The soft, somber melody of a violin can be heard most days at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
On a sunny Friday afternoon in June, it could be heard coming from the adjacent soccer field, where a makeshift memorial of garden lights and shoes was placed in a line as tribute to the remains of 215 children the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced in May had been found buried on the grounds.
That music is courtesy of Evalintine Wright, a Kamloops resident who has been dedicating an hour of songs for each of the 215 when she visits the Tk’emlups property — which has been nearly every day since June 1. It’s her way of grieving amidst the news of the unmarked burial sites connected to the former residential school.
“They are human beings,” Wright said. “I can’t imagine what these kids had been through prior to their deaths.”
Wright plays a variety of songs — Amazing Grace, Beyond The Sunset, Nearer My God To Thee and Jesus Loves Me are among some examples — usually repeating a four-song set each day on her violin, which she has named Charity.
The Filipina woman who has lived in Kamloops the past two decades said that upon hearing the news, she wanted to do something to pay her respects and figured what she could do was play music.
As a person of faith, Wright said she was angered by the news.
The residential school was run by the Catholic Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate on behalf of the federal government. The congregation operated the school from the 1890s to 1969, when the federal government assumed administration.
When Wright visits the property, she brings tributes, such as flowers. She also has a makeshift memorial for the children outside her home, bought orange shirts for her kids and has a car decal all in an effort to promote awareness.
Wright said that makeshift memorial has since been removed from the lawn next to the former residential school, so she has taken to playing her violin most recently at the memorial to residential school survivors outside the main doors of the building or around back, down by the shore of the South Thompson River.
She has met many people from different places during her visits as the property has become a magnet for those looking to express their grief and pay their own respects in the weeks since the news broke.
Some people have tried giving Wright cash donations while she’s played.
She told KTW she is not collecting any and encourages people to donate directly to a cause supporting survivors of the residential school and their families or to give to the Salvation Army, for which she has volunteered in the past.
It’s not the first time Wright has been compelled to play her violin as a way to mourn.
In May 2020, she played at the site of the makeshift memorial that sprang up along Tranquille Road following the plane crash that killed Snowbirds public affairs officer Capt. Jennifer Casey.