I took a few months off during the summer. I needed to recharge the battery and look for reasons to continue to do this. Luckily over the past few weeks there have been a couple of really great offerings of events in the Thompson area and it has renewed my faith in humanity…so onward and upward we go with this thing.
On October 1st, 2018, I was able to attend the Keewatin Tribal Councils “Orange Shirt Day”, which is now a day in Canada which is nationally recognized and rightfully so. People talk about how friendly Canadians are globally, but in actuality we hide a very dark and cruel past even to this day. Orange shirt day is to recognize the history of and people involved and affected directly/indirectly from the residential school system. Indigenous children were wrongfully taken from their families and government and religion combined attempted to assimilate and essentially (according to the government) “kill the indian” in these Indigenous kids. Any horrible thing you can think of happened at these “schools”, be it rape, murder, assault, or even the act of assimilation. All of this swept under the rug. The last Residential School closed in 1996! are you kidding me? It is hard to be a proud Canadian when this dark mark has been hanging over our heads for decades.
Orange shirt day is also a day to reconcile, to admit past wrong doings, and to ensure that the healing journey continues, with ensuring that all children are protected and that every child matters. It is an opportunity for non-Indigenous peoples to become educated and leave their ignorance behind. It is a time to learn from Indigenous peoples and ensure that we do not make the same mistakes of our ancestors (white, European, westernized society etc…).
Keewatin Tribal Council hosted a lovely and insightful Orange Shirt Day on October 1st, 2018, with many beautiful people from all walks of life in attendance.
Ken Bighetty was the MC and this man alone could be one of my next topics in this blog of heroes. He was very inclusive, eager to teach, share stories, and most importantly as with many Indigenous people, he used humour and laughter as a great tool to make people feel good, to feel welcome, and as a coping mechanism for dealing with the difficult stories that would be told throughout the day.
MKO’s (Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak) newly elected Grand Chief Garrison Settee was in attendance and spoke as well, and was nice enough to come and introduce himself to me and make me feel really welcome and included in this opportunity for reconciliation and healing.
Several things had a great impact on me during this event, though none larger than seeing two older Indigenous gentlemen have the bravery and courage to stand up and tell their stories of their time spent at Residential Schools. It was extremely difficult to hold back the emotions as you could feel their pain in every word they spoke. Something really wild happened as they talked about their experiences; I started to think a lot, I started to feel really guilty, guilty that “My” people could have been so wreckless, careless and hurtful to other human being because they were different. Being different is good thing no? Being unique and having beautiful culture and traditions is good no?
Another highlight of the KTC Orange Shirt Day was watching people speak when given the opportunity to in front of the audience. A young man from Thompson stood up (had recently been in running for mayor, had some bad racist comments & stuff show up on social media from 7-10 years ago, was condemned online for things from 7-10 years ago from overly judgmental people who think people cant change in 7-10 years) and this young man talked about how much he had learned at this event on this day, told the story of some of his past and fighting back tears asked the audience of people for forgiveness. The beautiful thing is that many Indigenous peoples got up after he had spoke, hugged the young man and forgave him. Yet another thing I love about Indigenous peoples; the great ability to have the courage to forgive for the sake of not just the wrong doer but for themselves as well to not carry around the weight of the negative energy. I have always deeply admired that about Indigenous people since I moved to Thompson going on 9 years ago.
One final highlight, nearing the end of the day and the story time where people were allowed to get up and speak, some homeless peoples had come into the event and were clearly intoxicated. What I loved is the way the MC Ken, as well as the audience members handled it. They invited the people in, the ones who wished to speak were allowed to speak and then afterwards were given the opportunity to finish the remains of what was left of the pizza lunch (which was lots). I believe they were included as the day was about healing and reconciliation and inclusion of some of the more vulnerable people in the healing process is essential. Throughout the day you could just really feel the aura of love, compassion, and welcoming vibes.
I want to honor KTC-Keewatin Tribal Council today for their hard work in putting this day on. It is very much needed and the conversation needs to continue to grow. I was greatly humbled to be a part of this day and to be welcomed and accepted to listen and learn. Thank you to all of the people who set up the day (including Clint S.) and to all of the amazing people in attendance for showing healing and reconciliation in action.
KTC are my heroes today. Ya! All of you!
Love is Still The Answer,