Healing and reconciling together with all peoples is the unofficial theme of this year’s Truth and Reconciliation Week, which takes place next month.
“Together” is a word that encompasses Michèle LeTourneau’s hope for what the event will cultivate in Brandon and beyond.
“There’s only one way to move forward, and that is together,” said LeTourneau, community co-ordinator for the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council (BUAPC).
“How we raise our children changes the future. So clearly, we’ve had some problems in that regard, so let’s change that. And we can only do that working together.”
BUAPC and the city have been working hard to plan this year’s event, which LeTourneau said she hopes will be even bigger than last year.
“I don’t think anybody expected almost 1,000 [attendees] last year, and I’m feeling like there’ll almost be more this year.”
The planning process for this year’s Truth and Reconciliation Week has been much different than 2021, LeTourneau said. This is because last year the federal government declared Sept. 30 the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation after the remains of 200 children were formally acknowledged at a former residential school site near Kamloops, B.C.
“It had a lot of people scrambling, I think,” LeTourneau recalled. “Suddenly, there was a public appetite to know more.”
Motivated by people’s sudden interest in the history of residential schools, LeTourneau said BUAPC focused on bringing people together as a community to learn from each other and heal from past trauma. BUAPC and the city’s work paid off, with the latter receiving the 2022 Canadian Association of Municipal Administrator’s Willis Award for Innovation in recognition of its inaugural Truth and Reconciliation Week.
BUAPC decided this year to organize a planning committee, which includes 19 people and representation from BUAPC, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, the Brandon Friendship Centre and more.
The event will kick off at 7 a.m. on Sept. 27 with a sunrise ceremony led by elder Frank Tacan, who will also be leading teachings throughout the week.
Togetherness is something that Tacan said will be an important theme of his teachings.
“I always talk about unity,” Tacan said. “When I look at this world, we’re all human beings. It’s just that we have different cultures, different languages. Sometimes eye colour is different, skin colour is different, but we need to get rid of that and just see that human person, that human being that’s been through trauma, and we have to ask ourselves how we can help that person.”
Togetherness and healing is more important than ever, now that Canada is seeing refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and other places coming to start new lives, often with trauma of their own, he said.
“All these people are coming into Canada because of trauma … we need people to pray as one and get some spiritual, emotional, physical and mental healing from each other, because when we share our stories about what we go through, what we call trauma, that’s part of healing,” Tacan said.
“My question is how are these people going to heal when they’re bringing trauma from another country, yet trauma is already happening on Turtle Island? This is where unity and togetherness come in.”
Incorporating all nations in sharing and healing circles like the ones that will held during Truth and Reconciliation Week is a way to mend people — wherever they come from — in a holistic way, Tacan said.
“That pain, that hurt we have, that trauma we have, we need to give it a voice so we can heal.”
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun