In Canada, Sept. 30 is recognized as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day honouring Indigenous children who experienced the horrors of residential schools, and the families affected.
Communities and organizations host activities across the country to commemorate this painful history and spread awareness of the lasting impacts still endured by survivors and their families to this day.
Throughout the southwestern Alberta region, many groups are hosting events over the next few days in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Piikani Child and Family Services
For starters, Piikani Child and Family Services is hosting a Day of Truth and Reconciliation event at Piikani Travel Centre on Friday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m. until noon.
The group will unveil a new billboard sign for Piikani Child and Family Services, while also honouring Every Child Matters and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The event will feature a blessing, speakers, elders and a free lunch. Everyone is welcome.
A few hours later, Peigan Ponokamiitatopii, an equine-assisted learning organization, is hosting a Truth and Reconciliation youth event from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Fort Macleod ag building.
Youth are invited to sign up for an afternoon of learning all about Blackfoot culture, language, games, food and more.
“My goal with this event is to invite any youth to come and participate, especially non-native youth, to see what we’re all about,” says Julia Lowe, owner of Peigan Ponokamiitatopii.
“The whole idea is to get people together to learn about the Blackfoot ways.”
To sign up for this free event, call or text Julia at 403-339-4048.
Smudging and blessing with Peter Strikes With A Gun
Later the same evening, Pincher Creek United Church will host a smudge and blessing with elder Peter Strikes with a Gun, beginning at 5 p.m. in its parking lot.
Smudging is a cultural ceremony practised by many Indigenous peoples in Canada, typically involving prayer and the burning of sacred medicines.
This, like many other Indigenous traditions, was repressed and frowned upon within residential schools, so it is important to embrace this long-standing practice in recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Swing by the church to learn from the words of this Piikani elder, and stick around afterwards for fry bread, refreshments and more.
Calling My Spirit Back
Community members are also welcome to join the English family from Oct. 2 to 4 for their sixth annual Calling My Spirit Back healing walk for justice and awareness for the lives in Treaty 7 and globally.
The walk will begin with a pipe ceremony at the English estate in Brocket at 4 a.m. on Oct. 2, before leaving for a nearly 200-kilometre walk to Calgary. The walk concludes at Olympic Plaza, where the group will join the 20th Sisters in Spirit Vigil.
For details, contact Natawowowkii (Stephanie) English at English398@gmail.com.
Kairos Blanket Exercise
Lastly, Pincher Creek United Church is hosting a Kairos Blanket Exercise with Rev. Tony Snow, a United Church minister and member of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, on Oct. 2 at 11 a.m.
The Blanket Exercise was developed by elders and keepers of knowledge to help illustrate the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canadian history. Everyone is welcome to learn about Indigenous experiences of colonization.
Registration is requested for the exercise. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-627-3734.
Take time to reflect
These are just a few of the local events, so be sure to keep an eye out for additional activities geared toward the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Every Child Matters movement.
If you can’t make it to any of the events, be sure to take a moment on Sept. 30 to learn more about the history of residential schools and reflect upon it. This online link provides information: bit.ly/3EVz12G.
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