October 26th, 2020

Orange Shirt Day ceremony honours residential school victims

By Woodard, Dale on October 1, 2020.

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald – blood reserve

It was a day to honour the students who didn’t return home.

Remembering children who died at the two Indian residential schools on the Blood Reserve – St. Paul’s and St. Mary’s and other residential schools – the Kainai Wellness Centre held an Orange Shirt Day ceremony Wednesday morning at St Paul’s Anglican Residential School.

Each year on Sept. 30, First Nations and other communities coast to coast come together in a spirit of reconciliation and wear orange shirts in honour of residential school survivors and hope for a better future.

This year, a new feature was added, the naming of the children and students who didn’t return home after being placed at the local residential schools.

The register lists 117 children from the Blood Reserve residential schools. Seventy-six children died or went missing from St. Paul’s (Anglican) Residential School and 41 children from St. Mary’s (Catholic) Residential School.

“So with that, we can actually call the spirits of the children and send them home with the ceremony, the drumming and the offering the pipe holders are conducting,” said Terri-Lynn Fox, director of the Kainai Wellness Centre. “It’s quite significant because now we have a number of children that didn’t make it home and those that are the families of those children – maybe they were aunts, or parents or grandparents – can celebrate the spirit of their lives and we can continue to share in the honouring and remembering as well as the ripple affect of change throughout Canada.

“As we honour our people, we hope in turn Canadian society will join in the reconciliatory avenue to truly reach reconciliation.”

Elder Keith Chief Moon conducted the ceremonies, assisted by traditional pipe carriers.

An offering was placed at the St. Paul’s site to honour the children who never returned and encourage them to go on with their spiritual journey.

After the prayer and offering, each child’s name was read out followed by a single drum beat by four drummers and a moment of silence and a prayer.

Those in attendance wore orange T-shirts stating “Every Child Matters.”

The official list of names was compiled by the National Student Memorial Register.

“Within the Kainai Wellness Centre we have our Indian Residential School Program,” said Fox. “That program continues to do research and promote the history and legacy of Indian residential schools. We promote and provide continued awareness to members as well as developments that occur, especially the register that has been officially shared. This year was the first year we were able to provide this type of ceremony and we want to continue to conduct ceremonies within our community as we move forward.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were some changes to Wednesday’s ceremony.

Normally, the pipe carriers would share the pipe with others at the ceremony, but pandemic protocol prevented that.

“It would maybe be in a teepee or in another setting where all those who attend the ceremony would be able to smoke the pipe. But we do have to make adjustments during this time,” said Fox.

Following the St. Paul’s ceremony, the group travelled to the site of St. Mary’s Residential School for the same ceremony at the cemetery behind the former school, which was destroyed by fire many years ago.

After the ceremony, the delegation travelled to Standoff to listen to speakers deliver messages of hope and acknowledgment at the Kainai Wellness Centre, followed by a supper to conclude the day’s event.

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