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Photos: Museum marked the first Truth and Reconciliation Day

The activities for Truth and Reconciliation Day may become an annual tradition

Orange was a dominant colour around the Souris Valley Museum on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

The museum hosted the Every Child Matters event held by Métis Nation Saskatchewan’s Estevan Local No. 25 and Southeast Advocates for Employment, with support from the City of Estevan. Morning and afternoon, the Métis Nation Saskatchewan local chapter members were serving hamburger soup and Bannock to visitors.

Over 150 people attended the event that day. The full Estevan Bruins team came to show their support to the cause, as well as Estevan Diversified Services participants, several city councillors, United Way Estevan board members, Estevan RCMP officers and many residents from the area.

Many people were wearing Every Child Matters or just orange t-shirts. Guests had lunch, socialized and also toured the museum's facilities. The old schoolhouse as well as the main collection were open for the guests that day.

All the organizers were satisfied with the day, and the museum's executive director Mark Veneziano noted that this is what happens when several organizations come together for an important cause.

"It's been a great day. We had a lot of community out here enjoying the free food, coming through the museum, really learning about the reason why we're doing it," said Veneziano. "It's Truth and Reconciliation Day and Every Child Matters. So it's really good. It's nice to see the support. And I think we, Canada and Estevan itself, are moving in the right direction."

"The weather was awesome, couldn't ask for a better day. The food was great. Turnout was awesome, we get lots of help," said Linda Sopp, the president of Métis Nation Saskatchewan Estevan Local No. 25, adding that she was pleasantly surprised to see so many people show up.

"I'm really pleased. This is the first Truth and Reconciliation event that Estevan's hosted. It's now the new national holiday. I'm very pleased with the turnout. I think it's been delightful. People came and enjoyed the music and the food. And I look forward to next year," said Debbie Hagel, Southeast Advocates for Employment executive director.

She added that for Southeast Newcomer Services, which is a part of the Southeast Advocates for Employment, it is important to make sure that history is taught and known to all Canadians, but especially to new Canadians. But the event was also very important for Hagel personally.

"This was especially important to me (to work with other organizations)," Hagel said. "It's in recognition of atrocities that have happened to our First Nation people. And I think as an agency, we celebrate diversity, and this is certainly a big part of who Canada is and let's celebrate our own diversity."

Sopp said that she hopes to see the event become a tradition again moving forward.

"I can see this being an ongoing thing. Because we need to recognize all the people, all the kids that have lost their lives. And then all of the things that have happened to our people and our ancestors," Sopp said.

Todd Marasse, who recently confirmed his Indigenous heritage, which he said he always felt he had, with the help of Ancestry, was among the guests and enjoyed the event along with his recently reacquainted mother Shirley Wheeler. The Mercury shared the family's miraculous story in December 2019. Marasse said that the family that adopted him back in the day was a foster care home, and he saw firsthand how much damage was done to Indigenous people. So for him it was important to be at the museum on Truth and Reconciliation Day.

The museum had some information about Indigenous people's history on display for those who are interested. Veneziano also encouraged people to keep the conversation going.

"Just because this day is going to be over today, it doesn't mean it should stop. We are always open here at the museum for people to ask questions and come visit us. And we do have our Indigenous corner as well," Veneziano said.

The museum also has a virtual program on the topic available for school teachers from all across Canada.

"We actually have schools registered from St. John's, New Brunswick, to Victoria B.C. So we really have a lot of interest. And if any of the local schools are interested, we could definitely arrange it," Veneziano said.

The name of the program is Discovering Indigenous Cultures. It is focused on the history, heritage and traditions around homes, food, storytelling, etc. For more information, people can contact the museum during their operating hours.

Sopp added that she can be contacted with any questions on the topic.

"If anyone has questions, they can contact me. And if I don't know the answers, I can find them," Sopp said.