It had been an emotional day for Indigenous communities throughout the country, but it was an important day to commemorate.
That’s what Westbank First Nation (WFN) Chief Christopher Derickson said about the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“Just remembering not only the 215 kids that didn’t make it home but the ongoing trauma that Indigenous peoples and communities across Canada continue to suffer because of residential schools, colonial policies and ongoing systemic racism in Canada,” he said.
The nation hosted a drumming circle for the community and those from outside WFN to remember the children whose remains have been found recently at various former residential school sites, as well as to mark the new national day as a step to reconciliation.
Elder George Fosberry spoke at the event, recounting his mother’s experiences in residential school and how he has seen her experiences affect their family.
“I don’t like the word reconciliation. I think it’s reparation. I think there needs to be a time of repair,” he said.
“And the only time (Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples) going to get repaired is if we could all work together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, brothers and sisters. If you learn to understand what really happened and you know for a fact that it did happen, you can start to find ways to repair it.
“Maybe you can start to repair it in your own heart. That’s a really good place to start.”
Derickson said he agreed with Fosberry’s sentiments.
“There’s definitely a gap there when it comes to what the government of Canada needs to do, but at the same time, I have more hope in Canadians in general to do the right thing and to stay educated about the past and to understand what created this legacy in Canada,” he said.
“And to get past the stereotypes and racist remarks or thoughts about who Indigenous people are and to start to understand who we are as a people and realize that we did not change the current state of our communities. This was forced on us. We do want a better life, just like all Canadians: we want access to affordable housing, clean drinking water, we want safe places for our families to grow up in.”
Derickson said he is hopeful that today is a good beginning for many others to learn more about how they can help pave the way towards reconciliation, starting with community members coming to the drumming circle and listening to their stories.
“(It was) really heartwarming and uplifting to see not just our community members come out but to see people from outside the community come in and take part in an event like this,” he said.