Keweenaw Bay Indian Community walks in remembrance of abused Indigenous children

The group also held ceremonies in honor of the 215 children whose bodies were found buried at an Indigenous boarding school in Canada in May.
Remembrance walk held in Baraga for Canadian Indigenous Children
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT
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BARAGA, Mich. (WLUC) - This weekend, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) is gathering for its 43rd Annual Pow-Wow. The event started on a somber note Friday morning.

Dozens gathered where the former St. Joseph Orphanage once stood at the old Assinins mission site, where KBIC members say Indigenous children were abused decades ago. The group held ceremonies in honor of those children, as well as the 215 children whose bodies were found buried at an Indigenous boarding school in Canada in May.

“We want to remember them, wherever they’re at,” said event organizer Rodney Loonsfoot. “This appeal is for us to be able to use our culture—our identity of who we are—to come together in a circle and create what we’re supposed to be here for.”

They then walked one mile from the orphanage to the Ojibwa Campgrounds. The walk was a symbol of their unity and strength.

KBIC members say while it is difficult to think about what happened at the orphanage and elsewhere, the walk and ceremonies were about healing.

“Seeing the effects of what had happened in all of the residential schools and what it’s done to our culture and our community, we were pretty much taught to be ashamed of who we are,” said attendee Rencie. “It’s not only that we are finding bodies, but we’re finding our spirit back.”

Members of the KBIC say they plan to continue asking President Joe Biden and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to help them in uncovering past abuse and finding the remains of all Indigenous children killed.

“We are going to demand that we have these bodies returned to us, and also that justice will be given for those children that perished and the crimes against our people,” said Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson, grandmother of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge.

The community is now looking ahead to brighter days together.

“Today is a good day,” Loonsfoot said. “COVID’s gone, and we got a chance to come together in a circle and smile. This is going to be even bigger yet.”

The Pow-Wow is being held at the Ojibwa Campground off US-41 in Baraga. There will be vendors and performances through Sunday.

Admission to the Pow-Wow is free, and all are welcome to attend. Click here for more information.

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