific actions to ensure the decolonization of our homelands,” states Louis’ letter on behalf of OKIB council.

The three structures identified for removal and replacement are:

• The former day school at Six-Mile Creek, which is still used by OKIB students;

• The OKIB band office (former Irish Creek day school); and

• The first Six-Mile Day school, now called New Horizons, where OKIB elders still congregate.

READ MORE: Kamloops residential school never discussed by Vernon survivor

“We have come to this decision because we recognize the harm from intergenerational trauma these buildings have caused. If we are to heal as a community our members can no longer be forced to drive by these buildings that serve as a reminder to our colonial history and that continue to dredge up horrific memories of abuse suffered at the Indian day schools. We want to replace these buildings with spaces that foster healing and the mental well-being of our community,” reads the OKIB’s statement.

Chief Louis said the band used its own resources to construct the three buildings, as its councils at the time were faced with an impossible choice: “send our children to Kamloops or Cranbrook to suffer abuse, or build our own schools where, in the case of the Six-Mile School, students were forced to endure many forms of cruel punishment that has left them traumatized ever since.”

The OKIB holds Canada and the Roman Catholic Church accountable for the “atrocities committed against our people,” the letter states, while imploring the Trudeau government to follow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and replace “these sites of pain, suffering and memory” with places of healing.

“We expect to hear from the appropriate ministry staff on how Canada is willing to assist our community with turning the page on this painful period of Canadian history.”

READ MORE: Okanagan Indian Band honours 215 children

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

residential schools

Just Posted

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

The Journey, an art exhibit by Pauline Hurley, was on display at the Summerland Ats Centre earlier this spring. Beginning June 15, the Summerland Community Arts Council will present Spark, a 10-week community arts challenge. (Summerland Review file photo)
Challenge to spark creativity among Summerland artists

Spark challenge will begin June 15 and will run 10 weeks

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Burned-out bathroom could cost Vernon $25K

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

Cody Bandsma practises kiting with his new paraglider wing at Blackburn Park in Salmon Arm on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Cody Bandsma reaching new heights over the Shuswap

Former 100 Mile resident discovers Salmon Arm by air with powered paraglider

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Most Read