I learned a lot about the Inuvik Community Greenhouse this past weekend, thanks to a nice discussion that I had with Ray Solotki, the greenhouse’s executive director.
The greenhouse is a great place for any green thumbs out there in the community. It’s a cheap alternative to buying produce at the grocery store. Not only is it fresh, it’s the product of your own nurturing.
A cafe and a chicken coop are also coming to the greenhouse this summer, as well as weekly workshops and an outdoor garden. There’s a lot going on at the greenhouse this season that will definitely keep a lot of residents busy.
But I also learned that before the building was flipped into a greenhouse over 20 years ago, it was used as an arena that was owned by Grollier Hall, one of two of Inuvik’s residential schools.
Grollier Hall and Stringer Hall both opened in 1959. They served as student residences for those who attended the nearby Alexander Mackenzie Day School. Stringer Hall housed Anglican students, while Catholic students stayed at Grollier Hall.
Grollier Hall closed its doors in 1996, one of the last residential schools in Canada to do so. It’s been 23 years since then, and the trauma the school inflicted on its students continues to be felt today.
Solotki told me how it’s difficult for some community members to step foot inside the greenhouse. Most avoid the building altogether.
Canada’s residential school system is a horrific chapter in the nation’s history. It’s heartbreaking to hear of all of the awful acts that were committed against the students by those who managed these schools. What’s even more tragic is that this system continues to impact generations of Indigenous people today.
I was happy to hear that Solotki was planning on hosting some sort of ceremony at the greenhouse to commemorate the victims of Grollier Hall. Not only would this validate their feelings, but it would also let them know that the community has not forgotten about them.
Having a ceremony to recognize the building’s history and celebrate what it represents today won’t eliminate the painful memories or feelings some community members have towards the structure. But it is a step in the right direction in terms of reconciliation.
There are hundreds of community members who suffer in silence, while some might not even have anyone to turn to. It’s important that we acknowledge that and let them know that we stand with them. We can’t erase what has happened, but together we can help others heal.