The second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Sept. 30 featured events across the country to honour those who attended residential schools and experienced the loss of language, family connections and culture — as well as those who suffered abuse and those who died there — and to raise awareness about the ongoing inter-generational effects of residential schools, colonization, and racism.
The new federal holiday builds upon “Orange Shirt Day” marked on Sept. 30 in recent years. Wearing orange was prompted by the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who as a six-year-old arriving at residential school in 1973 had her beloved orange shirt immediately taken away.
Parish hosts afternoon walk
In the diocese of Saskatoon, parishioners from Holy Spirit Catholic Church joined with leaders from Our Lady of Guadalupe Indigenous parish Sept. 30 for prayer, smudging and a late-afternoon walk through a neighbourhood park, accompanied by pastors Fr. Joseph Salihu and Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR, along with Bishop Mark Hagemoen.
Reconciliation Saskatoon walk
Earlier in the day, a larger “Rock Your Roots” walk for reconciliation was held, starting after a pancake breakfast at CUMFI, with a sea of orange-clad participants walking together along 20th Street West to the “Where Our Paths Cross” art installation at Reconciliation Circle in Victoria Park. The walk was followed by a program in the park featuring First Nations and Métis cultural performers, musicians and guest speakers.
Rock Your Roots is put on by Reconciliation Saskatoon, which the City of Saskatoon co-chairs along with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner. The event, which has seen attendance in the thousands in past years, was first held in 2016. The intent of this event is to answer the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action by demonstrating a commitment to Reconciliation, honouring Residential School Survivors, and continuing work towards an inclusive community.
“The significance of a walk can be attributed to the Sunday walks in residential schools; this was often the only time when siblings and cousins of different genders might be reunited,” says Judy Pelly, a Residential School Survivor and member of the Rock Your Roots Walk organizing committee. “It’s meaningful to see Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples come together in this way.”
“This walk is an opportunity to learn about and honour First Nation and Métis residential school survivors,” says Shirley Isbister, President of Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI). “It’s an inclusive event that welcomes everyone to come out and participate. We look forward to being together.”
“This walk is a symbol of Reconciliation and a commitment to change for the better so that all people can have a good quality of life,” says Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand.
Special programs were also offered at Wanuskewin Heritage Site that day, and an evening pow-wow was organized by the Saskatoon Tribal Council at SaskTel Centre.