Yukon beading project that honours 215 children gets 'amazing' response

Velma Olson, from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, is beading baby moccasin tops, known as vamps, that she hopes can be shown at cultural centres throughout the territory.

'It's been quite a healing journey for me'

Olson started the "For the Children Lost" project after hearing about the discovery of the remains of children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Submitted by Velma Olson)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The Yukon artist behind a project that's marking the discovery of the remains of children found in Kamloops, B.C., says she's "in awe" of how beading can be a healing process for people. 

Velma Olson, from Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation, is beading baby moccasin tops, known as vamps, which she hopes can be shown at cultural centres throughout the territory. 

And, she says, she's getting an "amazing" outpouring of support.

"I've gotten, I think, over 2,500 shares on my Facebook post," said Olson, referencing a call she put out on the social media platform to see if any beaders would be interested in creating a vamp of their own to contribute to the project — dubbed For the Children Lost.

"I was expecting maybe a couple hundred. So yeah, it's been quite large," she said. "Even down to the U.S. I've had people contacting me hoping that they can bead and contribute to this project."

Velma Olson put a call out for people to contribute beaded moccasin tops. She says she was amazed by the more than 2,500 responses to her Facebook post. (Submitted by Velma Olson)

The remains of approximately 215 children were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School during a search of its grounds more than a week ago. 

Olson has also been getting messages from people thankful for a way to grapple with and process the news.

"A lot of them have just been very encouraging, and thanking me for creating this outlet for them to show their honour to the bodies that were found," she said.

The momentum she is seeing has been uplifting, Olson added. Not only are people sharing their beadwork, they are also sharing personal stories about how they've been impacted by residential schools.

"People are sending little snippets of stories of their grandpas and their uncles and aunts that have been taken," Olson said. "My father was taken from his family when he was a little boy so know you it really hits home."

"I've never done anything like this before and I want to do it justice and I'm very humbled by this," Olson told CBC. (Submitted by Velma Olson)

Olson said her children are each beading a vamp. 

She is working forget-me-not flowers and hummingbirds into her designs.

"I don't plan my patterns, I have a vision and they create themselves," she said. "I feel energized, it's been quite a healing journey for me."

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.