On Friday people gathered to participate in the Walk of Reconciliation in Cranbrook Friday.
The walk is to recognize Reconciliation Week, from Sept. 16-22, and is meant to start the process of healing and reconciling for First Nations who were forced to attend the residential school system.
A group gathered at the College of the Rockies to participate in the walk which went to the Ktunaxa Nation Government building downtown.
Prior to the walk, there were a number of short speeches and blessings.
“I have no words to describe the acts that happened at the residential school in terms of taking children away from aboriginal homes for a hundred years,” said Melanie Sam, director of Traditional Knowledge and Language for Ktunaxa Nation Council. “Moving forward past that means the reconciling of the feelings and the reconciling of the acts into healing for Aboriginal people.”
Sam said that reconciling doesn’t stop with just First Nations people, but also healing in the communities around them. She said the work also includes bringing back the traditional languages and culture.
Sam said finding the truth and reconciling is something that is not just a First Nations’ issue, noting the many people there who were not of First Nations heritage showing their support at the walk.
Herman Alpine, a resident elder at COTR, talked about how the residential school system affected him.
“I’m a survivor of the residential school,” he said.
“Through the years we were branded many different ways,” he said, but added he was glad stories like his would be heard at events such as those in Vancouver during the week.
He remembers growing up in a Catholic school in which he was shown a god who didn’t speak his language.
“They were trying to show me that we were lucky that they came and discovered us; that we were lost people,” he said. “My elders always told me, ‘Never believe that. We were never discovered. We’ve been here thousands of years.’ We knew where we were.
“It’s good today that I’m allowed to talk about it, that I’m allowed to speak on what happened to me,” he said.
Five years ago, the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to look look into the alleged abuses and try to find the truth of what happened at residential schools across the country.
“When you think of the harm that’s been done in the past, I think that what this does is begin to help the process of healing for everyone,” said David Walls, COTR president and CEO, referring to the walk.
The National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available for former residential school students who may need support at 1-866-925-4419.