It Matters to Me – Thank You Survivors at TRC Event
I heard a lot of truth this weekend that was very difficult to hear. I was one of 30,127 connected via live -streaming to 36 countries around the world, and later attended in person, a historical event in Canada that took place here in Edmonton, Alberta within traditional Treaty Six Plains Cree territory.
This was the final gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) event where survivors of the Indian Residential schools shared their stories about a racist and inhumane system run by our government and churches for over 130 years.
Stories were told by the survivors themselves, who, as children, were forcibly taken from their families, shipped to schools where they were not allowed to speak their own language, practice their own culture, not allowed to talk to their siblings in the same school, punished for being who they were, punished for being children who were terrified and forced to adopt a culture that wasn’t their own, forced to stay in a school separated from family and forced to adopt a religion in order to to be “civilized” by a most uncivilized system of government and churches.
As if this was not abusive enough, add to that beatings, emotional, psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
One exhibit that moved me deeply in the Learning room was the Missing Children project. At this time more than 4,100 children have been identified by the commission who died of disease or accident while attending residential schools.These, and many more were not returned home.
There was much raw pain and emotion.Many tears. It was emotionally exhausting. There also was a balance of humour, talent, ceremony, love. Much laughter and wisdom was shared, the latter of which was the theme of this event which comes from the seven sacred teachings: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, and truth.All of these teachings were practised at this gathering.
It is very hard to describe the wealth of experience gained by listening, sharing, talking and greeting others. I went because I could not “not” go. I was very nervous at first, but felt welcome with the people at this large gathering.It was an honour to be there. . .to walk in the march at the end of the event as a member of the human race. My intention is to do my part in sharing the truth to others about the residential schools that existed for generations, to listen to the stories and teachings of the survivors and elders.
I want to express my deep gratitude and respect to the survivors, many of you who shared your stories for the first time here. Thank you for your honesty and courage. May all of us continue on our healing journey, be proud, be respectful and walk in reverence, harmony. . . and thrive!
All my relations.
I didn’t take my camera, wanted to be fully present to the experience. I include here a photo I took in 1998 at the 25th anniversary of Poundmaker’s Lodge, a recovery centre outside of Edmonton . In the background you see the remains of the residential school, which was destroyed by arson in 2000.
I returned to the Heritage Festival in Edmonton yesterday-was hoping to see some fancy dancers and I wasn’t disappointed. I rode my bicycle which was fine going-mostly downhill- but the trip home was a little tough. I had to walk up the hill-my knees were hurting and my energy low but there was no rush and I made it home just fine. It was hot and sunny and what energy I lacked was more than made up for by these dancers.They are from the Sioux nation and had elaborate costumes and excellent dancing skills. I must have gotten so excited that I forgot to take photos at one point then dialed my shutter speed a few notches and lost a few shots.Used my zoom lens and compensated for the high contrast in lighting both in camera and in post editing.Have done some cropping to eliminate or reduce those awkward backgrounds that always occur in crowded public scenes.