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The local impact of residential schools, Seneca Gaming to honor children discovered in Canada

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Posted at 12:08 AM, Jun 03, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Teddy bears, childrens shoes, and a sign that says every child matters and did matter, line the Seneca Nation court building. Until 1957, it was part of the Thomas Indian School.

The remains of 215 children were recently discovered at an Indigenous residential school in British Columbia.

Canisius College Professor Emeritus Keith Burich wrote the book, "The Thomas Indian School and the "Irredeemable" Children of New York." He said residential schools, like Thomas and Kamloops, were meant to assimilate Native American children, something he said deprived them of the love and affection one would get in a family.

“It was an experience of being taken away from their families, from their communities,” Burich said.

Burich said more than 2,700 children from Seneca tribes across the state were brought to the school during it's 102 years.

“It had took an emotional and psychological toll that ended in a lot of self-destructive behavior, alcoholism especially, and that kind of is passed down to their children and to the subsequent generations,” Burich said.

He said some children died at the school, but according to records he reviewed there's nothing similar to the loss in British Columbia.

Seneca Gaming Corporation President/CEO Kevin Nephew said there will be a moment of silence at 2:15 pm across its casinos to honor and remember the 215 children.

“The impact has been felt across the entire Seneca Nation, a significant part of our workforce are Seneca members,” Nephew said.

He added that employees can wear orange ribbons and orange shirts. Canada has on Orange Shirt Day every year on September 30th, in an honor of children that were taken away to indigenous residential schools.

“This is our opportunity to bring awareness to the incidents of this, and the occurrences of what happened to residential schools, and the trauma it’s brought forward,” Nephew said.

The Toronto Blue Jays said it will lower the flags at Sahlen Field to half staff for 215 hours, nearly nine full days, in honor of the children whose lives were lost.