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Atlin, B.C., welcomes home children of residential school students

'We need to be able to help them somehow, we need to be able to at least acknowledge what they have gone through,' said Wayne Carlick of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

2-day 'homecoming' gathering this week drew people from around B.C. and Yukon

During the gathering this week in Atlin, B.C., former residential school students and their children walked through an arch, symbolically welcomed home as they passed through. (Wayne Carlick)

A homecoming ceremony this week in Atlin, B.C., welcomed former students of residential schools — and also recognized the children of former students, and the intergenerational trauma they've experienced.

The two-day gathering brought people from across B.C. and Yukon to the small community to share their experiences, and help the healing process.

"I witnessed some people today actually saying they're sorry to the children, that we didn't come home with a bunch of skills to be able to pass those skills down to them, because they didn't know and you know, they weren't allowed to speak about it," said Wayne Carlick of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. 

The two-day gathering this week offered an opportunity for people to share their experiences and help the healing process. (Wayne Carlick)

During the gathering, former residential school students and their children walked through an arch, symbolically welcomed home as they passed through.

Carlick says it's the first time his community is explicitly recognizing the impact of residential schools on children of survivors.

"A lot of people said, yes, you know it's not really us suffering right now, it's our children's children," Carlick said. 

"We need to be able to help them somehow, we need to be able to at least acknowledge what they have gone through and help them in a better way somehow, to help them heal as well."

John Ward, spokesperson for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, says some children don't fully understand the root problems of addiction or the lack of parenting skills and expressions of love.

Taku River Tlingit First Nation spokesperson John Ward, in glasses and hat, at the homecoming gathering. (Wayne Carlick)

"Those things were not taught in residential schools ... and so the children of those that suffered, suffer as well," Ward said.

Carlick agrees, and says it's up to the whole community to look to the future. 

"We have the strength, we have the people, we have the ability to help them because we've been through all of this. We survived all of this," he said.

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