Soaking it up
It seemed a little crazy. It was a wet, cold Sunday morning, but for many Vancouverites, the Walk for Reconciliation was an event not to be missed. Many spoke of the important role the Walk for Reconciliation played in their lives.
“It means a possibility and a hope of a new beginning…it means my people, the settler people, listening to the stories of indigenous people, it means indigenous people reclaiming what settler people denied them for so long,” explained Michael Batten, an Anglican priest from East Vancouver. He hoped to express his deep support of the cause of healing and reconciliation.
“I’ve been here [Canada] three weeks,” said Kitty, an exchange student from China. “I went to the TRC the other day and I’m just interested in this history and how Canadian people treat this history.” For many, the presence of Rev Dr Berenice King played a key role in attracting them to the event, but they stayed to watch the performances and soak up the atmosphere.
For Aboriginal youth, participation meant honouring their traditions and the Survivors in their communities.
“Truth and Reconciliation…I wanted to witness this,” Matthew Ambers, of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. As the two ends of the Walk seemed to stream endlessly past each other on the Viaduct, participants waved and called to one another as the rain stopped long enough for many to take photos and videos of their fellow walkers.
Len Dennis, a Survivor from Port Alberni, BC, called for more honesty and clarity in the history of the residential schools. He said that he was there with lots of his friends and family. When I asked him how the huge crowds who had turned out for the Walk of Reconciliation made him feel, he had a simple answer.
“Good. Very good.”
For the residential school survivors, the Walk for Reconciliation was a place to come for healing. The distinctive red armbands identified Survivors amongst the thousands who had come to mark this action of reconciliation in Vancouver, hoping for another step in a journey to find peace.
“Healing is the big thing,” Survivor Serena George said, adding that she hoped that all who came would find what they were looking for in the march. George told a lengthy story of her search for healing, motivated to move beyond the abuse of her residential school experience to ensure a better day for her children. She pointed to her family and friends as those who had motivated her to attend counseling.
“Healing…healing to keep going forward and working together, “ Audrey Grant, said. Grant, an intergenerational Survivor, is from the Haisla Nation and said that she was walking to honour her whole family, who are all Survivors.
“My mom is a residential school survivor, and I went to day residential school,” comments Jonathon Thompson, from Hope, BC. He attended the Walk with his family, members of the Chawathil First Nation. Thompson explained, “I like to see everyone come together, you know, we can make it work if we all come together as a collective.”
Although today’s events were merely a single step along a longer journey of reconciliation, the expression of community and collaboration surely will honour the healing path so many have to take.
We can all be involved in reconciliation
“It goes back to 1969. I was 14 years old and I stayed for two days in a residential school, St. Michael’s in Alert Bay, which is pretty rare as a young white girl” shared Wendy Kotilla. “I was at an event in the big house. I’ve been interested in first nations culture and people since that time and I think it’s really important for non-Aboriginal people to support residential school survivors because it’s a terrible part of Canadian history and we can all be involved in reconciliation. Walking here together survivors and supporters is something I would not miss. It’s one of the times in my life where I’m most proud to be a Canadian.