Communities come together to walk in unity as nation observes first Truth and Reconciliation Day

Communities come together to walk in unity as nation observes first Truth and Reconciliation Day
HAGERSVILLE—A large group of people walked together Wednesday, September 29, 2021 in a stunning show of support to the many victims of Canada’s residential school systems. The event briefly shut down the intersection of Highway 6 and First Line just outside Hagersville for a ceremony that included healing, chanting, and dancing. It took place the day before Canada’s first official Truth and Reconciliation Day. See the full story on Page 14. —Haldimand Press photo by Mike Renzella.

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

HAGERSVILLE—Last week, a day before the first annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, a large crowd gathered in a parking lot at the corner of Highway 6 and First Line in Hagersville for a healing ceremony and walk that brought people of different cultures together to show support for the victims of Canada’s residential school system.

Following the first discovery of 215 children’s graves at the Kamloops Residential School in June, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) members and allies held a ceremony to “acknowledge the truths that Indigenous communities have known for generations,” said a statement provided to The Press by MCFN members. With over 6,000 graves since found at various locations, “a committee of MCFN staff members came together to plan an event for Orange Shirt Day.”

The Kinaa Shpandaagziwag Binoojiiyag – Every Child Matters Unity and Remembrance Walk “was a culmination of weeks of planning, support, and sponsorship” from MCFN Chief and Council, staff members, and a grassroots committee “who had a vision for healing and unity. The first step in reconciliation is truth; events like this provide opportunities for the truth to be spoken and for allies to listen,” said the statement.

In a moving display, a troupe of Indigenous singers and drummers gathered in the middle of the intersection and performed a series of healing chants surrounded by members of the Indigenous community dancing in a circle. The crowd also joined in the dance. Once completed, the group began their long walk down First Line, followed by a convoy of vehicles filled with supporters.

“It is vital that all people who occupy this land know and understand the true history of Canada, the impact of colonization, and the legacy of the Indian residential schools and Sixties Scoop. Our children are still being apprehended; residential school is still happening, just in a different form of CAS (Children’s Aid Society)/foster care,” said the statement. 

The statement noted lasting effects of trauma from abuse perpetrated in the residential schools and deaths occurring on site, including “stories surfacing about young children having to dig graves to bury their murdered friend, family member.”

Additionally, “The loss of language and culture is a monumental impact felt in … every First Nation, Inuit, and Métis community in Canada. The loss of language and culture caused a ripple effect that created lasting damage to the traditional family system, which in turn resulted in Indigenous people being over represented in all colonial systems/institutions, facing poverty, foster care, corrections, mental health, and addiction.” 

While residential schools have all been closed, the group asserted that “the ongoing horror of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is directly related to the legacy of abuse and disregard of the value of lives of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in Canada.”

MCFN encouraged people seeking to learn more about this history to read First Nations writers, recommending                                 goodminds.com as a great starting place. The site offers a wealth of literature in all genres, exclusively from Indigenous authors. 

“Each person is responsible for seeking the truth about this,” said the statement, adding that reconciliation cannot take place without learning the history, acknowledging the atrocities, and putting continued pressure on the government to follow through on their stated intent to reconcile with the First Nations communities. 

MCFN members urge the public to continue standing behind them.

“Truth and reconciliation isn’t a holiday to celebrate and then forget about it until next year. There is real work to be done to bring the children in the unmarked graves back to their families and communities. There is work to be done to heed the (Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s) calls to action and to dismantle the colonial systems that are still oppressing Indigenous people, families, and children and to change the narrative in the educational system. We have inherited intergenerational trauma and are now able to begin our healing process as the truth is revealed.”

It was announced last week that a survivor-led search of the grounds of the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford will be conducted next month, with both community members and the police being trained on how to use ground-piercing technology to search for grave sites. Those wishing to help can make donations to the Mohawk Village Memorial Park fund at mohawkvillagepark.com, to the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign at                                                                     

woodlandculturalcentre.ca/the-campaign 

or to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, which uses donations to improve the lives of Indigenous people through awareness and education.

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