Yúusnew̓as 

Yúusnew̓as 

Taking care of spirit, taking care of one another, taking care of everything around us. Another form of the word yúustway.

The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw is the lead community for the sacred work of archival and land-based research into the former St. Paul’s Residential School. Yúusnew̓as is the project name for this work which includes all aspects of caring for our community, survivors, and families. The Nation is the lead community due to the site’s location on Squamish territory and we are working closely with səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Other communities also attended this school while it was open, between 1899 until it was shut down in 1959.

When the work on the site starts, our community as well as our neighbours, will be invited to participate in ceremony and cultural practices. The sacred work will be governed and conducted through Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw cultural protocols.

A project timeline and activities are in development now, and when scheduled, will be shared with the community using various channels.

Project Sponsor: Peter Baker | Director, Ta na wa Yúus ta Stitúyntsam̓ (Rights & Title)

Cultural Lead: Siyaltenaat, Joy Joseph-McCullough | Associate Director of Education, Ta na wa Ch’awát ta Sx̱wéx̱wel (Squamish Valley Operations)

Political Liaisons: 

Tsiyaliya, Bianca Cameron | Squamish Nation Band Manager 

Sempúlyan​, Stewart Gonzales | Squamish Nation General Councillor

Project Governance

The project has been set up to ensure work is done in a good way with our culture and protocols as the foundation.  

Knowledge keepers and those with traditional knowledge lead the project and – before delivery of activities, events, or ceremony – check the work. The Steering Committee guides the project in a good way while the Project Team actively works across multiple areas including health and wellness support, recording stories, archive and land-based research, and cultural practices. 

Those working on the project can be reached by email: yuusnewas@squamish.net.

Project Logo

Nation artist Calvin Charlie-Dawson designed this beautiful logo for the Yúusnew̓as project.

The word yúusnew̓as was proposed by the Elders Advisory Committee for the project name as a recognition that we must take care of survivors as well as all who have been impacted by intergenerational harms. This seven generation approach was the guiding principle for Calvin’s Growth and Unity artwork.

I'm hoping this image will promote our unity and teamwork in our community towards a common good – whether it be upholding our Elders and the journey they have lived, or our new ones for a journey to come. The four heads represent us as a people, the encircling figure represents those looking over us (our ancestors), and the small floral figure in the middle is being guided and protected as we would our children and children's children.

Calvin Charlie-Dawson

Wellness & Healing Supports

Ayás Mén̓men (Child & Family Services) and Yúustway (Health & Wellness) are available to offer wellness & healing supports for Members. More resources coming soon.

Hannah Rushton – Team Leader, Wellness Services, Ayás Mén̓men
Phone: 778-233-4869 or 604-985-4111

Mackenzie Gomez – Community Health & Wellness, Yúustway
Phone: 604-360-3911 or 604-982-0332

Project Communications

May 26, 2022

Ta newyáp Squamish Nation Members, 

The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw is committed to keeping Members informed of the ongoing archives and land-based research into St. Paul’s Residential School. Yúusnew̓as is the project name for this work which includes all aspects of caring for our community, survivors, and families. We are here to walk alongside you and support you.

Information about the project is available on the website. If you have any questions, information, or concerns, you can reach those working on the project by email: yuusnewas@squamish.net.

Why is the project called Yúusnew̓as?

Yúusnew̓as means to take care of spirit, to take care of one another, to take care of everything around us.

Ta na wa Ns7éyx̱nitm ta Snew̓íyelh (Language & Cultural Affairs) reached out the Elders Advisory Committee for guidance on a word or phrase that represents the outcome of this important work and to act as a value for decision making. The word that was selected by the Steering Committee, as presented by the Elders, is yúusnew̓as.

It is a word that recognizes the need to take care of not just the survivors, but all who have been impacted by intergenerational harms.

How is the project being governed?

The project has been set up to ensure work is done in a good way with culture and our protocols as the foundation. On January 27, 2022, Nexwsxwníw̓ntm ta Úxwumixw (Council) approved a governance structure which places cultural protocol, knowledge keepers, and survivors at the heart of decision making.

Knowledge keepers and those with traditional knowledge lead the project and – before delivery of activities, events, or ceremony – check the work. The Steering Committee guides the project in a good way while the Project Team actively works across multiple areas including health and wellness support, recording stories, archive and land-based research, and cultural practices.

A full governance diagram is available to view online.

Has the Nation received any funding to support this work?

Both the federal and provincial governments approved the Nation’s requests for funding. Other grants have been approved for memorialization activities and traditional wellness supports. Donations have also been received from local businesses. The funds will be used to support our staff, activities and events like ceremonies (including knowledge keeper honorariums), and professional costs. More funding proposals to different agencies will be submitted over the next few months.

What was shared on May 15?

On May 15, traditional work and a community feast was held. The traditional work was an important step as we seek to understand and share the truth, care for one another, and honour our ancestors. The witness to the burning ceremony shared that our ancestors know we are doing this work in a good way. They also acknowledged that every person will be on their own wellness journey as our Nation undertakes this work.

After the feast, the Project Sponsor, Peter Baker, explained the work that has been done since the project began, including creating health and wellness supports for survivors and their families, and establishing protocols with other Nations whose Members attended St. Paul’s.

The next stage of the project will involve recording the stories of survivors. This work will be done in a careful and safe way that respects individual survivors’ needs. Kwitelut, Carla George will lead this work in her role as Survivor Liaison.

The final stage of the project will involve pulling all information together to present the truth. More details will be shared when the Nation is ready to proceed with that step.

Wellness and healing support

We understand that this is a difficult time for many of our Members. Ayás Mén̓men (Child & Family Services) and Yúustway (Health & Wellness) are here to offer wellness & healing supports. 

Hannah Rushton – Team Leader, Wellness Services, Ayás Mén̓men
Phone: 778-233-4869 or 604-985-4111

Mackenzie Gomez – Community Health & Wellness, Yúustway
Phone: 604-360-3911 or 604-982-0332

Chet wanáxwstúmi (respectfully),

Council Spokespersons
Syexwáliya, Ann Whonnock​ and Sxwíxwtn, Wilson Williams​

May 3, 2022

Ta newyáp Squamish Nation Members,

The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw continues to support the sacred work within the Yúusnew̓as Project. Guided by our cultural protocols, the project includes all aspects of work to uncover the truth, care for each other, and honour our ancestors.

The Yúusnew̓as Project Team will be holding traditional work on May 15, 2022. Community members are invited to a Community Feast at Chief Joe Mathias Centre (CJMC) where an explanation of the traditional work will be provided.

CJMC will be opened to all community members, including relatives from neighbouring communities, at 1:00 pm with coffee and tea offered. At approximately 2:00 pm, a community meal will be shared followed by our speaker who will share about the important traditional work.

Information will be made available on the website regarding transportation, more detailed schedules, and contact information. 

We understand that this is a difficult time for many of our Members. Ayás Mén̓men (Child & Family Services) and Yúustway (Health & Wellness) are here to offer wellness & healing supports. Trauma support will also be available at CJMC during the Community Feast.

Hannah Rushton – Team Leader, Wellness Services, Ayás Mén̓men
Phone: 778-233-4869 or 604-985-4111

Mackenzie Gomez – Community Health & Wellness, Yúustway
Phone: 604-360-3911 or 604-982-0332

Chet wanáxwstúmi (respectfully),

Council Spokespersons
Syexwáliya, Ann Whonnock​ and Sxwíxwtn, Wilson Williams​

April 4, 2022

Ta newyáp Squamish Nation Members,

Last week, Indigenous delegates from across Canada met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome as part of efforts to address the harms caused by Catholic run residential schools. We continue to promote the Indigenous right to culture, truth, and to heal in our own way. Chairperson Khelsilem and Councillor and residential school survivor Sempulyan represented the Nation with a secondary group of delegates alongside the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Our delegates were sponsored to travel to Rome by the local Archdiocese.

In a general audience on April 1, after listening to Indigenous delegates, Pope Francis formally stated his sorrow and shame for the conduct of some members of the Catholic Church in the residential school system. If you would like to listen and reflect on this apology, it can be viewed here.

This apology is an important step in our path towards lasting reconciliation for all Indigenous People. The Pope has stated his hope to visit Canada and we welcome a Papal apology in our territories as part of this ongoing dialogue.

Here at home, we are focused on the Yúusnew̓as project and the healing of our People. We are actively working to address the needs of our community and support each Member on their wellness journey. We remain committed to communicating to you as we move forward.

We understand that this past week has been difficult for many of our Members. Ayás Mén̓men (Child & Family Services) and Yúustway (Health & Wellness) are here to offer wellness & healing supports.

Hannah Rushton – Team Leader, Wellness Services, Ayás Mén̓men
Phone: 778-233-4869 or 604-985-4111

Mackenzie Gomez – Community Health & Wellness, Yúustway
Phone: 604-360-3911 or 604-982-0332

Chet wanáxwstúmi (respectfully),

Council Spokespersons
Syexwáliya, Ann Whonnock​ and Sxwíxwtn, Wilson Williams​

March 29, 2022

As you may or may not have seen in the news, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has sent a delegation to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican as a part of their efforts to seek justice for the harm caused by Catholic run residential schools. The AFN’s delegation of survivors and leadership will gather with the Pope on April 1, and a series of meetings will take place, along with a cultural presentation from the delegates.

The Squamish Nation has been asked to join the main AFN delegation to the Vatican. From Council, Chairperson Khelsilem and Councillor and residential school survivor Sempulyan will be representing the Nation as secondary delegates, to share the Squamish experience with Vatican officials. Both will have an opportunity to be a part of the general audience with Pope Francis.

It is our sincere hope that meaningful dialogue will result in a path forward towards lasting reconciliation for all Indigenous People. We welcome a Papal apology in our territories for the trauma inflicted on generations of our People through Catholic residential schools. Our delegates will be carrying the Squamish message forward and will be at the Vatican to support the Indigenous experience, as needed.

Here at home, we are focusing our own efforts through the Yúusnew̓as project. We strongly believe this Squamish led approach will promote outcomes that intend to stop the cycle of trauma within our generations and to honour the victims and survivors. We are committed to this work to support health and wellness of all our People. We choose to achieve this through Squamish protocols, guided by our teachings, relationships, and influence in our own homeland.

We remain committed to communicating to you as we move forward. In the meantime, our delegates will bring the Squamish experience to the Vatican, as all Indigenous people work towards a meaningful way forward.

Chet wanáxwstúmi (respectfully),

Council Spokespersons
Syexwáliya, Ann Whonnock​ and Sxwíxwtn, Wilson Williams​

March 16, 2022

Like many of you, we were dismayed and disappointed to see the vandalism of our monument that honours the victims and survivors of the St. Paul’s Residential School. The memorial at the intersection of Forbes and Sixth Street has stood for six years and is a place Nation Members could go and reflect. The damage done was upsetting to many of our Nation Members and opened old wounds for survivors and their families.

Today, we would like to inform you that the monument will be repaired by the original artist and St. Paul’s survivor Jason Nahanee. On Saturday March 19, the two figures on the monument will be removed, leaving only the supporting pole and base, while they are refurbished. The centre beam and base will be cleaned and repainted. Once Jason has the two figures in his workshop, he will focus on replacing the arm severed by vandals. To do this, Jason will make all efforts to find cedar wood that closely matches the original arm. Most importantly, he hopes to carve a new arm that is as close as possible to the existing arm on the figure.

This is sacred work on behalf of our Nation, the victims, survivors, and their families. We know Jason will do his utmost to repair the damage and return the monument to its rightful place. We know this will take time, but we hope to have the repaired figures back in place in the next four weeks. We want to thank Jason as he takes on this repair.

We also want to thank you, our Members, for your patience as we discussed this repair. We know this has been difficult and hope that the refurbished memorial will once again be a place of peace and reflection.

Chet wanáxwstúmi (respectfully),

Council Spokespersons
Syexwáliya, Ann Whonnock​ and Sxwíxwtn, Wilson Williams​

January 25, 2022

Today, the T’exelcemc First Nation (People of Williams Lake First Nation) will be sharing the initial results of their residential school investigation at the former St. Joseph’s Mission. We wanted to let you know in advance of their announcement that you are likely to see the results of the investigation in the news.

Squamish Nation understands that this information may be triggering and difficult to hear. We are here to walk alongside you and support you. Ayás Mén̓men (Child & Family Services) and Yúustway (Health & Wellness) are here to offer a wide range of wellness & healing supports for you. Please reach out for support.

Contacts
Hannah Rushton – Team Leader, Wellness Services, Ayás Mén̓men
Phone: 778-233-4869 or 604-985-4111

Mackenzie Gomez – Community Health & Wellness, Yúustway
Phone: 604-360-3911 or 604-982-0332

Our own investigation into St. Paul’s residential school (Yúusnew̓as) is ongoing. Updates on the project will be posted to this webpage.

We are committed to keeping you informed and will reach out when we have more to share, as our own investigation progresses.

Chet wanáxwstúmi (respectfully),

Council Spokespersons
Syexwáliya, Ann Whonnock​ and Sxwíxwtn, Wilson Williams​

August 10, 2021

Our community is on a healing journey, one that is supported and sustained by our Sḵwx̱wú7mesh culture and customs.

Ta na wa Yúus ta Stitúyntsam̓ (Rights & Title) has been preparing to undertake work regarding the former St. Paul’s Indian Residential School site.

We thank all community members and survivors who were able to join us for a ceremony on Monday, August 9, as we prepare to move forward on this important and difficult journey.

Today, we announce publicly that we have embarked on an Indigenous-led initiative, with xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, to find answers about the children who attended the former St. Paul’s Indian Residential School but never made it home.

The investigation is being launched to bring healing and care for residential school survivors and is a critical part of the reconciliation process. This work will occur in phases, with a plan for each phase approved and supported by the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh community through Council. The intent is to proceed in a careful manner to gather records and accounts of the experiences of survivors who attended the school.

See the full press release and work plan below. Please note, these documents contain information regarding Indian Residential Schools that may be distressing to some.

The Community Health & Wellness Team at Yúustway (Health & Wellness) is available to support Members. Please contact them at 604-982-0332 or wellness@squamish.net.

**CONTENT WARNING** This news release contains information about Indian Residential Schools.

Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations Announce Investigation at Former St. Paul’s Indian Residential School Site 

Beginning of a sacred and culturally safe healing journey

Coast Salish Territories | August 10, 2021 — Today, the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) announced it has embarked on an Indigenous-led initiative, on behalf of its people and in partnership with its relatives, the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, to find answers about the children who attended the former St. Paul’s Indian Residential School but never made it home.

Over 2,000 Indigenous children, representing six generations of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ Nations, and other Indigenous communities, were institutionalized at St. Paul’s from grades one through eight. Many of these same children were then forcibly relocated to Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the remains of at least 215 children were confirmed this May. Oral histories told by St. Paul’s survivors include stories about children who disappeared.

According to public records, 12 unidentified students died while attending St. Paul’s between 1904 and 1913. The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw’s goal with the investigation of the former residential school site, located within Squamish unceded territory, is to find the location of each of these children and bring them home to rest.

“It’s important to note that our People’s experiences with St. Paul’s Indian Residential School are well known and healing is needed to move forward. This work is being done to respect and address both known and unknown knowledge, and is a critical part of reconciliation,” says Khelsilem, spokesperson for the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw.

The investigation plans will be developed collaboratively among the three Host Nations, with support from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver. “We welcome and value the involvement of our relatives, as we hold each other up through this healing journey. We also appreciate others in the community who are committed to respectfully and meaningfully supporting us as our process unfolds,” says Khelsilem.

The process will be supported and sustained by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh culture and customs. “As a Nation, we are in motion, committed to guiding the investigation in a way that protects, supports, honours and brings peace to our members, survivors, their families, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ relatives, other Indigenous communities, and to the children who attended St. Paul’s and remain separated from their families,” says Khelsilem.

Though the process planning is still taking shape, it will involve an inquiry into St. Paul’s Indian Residential School and field investigation at the site. A preliminary workplan detailing the high-level phases of work is summarized in the accompanying backgrounder. The phases of the investigation include:

  • a formalized interview process with survivors who attended the school and whose accounts may assist in helping to narrow down, or expand, investigation search areas;
  • the gathering of all records related to the school throughout its history (from all levels of government, the Catholic Church and religious entities affiliated with St. Paul’s, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission); and,
  • remote sensing searches in defined areas of interest, which may include ground-penetrating radar studies or other suitable methods.


While other residential school settings have quickly been the subject of ground-penetrating radar studies, this setting has some unique considerations:

  • Unlike other residential school sites, which are located on First Nations reserves, the St. Paul’s Indian Residential School site is currently owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver.
  • Extensive development has occurred within the past 60 years on the property or properties of interest.

 

The results of the field investigation will guide next steps. “Whether or not unmarked graves are found, there is enough documented oral and archival evidence to say that these burials do or did exist,” says Khelsilem.

“No one in our communities is untouched by the intergenerational harm of residential schools. Our process will prioritize listening and caring for our people first and foremost. This sacred and healing work is very difficult, but will directly contribute to the health and wellbeing of present and future generations of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ Peoples,” says Khelsilem.

St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, located in present-day North Vancouver, was located next to the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh community of Eslhá7an. It was operated for 60 years by the Catholic Church until its closure in 1959. St. Paul’s was Metro Vancouver’s only residential school. St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary School, a private Catholic school, currently operates on the former St. Paul’s site.

Media Backgrounders 

Two media backgrounders are available:

 

About the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw 

The Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) is a vibrant and dynamic Coast Salish Nation that has existed and prospered within its traditional territory since time immemorial. The Skwxwú7mesh Stelmexw (Squamish People) continue to reside in the area now described as the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The largest proportion of Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw Members live in several urban reserve communities in the present-day cities of Vancouver, North and West Vancouver and the municipality of Squamish, B.C. Over 47 per cent of the more than 4,050 Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw Members live on-reserve, and membership is determined by guidelines set out in the Squamish Nation Membership Code. The Nation has never ceded or surrendered title to its lands, rights to its resources or the power to make decisions within its territory. Learn more: squamish.net/about-our-nation.

Support services, resources and donations 

  • Crisis support lines are available 24/7 through Indian Residential School Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066, through KUU-US Crisis Line Society at 1-800-588-8717, and through the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
  • The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSS) assists Survivors with counselling, court support, information, referrals, workshops, and more. It is a registered charity where donations can be made at: irsss.ca 
  • The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides 24-hour crisis services through education, prevention and intervention programs. It is a registered charity where donations can be made at: kuu-uscrisisline.com 
  • Yúustway (Health & Wellness) Department provides community health programs and services to Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Members. Contact them at 604-982-0332 or wellness@squamish.net.
  • The 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including Calls to Action 71 to 76 that call for information, records, online registries, documentation, and commemoration of missing children and their burial information, as well as protection of residential school cemeteries.
  • Charitable donations in support of the St. Paul’s Indian Residential School Investigation process can be made to the Squamish Nation by referencing ‘St. Paul’s Investigation’. Mailing address: PO Box 86131, North Vancouver, B.C., V7L 4J5, Canada.

 

Media Contact

Email: media@squamish.net

Photos from the Press Conference are available for download here.

May 31, 2021

On behalf of Indian Residential School Survivors and their descendants, we join hearts with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc to mourn the deaths of the 215 Indigenous children discovered this past week at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This discovery is one that affects all of us, resurfacing generations of trauma that is felt in waves throughout our community. We must hold each other up and look to our culture to help us through this difficult time.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School and St. Paul’s Indian Residential School in North Vancouver were just two institutions where thousands of Squamish, Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and other Indigenous children were forced to attend. These children would have been Elders and members of our communities today, and we must honour them by joining forces to urgently call for Action 75 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to identify all cemeteries, residential school sites, and unmarked graves at which Indigenous children have been buried.

Just 10 out of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have so far been completed. We as a Nation reaffirm our commitment to the remaining Calls and we urge the federal government, all institutions, First Nations leaders, and people of Canada to demand the implementation and completion of this work. What the world has learned this past week from Kamloops is a moment for country-wide reflection, but also an action to urgently repair the intergenerational harm done to our peoples.

For all of those affected by this discovery, a National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support (1-866-925-4419). In B.C., a toll-free First Nations and Indigenous Crisis Line (1-800-588-8717) is offered through the KUU-US Crisis Line Society. Both Crisis Lines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.