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Alberni residential school memorial vandalism shocks survivor
Police are on the lookout for whoever vandalized a memorial commemorating Alberni Indian Residential School survivors.
The incident occurred on June 27 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., RCMP Cpl. Scott MacLeod said.
Calls to the Tseshaht First Nation weren’t returned by deadline.
One of the figures depicting a child was torn from its base, and some of the other figures were scratched. Dirt was strewn around the bottom of the memorial.
The memorial was created by Tseshaht artist Connie Watts and was underwritten with a grant and money from the Tseshaht First Nation.
The piece is located on the Tseshaht reserve on the site of the former Alberni Indian Residential School.
The piece is circular with a roof and has a central pole with sub-poles supporting a winged roof meant to collect and channel away tears. The poles are adorned with steel child figures and the cement base has children’s handprints on the surface.
AIRS opened in 1891. It burned down twice: in 1917 and 1937, and was rebuilt in 1920 and 1939. The school closed in 1973. Federal policy required that aboriginal children attend residential schools for 10 months out of the year.
The vandalism shocked Huu-ay-aht First Nation member Benson Nookmis, 79, who attended AIRS from 1932-1947.
“You’re kidding me – someone actually did that? That’s terrible,” Nookmis said.
Nookmis said he wasn’t initially aware that a memorial had been created. “But I’m honoured to know that someone did something like that for us,” he said.
The vandalism is senseless and resonates more so in survivors, Nookmis said. “I guess it’s because we experienced an awful thing.”
The vandals might have had a change of heart if they read information on the memorial first. “If they read the plaque they’d have known what it was there for,” Nookmis said. “It’s too bad that people have to do things like this.”
Police are asking anyone who knows anything about the incident to call the Alberni RCMP detachment at 250-723-2424, or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.