TRU Law students visit Tk’emlups te Secwepemc

By Jill Sperling
February 1, 2018 - 4:31pm Updated: February 1, 2018 - 5:24pm

KAMLOOPS — TRU Law students ventured off campus today to hear emotional stories from residential school and Sixties Scoop survivors on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. 

The annual field trip provides the rare opportunity for students to view the law through an Indigenous perspective, while recognizing the detrimental effects of past offenses. 

"I didn't know the boogeyman until I came here," KIRS survivor Eric Mitchell told the students. 

Mitchell was one of five panelists to share their stories in front of the first-year Law students at Tk'emlups te Secwepemc. 

As a young boy, Mitchell was forced to attend the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where he was stripped of his traditions, and where the darkness brought the boogeyman to life.

"In a really quiet room, we could hear somebody walking," Mitchell recalled, "we didn't know it then, but they were taking somebody to sexually molesting them." 

Mitchell hasn't always had the courage to tell his story, but having found his voice he hopes to impact the future generation of lawyers and justice seekers. 

"Their humanity is what we're trying to reach. Not so much what's up here," he said, pointing to his head, "their humanity. If we touch them (in their hearts) with our stories and our realities and our truth, then they can decide what they'll do with their law."

"I welcome you to this place that's the epicentre of our holocaust," said Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian as he addressed the students. 

Christian, who is a Sixties Scoop Survivor, says government institutions, like the residential schools, took governance of the territory away from its people.

"What we really need is recognition," Christian said, "recognition of who we are, recognition of our laws, recognition of our own government systems, etc. That's where it really begins, without recognition reconciliation means nothing."

As the TRU Law students return to their classrooms, they take a newfound understanding of past injustices against First Nations people, and how the recognition of Indigenous law could create change within Canada's system of justice. 

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