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Tag: Every Child Matters

Every Child Matters billboard unveiled by Piikani Child and Family Services

To coincide with this year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Piikani Child and Family Services unveiled a new billboard proclaiming a powerful message: EVERY CHILD MATTERS.

Located near the Piikani Travel Centre along Highway 3, the billboard was officially revealed during a touching event last Friday.

The new sign is dedicated to all Piikani Nation members who were impacted by residential schools, and reaffirms the message to every child in the community that they matter.

“When the 94 Calls to Action came out, it was really evident that Piikani needed to have some sort of acknowledgement, a way to let everyone know that we are part of Blackfoot territory and we were affected by residential schools,” says Mary Plain Eagle, child intervention manager with PCFS.

Mary is a third-generation survivor of residential schools, as she, along with her parents and grandparents, experienced the hardships many Indigenous people know all too well.

The unfortunate reality is that Mary is not an outlier. Many members of the Piikani Nation are multi-generational survivors of institutions where children were stripped of their freedoms, their cultures and their identities.

Many who endured residential school life were present for the unveiling, which featured heartfelt speeches from elders Peter Strikes With A Gun and Herman Many Guns, Piikani Nation Chief Troy Knowlton and the executive director of PCFS, Kelly Provost.

 

Ad for Blinds and More in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass

 

They spoke to the horrors of residential schools, of colonization, but also of the need to heal and rise above these hardships.

“This sign not only symbolizes our healing process, but it also signifies our ability to move forward with our loyalty to our way of life,” Mary says.

According to her, this initiative was first proposed to former Piikani chief Stan Grier and council, all of whom were on board with the idea.

Earlier this year, Grier was replaced by Chief Knowlton, and so the initiative was brought forth once more to the new chief and council, who were absolutely for it, as well.

“I just feel like it’s been a long time coming,” Mary says.

“Thirty years ago, you would never have heard this sort of acknowledgement for children that were in residential school, and now as time goes on, we’re starting to hear more about it and are acknowledging what happened.”

Following the event, spectators gathered at a teepee set up outside the Piikani Travel Centre, where folks received complimentary merchandise and a free lunch.

On behalf of the PCFS, Mary extends gratitude to the North Stone drum group, Wade Plain Eagle and crew for the sign structure, Little Miss Piikani Alyson Red Young Man, the PCFS staff and everyone else who made this possible.

 

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Ad for Vape in Pincher Creek

Pincher Creek observes first National Truth and Reconciliation Day

Crowshoe, a councillor for Piikani First Nation, addressed Pincher Creek residents outside the Napi Friendship Centre on National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

He told the story of his own family and the struggles they face living in the shadow of trauma, and discussed how Canada can work toward improving its relationship with Indigenous people.

As the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in history, Sept. 30 was a memorable moment for Canadians. People across the country gathered together to honour residential school survivors, their families and communities.

“All Canadians need to observe or at least acknowledge the day,” Crowshoe said in an interview after the event. “If everybody wore an orange shirt today, it would be the start.”

The orange shirt was made an official symbol in honour of Phyllis Webstad, a First Nations woman whose treasured orange shirt, originally given to her by her grandmother, was confiscated when she arrived as a child at residential school.

An official date of observance was first suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, No. 80 of its 94 calls to action, and although this is a step in the right direction, Crowshoe said there’s still more work to be had.

 

Gilbert Kylo Provost holds a flag
Gilbert Kylo Provost checks out the display created by Napi Friendship Centre in Pincher Creek. Photo by Teri Harrison

“Reconciliation, it’s a healing process,” he explained.

“You need to reconcile for the wrongs that you have done. There needs to be some sort of compensation in saying, ‘OK, we’re taking ownership of what we’ve done.’ ”

He said Piikani Nation is using ground-penetrating radar to search for unmarked graves on its land. There were four residential schools in the area and he said that if remains are discovered it would help shed light on a dark period of history.

Crowshoe was joined by Coun. Scott Korbett at the event. The two have been friends for more than 20 years and Korbett said he attended to show moral support.

“This is a sad time for me,” said Korbett after the event. “I find this disturbing…. It’s very clear we need to have better communication regularly, and intentional conversations.”

“It is our responsibility to let Piikani Nation lead us through how to reconcile, how to respect, what is going to be the direction,” he added. “And it is up to us to step back and honour their traditions and accept their culture.”

Four blocks east of Napi Friendship Centre, a separate reconciliation event took place at Pincher Creek United Church, which has also collaborated with Indigenous groups in the past.

“We strongly believe we cannot live without our community. We learn from each other no matter our background, culture or skin colour,” said Rev. Hyun Heo in an interview.

Peter Strikes With a Gun spoke to the congregation and his family performed an honour song.

 

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Peter Strikes With a Gun grew up on Piikani First Nation and he is a survivor of the residential school system. He told his story at a ceremony at Pincher Creek United Church for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.   Photo by Gillian Francis

 

Strikes With a Gun grew up on Piikani Nation and attended residential school as a child, where he suffered abuse at the hands of his teachers.

“We were judged, we were prosecuted,” he said in his speech. “They seized our power and our authority and they diminished our values. They put us in a box.”

The trauma he faced led to alcoholism and it took him a long time to recover.

“It’s worse than cancer,” he said. “Cancer, you get all the comfort. With alcoholism you’re alone, you die alone. It’s a lonely life. It was caused by the impact of what happened.”

Despite bad experiences, religion has helped him on his path to healing. He focused on finding values that spoke to him as an individual, he said, which meant spreading love and light to everyone.