With COVID-19 gathering restrictions lifted, large outdoor community events hosted by the City are carefully being planned once again at Fraser River Heritage Park.
Fraser River Heritage Park is the site of the former St. Mary’s Residential School that operated from 1867 to 1961, and as part of the City’s ongoing work toward becoming a City of Reconciliation, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide the community with an update on the City’s activities taking place at the park in support of Truth and Reconciliation.
Relationship Building and Learning
Long before the City of Mission was formed in 1892, Stó:lō people occupied these lands since time immemorial. About a decade ago, Leq’á:mel, Mathexwi and Semá:th First Nations formed the LMS Society and began negotiating the return of traditional lands to the east of Fraser River Heritage Park by the Province of BC. Community-to-Community forums and meetings with Chiefs, Councillors, and staff of Leq’á:mel, Mathexwi, and Semá:th First Nations and City of Mission Mayor and Council and staff have been taking place.
These meetings are critical for developing relationships, learning about the lands, and collaborating and engaging on projects that shape this city.
Interpretive Sign Project
Interpretive signage was installed to describe and educate park users about the history of the site by the Mission Heritage Association years ago. In 2015, then Acting District Principal Indigenous Department of Mission Schools shared concerns regarding the interpretive signage in the park because they did not adequately express the intent or harm done by the Residential School system.
The signs were removed and replaced with placeholder signage, and work has been ongoing with local First Nations to improve signage throughout the park. Through discussions related to the park, its history, and its future, the project could evolve into the development of more than signage. Timelines for the project will be shared when they are available.
Event Booking Education
Event organizers throughout the Lower Mainland host their events at Fraser River Heritage Park and the booking process now includes a statement reflecting the history of the park as a Residential School in a step toward better communication. This statement acknowledges the ongoing impacts of displacing and separating whole generations of children from their families, Elders, culture, and homes when they were forced to attend St. Mary’s. It also states that ongoing research continues to take place in the park by the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre.
Park Maintenance Plan Development with LMS Society
As part of the transfer of approximately 60 hectares of Crown land to the LMS Society last year, a park management plan will be collaboratively developed by the LMS Society and the City to maintain the natural character of the area, protect sensitive environmental elements, enhance cultural and historic understanding, and guide improvements over time. Plan details will come at a later date.
Learn more about Indigenous Relations in Mission.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress related to the legacy of Residential Schools.