For the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day, the City of Melfort will be hosting a walk and friendship round dance.
The event, which is open to the public, will start from the track at Melfort & Unit Comprehensive Collegiate (MUCC) on Sept. 30 at 11:50 a.m.
Activities will begin with a welcome and opening prayer by Elder Riley Burns followed by his testimonial as a residential school survivor at Gordon’s Indian Residential School from 1951 to 1960.
Afterwards, attendees will be invited to join in a friendship round dance led by Edward Stonestand, Melfort and District Museum’s cultural advisor, and drummers from James Smith Cree Nation before proceeding to City Hall to raise a flag designed by local Kinistin resident, Tara Aisaican, in recognition of victims of the residential school system.
Aisaican’s flag has been raised at a number of reconciliation events after it was unveiled in July by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. The flag has two orange stripes at both ends and a white center with the handprint of Aisaican’s daughter Ada Jo-Lee Scott.
The city will be putting in efforts to reinstall the community memorial out of shoes outside City Hall that was erected earlier this year after the remains of 215 residential school victims were recognized in Kamloops.
“The background of residential schools and some of the truths surrounding some of the experiences people had there are coming front and centre with the public and our citizens as well,” said Brent Lutz, director of development planning and community relations.
“Since it’s an outdoor event we can carry this out with much less risk than any type of indoor event.”
The outdoor event, including the round dance, will be modified to allow for social distancing. Masks are optional. Everyone is asked to wear orange if possible.
Both the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day take place on Sept. 30.
Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day that honours the children who survived Indian Residential Schools and remembers those who did not. The day began in 2013, telling the story of a residential school survivor who had her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her upon arriving at St. Joseph Mission residential school.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a federal statutory holiday made by Parliament on June 3, 2021, as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 80, which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration.
Former Residential School students can call 1-866-925-4419 for emotional crisis referral services and information on other health supports from the Government of Canada. Indigenous peoples across Canada can also go to The Hope for Wellness Help Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for counselling and crisis intervention 1-855-242-3310.
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal