The demolition of a former residential school building in Lower Post is supporting hope for the Kaska Dena in northern B.C.
Located close to the Yukon border on the Alaska highway, the residential school in Lower Post was the largest in Western Canada and one of the last to be shut down. This last remaining building was a constant source of fear, anger and sadness: it was a reminder of the experiences of thousands of Indigenous children and youth who were forced to attend the school between 1951 and 1975.
The Daylu Dena Council, which provides community support and service coordination for Lower Post, was forced to use the former school, the only available building, as their administrative centre. They spearheaded efforts for decades to demolish this painful reminder of the residential school system. The demolition of a former residential school building in Lower Post and building of a new cultural centre is supporting hope, healing and opportunity for the Kaska Dena.
On June 30, 2021, 46 years after the residential school closed, the Daylu Dena Council hosted a ceremonial demolition followed by a blessing of the ground for it new cultural centre. This ceremony brought together the Liard First Nation, Taku River Tlingit First Nation, the Tahltan people, the Kaska people and residential school survivors from throughout the North. Premier John Horgan and other government representatives attended.
Harlan Schilling, Deputy Chief of the Dayla Denu Council, said that since the demolition of the residential school, the air has been cleared and people have begun healing. The Dayla Denu documented the demolition in a video to share the sense of hope and new beginnings with First Nations across Canada.
The new community services centre will reflect the community’s interests, culture and traditions. The new facility will provide much needed recreational, educational and cultural spaces for older youth and Elders and the broader community, and will accommodate administrative offices for Daylu Dena Council. The facility will include program rooms for beading, storytelling and Elder’s Tea, an indoor gym, an industrial kitchen, a garden and other outdoor recreational areas. The new multi-purpose cultural centre will be a place of healing and celebration for a community long in need of a safe gathering place.
To support the construction of the new facility, the Government of Canada invested $11.5 million and British Columbia $1.5 million, and Daylu Dena Council $538,960. Indigenous Services Canada funded an additional $1.3 million to help remove hazardous materials and demolish the remaining structure.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for residential school survivors. Survivors can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1 866 925-4419.