On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered to witness
the ceremonial demolition of the last standing building of the Lower Post residential school, in Lower Post, B.C.
The school, which was open from 1951 to 1975, impacted thousands of Indigenous families in Yukon and British Columbia.
After decades of activism from community members and survivors, the building is finally being taken down, and a new community centre will be built nearby. The process began Wednesday with speeches, a partial demolition, and a sacred fire.
A view of the crowd that gathered to witness the ceremonial demolition. A number of politicians were also in attendance, including B.C. Premier John Horgan and Yukon Premier Sandy Silver. (Gord Loverin/CBC)
Some of the participants in the ceremonial demolition. Survivors of Lower Post residential school have shared memories of loneliness and cruelty. ‘Everyone had the identical haircut. You’re assigned a number. My number was 19 and my clothing, my facecloth, my towel, had a number,’ recalled Kathie Dickie of Fort Nelson, B.C. (Government of Yukon)
A cheer rose up at the moment an excavator broke into the former school building. The Lower Post community used it as an administrative building for years after the school shut down in 1975. (Gord Loverin/CBC)
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver addresses the crowd. In a statement, he wrote that it was ‘a day of hope that marks the beginning of a brighter future for First Nations citizens not only in the Yukon and British Columbia, but all Indigenous Canadians.’ (Gord Loverin/CBC)
A fire was built near the demolition site, with participants invited to take a piece of the building and toss it into the flames. The remaining pieces of the structure will be burned when it’s safe to do so, as the region was experiencing extreme heat and high wildfire risk Wednesday. (Government of Yukon)
Deputy Chief Harlan Schilling of the Daylu Dena Council holds a piece of the former school before tossing it into the fire. (Government of Yukon)
A remnant of the school, inscribed ‘we are still here,’ burns in the fire. (Government of Yukon)
Young people in Lower Post break ground and plant trees near the area where a new community centre will be built. Deputy Chief Harlan Schilling has said he hopes the centre, set to be completed in 2022, will be the ‘new heart’ of the community. (Government of Yukon)