A small crowd amassed at Edgewater Park in Pointe Claire on Sunday, for an event titled “Kids for Every Child Matters.”
The intent of the benefit was simple: come together to educate non-Indigenous people while centering Onkwehón:we voices.
“We decided to do this because why should we wait for other people to make this happen when we could just do it?” said 13-year-old Nicholas, who organized the event along with his 10-year-old sister Sofia.
The Pointe Claire siblings were assisted by the guidance of their mother Samantha Cadotte, who teaches nursing at West Island’s CEGEP, John Abbott College.
Rain or shine – the pair put together Sunday’s event, which was complete with a stage, tents, microphones and – most importantly – Indigenous speakers.
Present that afternoon was namely Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) executive director Nakuset, along with Kahnawake’s Ka’nahsohon Deer and Tom Dearhouse.
“I was really honoured to receive all of them and I loved all their speeches,” said Nicholas.
The idea to host a day grounded in awareness sprung in early June, when the news broke about unmarked graves having been discovered at the former residential school grounds in Kamloops, BC.
“I never knew children died at the residential schools – that really caught me,” said the boy.
The young organizers made it a point to invite Kahnawa’kehró:non speakers, as they both
were conscious of the territory being on unceded land of the Kanien’kehá:ka people.
“We need allies and we need people who know about these issues because that’s how we keep the dialogue continuing,” Dearhouse told The Eastern Door.
“There’s been a lot of hurt and abuse in the past, but we’re trying to create hope that moving forward we’re going to be dealing with this both off-reserve and on-reserve.”
The Kahnawa’kehró:non went on to express how impressed he was with what the two youth had pulled together.
When approximately 55 people gathered in front of the stage in the park that borders the water, Sofia kicked off the event with a speech.
“I was introducing what would be said about the horrible things going on because we don’t want it to go on,” said the girl. “Because no matter what language you speak or how you look, we’re all the same on the inside. We all have organs and we all have feelings.”
The day that was largely inspired by the legacy of residential schools being brought to light was also motivated by an idea that debuted with a collective need in the family’s household to educate themselves on issues faced by Indigenous Peoples.
When a shift began to Indigenize the nursing program where Cadotte teaches, the mother of two brought home what she was learning and passed it along to both children.
“For years, I’ve been helping my son prepare for history tests and such, but when looking at the Quebec mandated material, it’s just full of propaganda,” said Cadotte.
As her children grew more upset over the history they had been lied about, Cadotte prompted them to think of tangible ways for them to contribute to changing the mainstream narrative.
“He said he had to tell his friends the truth and share what he now knows,” she recounted, referring to her son. “Every bit of that participation counts and it really speaks to the future, which is hopeful.”
Throughout the Sunday afternoon, funds were also collected for the NWSM and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. In total, the children were pleased to offer both organizations a $300 donation.
Despite the pouring rain, Nicholas and Sofia said they already look forward to hosting another event to help raise consciousness among their peers.
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door