OUTLOOK - Many communities across the country have decided to do their part in trying to repair the wounds that have been reopened as a result of the dark past that Canada has in relation to the history of First Nations people, and Outlook was one of them on Friday, September 30 as a number of events were held as part of National Truth & Reconciliation Day.
A special flag-raising ceremony served as the kick-off for the day at the town offices, where Mayor Maureen Weiterman, Councillor Justin Turton, and Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Trew welcomed a crowd of adults as well as parents with young children. In raising two flags above the town - one yellow and emblazoned with the word 'Reconciliation' and the other saying Treaty No. 6 Territory with the year 1876 provided - the moment was a solemn one as those in attendance applauded the efforts that were made.
Mayor Weiterman noted that the day was about more than marking a day on the calendar, stating that it was "a day to do some unlearning, and perhaps some relearning" as Canadians take the time to learn about one of our country's darkest chapters in history. As the flags ascended above everyone, that message seemed to hit home with a few people watching in attendance.
In the afternoon over at the Civic Centre, two guest speakers were on hand to give presentations to those who wanted to learn more. First was Brandie Trew, who spoke to those gathered about some of the historical and perhaps hard-to-believe truths surrounding the Indian Act, including the presence of residential schools. Afterward, the audience heard from special guest speaker Lyndon Linklater, a traditional knowledge keeper who spoke of his background and his own family's connection to the residential school system.
The nearly three dozen people in attendance were glued to Linklater's presentation, in which he opened up about his past and promoted trying to make the world a better and more-connected place as far as relations go between First Nations and Caucasian people.
Bridging the worlds together includes doing away with derogatory terms that have been used to describe First Nations people.
"Those words don't belong in the world that we want today," said Lyndon. "In this new world, it shouldn't matter what skin color you have."
Linklater also gave kudos to the organizers behind the day's events in town.
"I find it inspiring that a town like Outlook is going to fly flags and have speakers come and share with you - we never saw that before!" he said.
Linklater's father lost his Ojibwe language as a result of the residential school environment, just one of the ways in which the system stripped away at the people's heritage and background. The end result saw people leave the system and not remember themselves, finding difficulty in remembering their identity.
"I can't tell you how much these residential schools have harmed us," said Lyndon, describing the trauma that they caused and how such feelings could be passed down to generations.
Later, Lyndon's father, who was a teacher, struggled with alcohol and lost his job, but cleaned himself up at the age of 33 and stayed sober until his death at the age of 79. Lyndon, 58 years old, has also been sober himself for 41 years. He said that through the years, he missed out on life lessons that he wished he learned at a younger age, noting that within the circles of First Nations families, that "We need to reconcile, too."
Forgiveness for the ways in which First Nations people, families and children were treated can be a touchy subject depending on who you ask, but Linklater doesn't believe in demonizing today's Canadians for the atrocities that were carried out years ago. These days, he says Canadians can work to make the country the place they want it to be.
"I had to learn to forgive," he said. "I had to forgive Canada, and I had to forgive John A. MacDonald. Please understand - our country did that, Canada did that, and it's up to us to figure out the Canada we want it to be."
The presentations given and the events held on September 30 in Outlook painted a picture of a Canada that people are actively working on trying to make a better, more understanding place. It remains to be seen where we're at as a country by the time next September rolls around.