Two Hundred and Fifteen

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A memorial displays children's shoes in memory of the 215 children whose remains were found in unmarked graves at the former site of Kamloops Indian Residential School. Photo: GoToVan via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

By Wendy Hamblin

Thoughts recorded two days after the Kamloops Residential School graves were discovered

How then, Lord Jesus
How did we lose faith
In how you taught?
Walking the roads, humble
With just your voice
With just your words
To turn men’s hearts and minds.
Your Israel, a powerless, conquered land
No army to enforce your cosmic view.

Somehow we missed the point
Somehow we lost
The faith that knowing you
Could spring and grow from individual choice.
That spreading gradually from heart to heart
From voice to voice
Deep faith in you would change and heal the world.

We did not choose the narrow path you walked
Instead we found the broad and easy way
The road that armies march
That monarchs tread
The road where earthly rulers
Puffed with power
Parade before their subjects
Tamed by dread.

So for the people of a conquered land
We wrote new laws
Laws they dared not resist
To snatch their children from their mothers’ arms.
We told ourselves it benefits their souls.
Their bodies mattered little,
Or their hearts.

If children, lonely, cried themselves to sleep
If no loved mother by a sickbed sat
If all the words they knew to speak their pain
Were now forbidden
All was for their souls,
And all they suffered
Therefore must be right.

If insufficient, unfamiliar food
Did not sustain their bodies in good health,
If months and years of loneliness and fear
Deprived them of the joyful will to live,
How could this matter, if we saved their souls?

And so as bones and science now reveal
Two hundred small and unrecorded lives
Ended, we do not know exactly how.

But only can deduce
Their passing mattered little in the eyes
Of those who held them captive in the name
Of him who came to make us whole and free.

Wendy Hamblin is an elderly Anglican woman of settler background, living in the territory of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) people.

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