Recognizing National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the Town of Strathmore hosted a ceremony, and a walk around Kinsmen Park.
The ceremony was held for the victims of residential schools and is the first such event to be held in Strathmore.
The town recognized Orange Shirt Day in 2020, but took the opportunity to expand the service for the newly declared Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
“We wanted to honour that memory of those poor kids, and we thought it was fitting to do it at Kinsmen Park, where we have our healing garden, and (where) we’re going to have a memorial for Christian Ayoungman,” said Mayor Pat Fule.
“It’s really important because for too long it’s been kept quiet by various levels of government (and) in the education system.”
Fule himself admitted throughout his own formal education, the curriculum did not cover the events surrounding residential schools.
The intent of the ceremony and subsequent walk, is both to give people a chance to be informed, and encourage them to think about what can be done going forward.
“It was just a really nice memorial ceremony, as well as the walk around Kinsmen to think about how things had been done, to honor those (who) were lost and were changed by it all. We ant to make sure it’s never forgotten,” said Fule.
“Sadly, we’re going to hear about more residential school locations where graves are going to be found. It’s something that we can’t just let go of and let it just pass into memory.”
Astokomii Smith, Indigenous Liaison with Strathmore Family and Community Support Services, said the whole event went better, and was more attended than she had hoped.
“It was even better (than expected). You never know with these kinds of events, especially during COVID-19 what it’s going to be like, especially compared to last year,” she said.
The Orange Shirt Day held in 2020 was, according to Smith, comparatively small and simple— consisting of simply distributing orange t-shirts.
Siksika Councilor Rueben Breaker said it means a lot that non-native people attended the event and recognized its importance.
“Though it is positive, and events like this give us encouragement to move forward, let’s be honest, there’s more negative than positives out there.”
“It still brings up more hurt because we can’t help but think about all those children who would have been grandparents today, but didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy stuff like this.”
He added that every day should be an opportunity to learn, reflect, and heal together.
“Christian Ayoungman was murdered, it was about two years ago, and so part of the anti-racism campaign and part of the commitment that the town had was to memorialize Christian,” explained Town of Strathmore Operations Manager, Donna McCallum.
Now standing in Kinsmen Park are four stone pillars which will serve as a memorial to Ayoungman. The site saw initial development days prior to the Day of Truth and Reconciliation ceremony.
“We want to make a statement with it, and this is… to say that Strathmore is committed to eliminating racism in the community,” said McCallum.
The town received a grant to cover the cost of the memorial, as well as the healing garden, having combined the projects under their Reconciliation and Anti-Racism campaign.
The metal plaques that will be set into the stone memorial are currently under development, with no set timeline for when they will be installed.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times