The 215 children found buried and hidden at Kamloops IRS on the May long weekend of 2021 has shaken many of us anew. The stories of our Elders are true. The stories of survivors are true. From beyond, these children are crying out for recognition.
I’m the daughter of a powerful woman who spent grades 1 through 10 at that very school. She has taught me love. She has always prioritized the protection of others and tender generosity in spite of the state of the world, and in spite of the place that she knew simply as “school.”
This play, They Know Not What They Do, is a short work commissioned of Native Earth’s Made to Order program by Frank Pio at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. The TCDSB reviewed the script – written to spec, to include multiple experiences of the children who endured IRS – and censored nearly every word. As a result, the production didn’t ever take place. It’s not a revolutionary piece, it’s educational. Perhaps that is what revolutions are made of. Certainly we know revolutions don’t happen without our youngsters.
Donna Michelle St. Bernard has included the play in her Indian Act: Residential School Plays printed by Playwrights Canada Press. While I believe most people should own a copy of this book, and that artists must be remunerated (cover art by the incredible Erika Iserhoff,) I am offering my short play here for use in High Schools. While everyone living in the colonized nation of “Canada” ought to learn about IRS’s, there is violent death in this work, and ought to be entered into with tender strength, and only by students old enough to cope with the truth of our history and with proper support.
Professionals ought to contact me directly for rights.
Thank you, DM. Thanks to PCP. Thanks to the writers in this anthology. Thanks to the educators who have already worked with this play. Thank you for taking time to invest in these stories that are all too real.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community, thank you for caring for those little spirits and for walking forward with love.