A candlelight vigil was held in Siksika Nation on Aug. 19 to bring more awareness to Canada’s former residential school system.
Gabriella Manyshots, lead organizer for the vigil, said it was not the first of such events, as she and a group of local ladies have been organizing similar events since May; shortly after the remains of 215 children were discovered in Kamloops, BC.
“When I first heard about the findings of remains in Kamloops back in May, it really hit us hard.”
“A week after Kamloops we had our first event, that was just an honour ceremony for the remains found and we shared a little about our experience at residential school,” she explained.
Manyshots added she and her fellows wanted to educate the community and bring more awareness about residential schools, centered from the experiences of those who survived the system, or who were raised by survivors.
“We figured that a candlelight vigil will be good so that we could gather, remember and reflect,” she said.
“Our mission here is to validate our emotions. We are all adults now, so we really wanted to validate our emotions going forward.”
Two speakers were present and spoke at the vigil — Olivia Good Rider and Vincent Yellow Old Woman, who are both second generation survivors.
According to Manyshots, roughly 100 people attended the first organized vigil and estimated a similar number on Aug. 19.
“Our first gathering was to have an honor ceremony for the remains that they found in Kamloops. After that, the elders [who] were participating that event wanted [us] to keep going and bring about awareness.”
“The main thing is to educate our people and surrounding communities to bring about awareness through speakers.”
The group is aiming to plan and organize monthly vigils throughout the next year. The next such event they plan to hold at the end of Sept. though an exact date was not specified.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times