Oct 28, 2022 - News

A Utah ofrenda memorializes children who were buried to be forgotten

A paper shaped like a t-shirt says "Honor the children" in front of candles and a paper grave covered with paper flowers, with crosses in the background.

An ofrenda at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center honors children who died at indigenous boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

El Día de los Muertos is a powerful celebration of memory. But at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, one striking ofrenda — a memorial altar — honors deaths that were long treated as forgettable.

What's happening: Among the ofrendas that community groups have placed in the center's gallery, you'll find a paper grave to honor indigenous children who died in abusive boarding schools.

  • Hundreds of students' bodies were cast into unmarked graves, which are now being investigated in the United States and Canada.

Of note: Many of the residential schools were operated by churches, with the Catholic church running Canadian schools where Indigenous groups have reported evidence of more than 1,000 unmarked graves.

  • The ofrenda for the schools' victims was created by children at the Madeleine Choir School, a Catholic private school in Salt Lake City.

What they're saying: "You did not deserve what happened," one student wrote on an orange paper shirt, a symbol of residential school victims.

Meanwhile: The center is hosting its Día de los Muertos celebration 11am-6pm Saturday, with performances, activities, food, a beer garden and a La Catrina/El Catrin costume contest.

  • Location: 1355 W. 3100 South
  • Tickets: $5. (No charge for kids 12 and under.)
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