Summer of 2021 began with the heart wrenching discovery of 215 unmarked graves on the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation’s former Residential School. The news spread across the country, igniting conversations around the history of Residential Schools in Canada. The immense grief and sadness from the discovery could be felt in communities as the country recognized these children have gone undiscovered, unreported, or seemingly forgotten.
Through our drop-in support, we have aided many residential school survivors in filing their day school claims. Many of these survivors are well aware of the mistreatment and violence that occurred in these schools and were not surprised by the grim discoveries. Many were relieved, as day school court claims of violence were often scrutinized and investigated as a means to diminish their truth. This news, though awful, validated their painful memories and stories as truth.
Soon after the public announcement, Canadians from every nationality were seen openly sporting “every child matters” and “orange shirts” marked with the number 215 within their communities. While this discovery opened old wounds for every residential school survivor across Turtle Island, it also inspired Canadians to dig even deeper to discover the truths that were left out of our history books.
Loaded words like reconciliation, reparations, justice, decolonization, and colonialism surfaced in every article, story, and news headline across the country. Most of us began searching online for answers, attending rallies, or showing our support through orange ribbons. While this felt like allyship, and was an important act of standing in solidarity with Indigenous people it is only a first step and there is much more work that needs to be done.
At 1JustCity, we are helping our communities heal through this difficult discovery by listening to Indigenous voices first, as they recall the events that transpired through their own experiences and by uplifting their voices to ensure that they are not silenced. We are here to encourage all Canadians to do the same.
During the ongoing investigations at other residential school sites, the number 215 has quickly grown to over 6,000 and is expected to increase. This begs the questions;
“Where are the records of these sites?”, and;
“What was the intention of these schools?”.
These questions allow us to seek out the truth and begin the journey towards true allyship, accountability and transparency and above all: JUSTICE! Canadians are asked to adjust their lens and learn or unlearn how this all happened in the first place.
If we are to learn anything from these past events it is that we MUST continue to listen, empower and uplift Indigenous voices and people in times of need.
Through our Indigenous Cultural Programming and Indigenous leadership at all three of our sites we’ve been working to respond with more engagement, care, and love than ever before.
We continue to respond to the grief and assist in healing with those who are continuously being affected today by the impacts of residential schools. This grief continues to show up in an array of substance use and sometimes lateral violence in our community. Our staff have been working closely to ensure that safety and belonging is at the forefront of all that we do.
Our Reconciliation Circles began in July to engage our donors and volunteers in meaningful relationships and conversations around the events that transpired since May 2021. 1JustCity’s commitment to creating spaces and opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples to meet and find common grounds in rebuilding a community that supports and uplifts Indigenous Peoples at all levels of justice.
Reconciliation means signing on with the Indigenous Accord hosted by The City of Winnipeg’s commitment to uphold community standards in alignment with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action. Reconciliation means seeking out an opportunity to educate ourselves and our communities on the impacts that residential schools have had on Indigenous People in this country.
With our Indigenous leadership staff, there is always time to ask for smudge and prayer when times get tough. There is always joy and laughter shared during programming in uncertain times, our community members and staff share in small moments that foster stronger connections and personal healing.
Our Annual Demonstration Pow Wow has become a larger celebration and attracted community members from all over Manitoba including rural communities and reservations. They have all come together in the spirit of joy, pride and strong community values. There was an abundance of laughter, play, athleticism in telling a story through movement and most importantly a shared connection to spirit and creation.
With your support we are able to continue to work diligently towards reconciliation, together we can begin to heal the wounds and mistakes of the past. We are nurturing growth and connection through shared spirituality, all while celebrating our differences in how we express those beliefs. This is how we move forward together.
You have a role to play. Come to our programming, or donate right now. Better yet, do both! Donate to our Indigenous Cultural Program here: https://www.1justcity.ca/donate.
“Reconciliation is not a destination, but rather a practice.” - Waneek Horn-Miller