Survivors of residential schools and their descendants gathered Wednesday in the shadow of one the institutions on the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta, part of a nationwide day of remembrance.
The focus of the event for Orange Shirt Day, as it's known, was recognizing the lives lost and the cultural resiliency of the community.
Dolly Creighton, now 73, spent 10 years at St. Mary's, a Catholic-run residential school on the Kainai Nation southwest of Lethbridge.
For the first few years, she could only go home on weekends, even though she could see that home from her dormitory window.
"I could see my home, parents walking around, doing chores," she said.
Canada's residential schools were designed to remove Indigenous children from their communities in order to isolate them from their culture and community and were responsible for countless tales of abuse and deaths.
A royal commission deemed it cultural genocide against Canada's First Nations.
'We celebrate their spirit'
Creighton joined fellow survivors and their descendants in front of Kainai's other residential school, St. Paul's, for ceremonial drumming, praying and cleansing.
Those gathered read the names of children who went missing and didn't return home from the schools — 116 from St. Mary's and St. Paul's alone.
"We celebrate their spirit, we celebrate the families and we celebrate our cultural resiliency and survival," said Terri-Lynn Fox, the director of the Kainai Wellness Centre.
For Fox, whose family members attended residential schools here, the day is a time to for healing but also to find strength.
"Honouring my parents, that helps me move forward," she said.