Chataya Holy Singer, student at the University of Lethbridge designed the t-shirt being worn by many in Lethbridge on Thursday, the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
The young artist says she hopes the day, also known as Orange Shirt Day, will encourage people across the country and in southern Alberta to support indigenous businesses and amplify indigenous voices.
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“In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, it would be very important for non-indigenous people to engage with our community, with indigenous peoples,” Holy Singer said. “And if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask, because we are willing to share.”
“The Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a national symbol of resilience and how far we have come.”
For those who want to listen and learn, many shared their stories in downtown Lethbridge on Thursday, meeting in Galt Gardens throughout the afternoon.
Elaine Creighton Fox was one of the many speakers, recounting some of her memories of a childhood that included six years at St. Mary’s Residential School in Blood Reserve.
“I remember growing up in the reservation, the fields where the grass just flowed, and I was his age when they took that away,” he said, pointing to his young grandson. “Without explanation”.
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Creighton Fox says she is teaching her grandchildren the Blackfoot language as part of their ongoing healing process, one that she says has made her realize the importance of her roots.
“All I remember is that they took me to this big brown building, that was my first meeting with our white brothers and sisters, and after that my spirit was broken,” he said.
“It has taken me a long road to recovery, and the great healing for me is the connections, the reconnections.”
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For Margaret Potts, the months since 215 bodies were found in unidentified graves in a former residential school in Kamloops, BC have been extremely emotional.
Potts says his mother is a survivor of a residential school who believes that it can be cured, as long as people have open hearts.
“A lot of people still need to be educated and there is a lot of reconciliation to be done,” Potts said.
“The only way it’s going to happen is for people to let us speak our truths, and have some empathy and compassion for what happened in the past, and for us to begin to heal.”
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Thursday’s event in Galt Gardens was organized by a group of members of the Piikani Nation who recently established a non-profit organization called We Will Recover Addiction Support Services; the group has raised funds by selling orange t-shirts.
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