Listening Circle with Coast Salish Elders Florence James & Ray Tony Charlie

Date: June 30th, 2021

A Listening Circle was held online June 30, 2021 led by Coast Salish Elders Florence James and Raymond Tony Charlie, along with Rocky James, all members of Penelakut Tribe.

The Listening Circle was organized in the spirit of listening and learning from local Indigenous Elders to better understand what reconciliation requires of us, after the deeply disturbing news of 215 children found in an unmarked mass burial site at the former Kamloops Residential School, on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops. It was hosted by the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies (CFGS) and POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and reached approximately 200 people live.

Florence James is a cultural, language and environmental expert and educator. Raymond Tony Charlie is an artist, educator, speaker, and author of the forthcoming book In the Shadow of the Red Brick Building, which gives his personal account as a residential school survivor. Rocky James, son of Elder Florence James, is a Salish social policy expert and Treaty Communications Coordinator for Penelakut Tribe. The Listening Circle included opening and closing remarks by CFGS director Dr. Oliver Schmidtke and was facilitated by POLIS co-director Dr. Kelly Bannister.

Since the Listening Circle was held, news of more many unmarked graves continue to be reported across our country, including on Penelakut Island in connection with the former Kuper Island Residential Institution. We extend our deepest condolences to families and communities of these unnamed young ones and we mourn along with our entire nation of Canada.

We extend gratitude to Elder Florence James, Elder Raymond Tony Charlie, and Rocky James for sharing their stories and wisdom with care, conviction, courage and compassion so we can all learn. We know to be part of healing and catalyzing real change for true reconciliation, we must first listen attentively to Indigenous Elders and leaders who are speaking with courage, strength, and wisdom to guide this important moment in our shared history.

Watch the recording of the Listening Circle. Please listen deeply and share widely.

The Listening Circle included the reading of a poem from Elder Raymond Tony Charlie’s forthcoming book. At the request of participants, Elder Charlie generously agreed to allow this poem to be shared. Read his poem.

POLIS Project Statement regarding the mass burial site discovery at the Kamloops Residential School (June 2021)

Reconciliation Resources