This past week I stepped into my past with hopes for a better future for Indigenous people.
I traveled to Ottawa as a guest of the Presbyterian Church for the final event in Ottawa of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was here TRC Commissioners would release their findings on Indian Residential Schools.
I am a residential school survivor who attended Cecilia Jeffery Indian School in Kenora, Ontario as a young child. I was looking forward to being part of this historic moment.
I brought my camera with me to document the event, not only for myself, but for my home community of Kenora. I wanted to share this historic week with my family back home.
Many of my family members went to residential school or knew family members who attended one. I wanted to share my personal reflections on what was happening as the TRC concluded its groundbreaking work.
One aspect of the event I wanted to share was the residential school children who never came home. I wanted to honour them. I saw this being done at the TRC event in different ways.
During the Reconciliation Walk there were people holding pictures, or names on signs, of family members who attended residential school.
There was also a Blanket Exercise on Parliament Hill where half way through the event, the facilitator held a brief ceremony for the residential school children who never came home. He had the Drummers do an Honour song for them and had a Jingle Dress Dancer come out of the crowd to dance for them.
She was standing on the sideline waiting to be called. She danced her healing dance. It was a very solemn scene.
Another poignant moment occurred when I was at Rideau Hall for the TRC’s closing ceremony. The room was packed with government officials and residential school survivors who were in attendance for the concluding event.
There were two empty chairs in the front row to represent the children who never came home. It is an image that will stay with me.
I sat there and was flooded with memories of my residential school and all my former dorm mates, as I looked at the empty chairs in front of me.
I left the TRC event with great hopes.
My wish is for the memories of residential school children who never came home and of all other residential school survivors be honoured by Canada’s implementation the 94 recommendations put forward by Justice Murray Sinclair and the other two Commissioners, Dr. Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild.