The Kenora Community is joining together next week to honour the national Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, with a variety of events throughout the week.
“Learning together brings healing together,” said Craig Lavand, one of the lead organizers of the collaborative week. “We need to start holding hands instead of pointing fingers.”
A variety of community groups have come together to create the Kenora CommUNITY Week of Healing and Reconciliation, kicking off with a sacred fire being lit at the Fellowship Centre which will burn for four days and four nights.
“Everyone is welcome to stop by, offer prayers, and connect with others around the fire,” said Elauna Boutwell, community coordinator with Kenora Moving Forward, another of the week's organizers.
The sacred fire, or Ishkode, is an Indigenous traditional wellness spiritual ceremony that includes bringing positive thoughts, players and Miigwetch’s or thankfulness, and to be respectful.
“If we don’t care about the people, how can they care about change,” said Yvonne Bearbull of the Fellowship Centre.“This day, this week, this fire, is to centre the people.”
The Fellowship Centre will be hosting events on September 30, while Grand Council Treaty #3 will be hosting a Pow Wow under the Whitecap Pavilion on September 30, between 1 and 10 p.m.
“This year has been especially difficult with the discovery of unmarked graves in Kamloops and the subsequent discoveries of unmarked graves at other school sites,” says Delores Kelly, Cultural Coordinator with the IRS unit of Grand Council Treaty #3.
Other events include an acoustic jam session, a variety of sharing circles, a community resources fair, a walk from the Cecila Jeffrey Residential School site to the Cemetary, and an Every Child Matters Zoom event with the Ontario Native Womens Association. Meals will be provided each day.
“Residential schools were operated in the territory by various religious denominations during different time periods with the last school ceasing operation in 1976 in Treaty#3. We acknowledge the memories, the pain and ongoing trauma of survivors and their families. We uplift their resilience and celebrate the vibrancy and strength of the Anishinaabe culture and language.”
Members of the Kenora CommUNITY Week of Healing and Reconciliation are also asking individuals and organizations to host their own events in honour of the week.
“After all, the purpose of the national holiday is to give all of us an opportunity to honour the survivors and their families,” said Boutwell. “It’s beautiful, the community coming together in this way."
The federal government passed legislation to make September 30 a federal statutory holiday in June, one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 2015’s Calls to Action, to provide opportunities for federal workers to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.
If you are a residential school survivor, you are able to contact the 24-hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 for support.