UVic holds Sacred Fire ceremony

Campus News

Ceremony featured singing and drumming, followed by moment of silence

sacred fire ceremony at UVic
Photo of Firemen Floyd Pelkey, Tsawout Nation (left) and Eugene Sam, Songhees Nation (right). Photo provided by UVic Photo Services.

On June 1, UVic held a somber ceremony and lit a sacred fire to honour the 215 Indigenous children found by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops.

The ceremony began with a land welcoming and prayers given by Garry Sam and Christine Sam from the Songhees Nation. Their remarks were followed with addresses from Ry Moran, the Associate University Librarian Reconciliation, and President Hall. 

“Collective action is what’s necessary now to make sure that those kids at every single school are found and remembered and honoured,” said Moran, who worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

Photo provided.

“We have to know this history, we have to remember them, we have to learn their names.” 

The Sacred Fire was built and lit by Firekeepers and followed by powerful performances by Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, and Métis drummers and singers on the Quad.

At 2:15 p.m. there was a moment of silence that lasted exactly two minutes and 15 seconds to remember and honour the children who died at the residential school.

Qwul’sih’yah’maht Robina Thomas, the new Associate Vice President Indigenous, also spoke at the ceremony about her Master’s work on Kuper Island Residential School and her family members who are survivors. 

“This is in our lives today. This will move forward with us. This is not something of the past. I want us to look around us at the young people…many of them are the first generation out of residential school,” Thomas said. 

President Hall recommitted himself and Uvic to “walk the path of reconciliation” with a solemn but resolute address promising Indigenous students, staff, faculty and Elders UVic’s utmost support at this time. 

“The horror of our history and, quite frankly, our current day society has been in front of us to see for as long as I can remember,” said Hall. “I and the UVic leadership team commit to breaking down colonial systems and the barriers that still exist at UVic.” 

The ceremony marks the first day of events and supports that the university has committed to offering to provide support to the UVic community.

The university will be orange-lit for the following days to connect to Orange Shirt Day and the flags, which were lowered on May 28th, will remain lowered until further notice. The Firekeepers will continue to keep the fire burning until this Friday at noon.