WHITE BEAR FIRST NATION - The White Bear First Nation held a ceremony at their education complex on Sept. 30 to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The event started with an opening message and a sacred pipe ceremony.
“Reconciliation starts with self. Our healing journey begins with taking back our identity, our languages and our ceremonies. The sacred pipe ceremony is our way of communicating with our ‘Holy/Great Mystery,’ a concept of holiness that cannot be described,” said Sarah McArthur after the event. “We refer to our Great Holy as “Wakan Tanga.” The sacred pipe ceremony is included in all our sacred ceremonies. That is the reason we begin our Day of Truth and Reconciliation by honouring our Sacred Holy and our ancestors through the sacred pipe ceremony. From this ceremony, we receive our power, strength and healing.”
Chief Annette Lonechild then addressed the crowd.
“Residential school issues are on the minds of everyone. Today is a day to acknowledge what has happened in the past and to be optimistic about the future. Time and education is what can heal us.”
Elder Angie McArthur-Delorme then took the stage and talked about her own experiences attending a residential school.
“In those days, there were a lot of atrocities made against our First Nations children. We were known as a number in school. Mine was 32. We were targeted for being native and not being able to speak English. The memories of those days are not very pleasant.”
Guest speaker Andrew Bear was next on the agenda. Bear is both a crisis intervention specialist and mental health therapist who has talked to more than one million Indigenous people over the years. His message was both succinct and positive.
“My mother and my wife both attended residential schools. The people of our First Nations constantly live in a world of depression, trauma and addiction. Each day brings a new start and a fresh outlook. September 30th is a day to remind us of the past and future,” said Bear.
Student Leslie Lonethunder was the final speaker of the day. He is the grandson of a residential school survivor and had this message.
“I am thankful that attending residential schools are now a thing in the past. I am very happy to be attending high school here at White Bear First Nations and this Truth and Reconciliation Day should become an annual day of remembrance.”
Lonechild ended the ceremony on a positive note.
“As we mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on our White Bear lands, we’ve made effort to acknowledge the historic day along with our non-Indigenous friends from our surrounding communities,” said Lonechild. “It is a new beginning and we trust the opportunity to observe and learn a little more about our history, culture, people and the Indian Residential Schools is well received.
“We are thankful for the participation, the stories that were shared with hope that those present will understand a little better how intergenerational trauma continues to affect our community. truth and learning about what has been experienced with IRS (Indian Residential Schools) is the first step on the journey of reconciliation.
“Optimistically, we look forward to the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and a new relationship on our treaty lands and territories. Thank-you to the beautiful non-Indigenous friends/people that attended our community event.
“At a time where there is uncertainly with the pandemic, I am humbled and grateful that you showed support for survivors and their families, and in remembrance of the children who did not return home. Thank you for your openness for confronting our past, and for your contribution and making your attendance a priority. Bless you always. To our people of White Bear, our nation rebuilding lies in our hands. What will our legacy be?”
Songs were shared with those who came to the event. It set the mood of wellness and healing. The men shared their prayer songs and social songs as well. The day ended with an honour song for the residential school survivors. The former students refer to themselves as warriors, not mere survivors. A delicious meal was served to complete the event. It was a great day for memory and reflection.