National Truth and Reconciliation Day rallies in Owen Sound

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It was an opportunity to reflect, remember and learn on Thursday, as the people of Gray-Bruce marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

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Events took place in communities across the region as people gathered to mark the day and honor lost children and residential school survivors, their families and communities. The newly created holiday also coincided with Orange Shirt Day, a day led by Indigenous people to honor the children who survived Canada’s residential schools as well as those who did not.

The day was approved by Parliament after, earlier this year, hundreds of anonymous graves were discovered at the sites of former residential schools. Hundreds of other graves have since been discovered and research continues across Canada.

At the M’Wikwedong Native Friendship Center in Owen Sound, hundreds of people gathered as a holy fire was lit at noon. M’Wikwedong Cultural Resources Coordinator, Saugeen Ojibway Elder and Traditional Knowledge Keeper Paul Nadjiwan led a ceremony of Ojibway songs and traditions. Participants were invited to make a tobacco offering in the fire after the ceremony in support of the ceremony. A similar ceremony that drew hundreds more took place later that day at the Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden in Kelso Beach Park.

People gather at the Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden in Kelso Beach Park for a ceremony to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Owen Sound, Ontario on Thursday, September 30, 2021.
People gather at the Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden in Kelso Beach Park for a ceremony to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Owen Sound, Ontario on Thursday, September 30, 2021. Photo by Rob Gowan

“I feel good that everyone is here from all walks of life, and that’s what brings us together as a company and community,” Nadjiwan said after the ceremony in M’Wikwedong. “We need more of this and not less. Ceremonies like this are something that First Nations do to each other, but because of days like today we share that with a greater contingency of society and that is good.

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Nadjiwan said it has always been known in First Nations communities that many children go missing in residential schools and that these stories are told by other children who attend them. Recently the evidence has come to light for society at large.

“I think it grabs society because everyone is wondering, and if it was my child, and if it was my grandchild, my niece or my nephew, my brother or my sister,” Nadjiwan said. . “I think people felt it immediately and they came to the support and help of the First Nations, which was greatly appreciated.”

He said he hopes this day will bring a lifelong memory and reflection to those who came on Thursday.

“It’s right there with Remembrance Day and maybe even Christmas Day and other times like that,” Nadjiwan said. “It’s very meaningful and we’ll all have to bear the brunt of what that entails. I think everyone should have a voice on this and we’ll see what kind of responses come out from a very broad representation of society. “

In the morning, at Keystone Children, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, a staff healing circle was led by the Keystone Indigenous Advisory Group called Biimidiziwin, which means promotion by l action and a good life.

Advisory group members Alanna Kade and Winston Boudreau spoke to parking lot staff about the day, its significance, and their own past experiences.

Those present were invited to participate in a sage purification ceremony, to cleanse their hearts and bodies, including their hands, minds, ears, eyes and mouths.

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They then created tobacco ties with orange fabric and string to hang from a nearby oak tree. Plans are underway to create a permanent sacred fire arbor in Keystone.

Stacy Ostland, Executive Assistant at Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, ties a tobacco tie to an oak tree in Keystone following a ceremony to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Owen Sound, Ont. , Thursday, September 30, 2021.
Stacy Ostland, Executive Assistant at Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, ties a tobacco tie to an oak tree in Keystone following a ceremony to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Owen Sound, Ont. , Thursday, September 30, 2021. Photo by Rob Gowan

Boudreau said it’s very easy to misinterpret the day and its meaning, and it’s important to stay focused on what it really is.

“From what I understand on social media, a lot of people see it almost as a holiday and it’s not,” Boudreau said. “If you want to compare it, it’s almost like a Remembrance Day like the one we have in November.

“It’s a day to reflect, to understand what happened and to make sure these things don’t happen again.”

Boudreau said the day is also important for bringing to life keeping conversations open and working together to bring out the truth and then come to terms.

“If we continue on the path of just standing out and not progressing in any way, then there is no point in having truth and reconciliation if we can’t even discuss it freely or even express it,” did he declare. “Yes, break out the truth, reconcile yourself, and what are we going to do after that?” “

Kade added that it is important to ensure that the same cycle does not continue.

“It makes things happen in a different way, in a better way and in a good way,” Kade said. “It’s action.”

Alanna Kade, right, of the Biimidiziwin Indigenoius Advisory Group of Keystone Children, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, watches staff sew tobacco ties in Keystone following a ceremony to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Owen Sound, Ontario.  , Thursday, September 30, 2021.
Alanna Kade, right, of the Biimidiziwin Indigenoius Advisory Group of Keystone Children, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, watches staff sew tobacco ties in Keystone following a ceremony to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Owen Sound, Ontario. , Thursday, September 30, 2021. Photo by Rob Gowan

Boudreau said everyone is affected by the traumas and actions of the past in different ways and it will take time.

“During all these years of not being listened to too, now it’s legitimized and now we ask them, what can we do,” Boudreau said. “Grieving has to happen, reflection will happen and things will move forward. It just has to take time and happen naturally, unlike a very colonial way that has to be done now. “

Winston Boudreau, of the Biimidiziwin Indigenoius Advisory Group of Keystone Children, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, speaks at a healing circle there marking National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Owen Sound, Ontario on Thursday, September 30, 2021.
Winston Boudreau, of the Biimidiziwin Indigenoius Advisory Group of Keystone Children, Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, speaks at a healing circle there marking National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Owen Sound, Ontario on Thursday, September 30, 2021. Photo by Rob Gowan

Kade said many First Nations people are still grappling with the findings of the residential schools themselves.

“They haven’t even watched it because it’s too painful or they don’t remember it,” she said. “It all sparked a whole different set of blood memories that they’re going to have to process to even move forward. “

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