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  • Cokel Forestry

ICPP Honours September 30th’s Truth and Reconciliation

Truth and Reconciliation Day, or Orange Shirt Day, is about growing awareness for the people, families and communities impacted by the residential school system. “September 30th is a day to recognize what happened, put it in the past and start healing. It is encouraged that non-Indigenous people attend something like the powwow in a local First Nation community as this is a way to start the reconciliation process,” stated Bernadette, an Indigenous Construction Participation Program (ICPP) participant and a ?aq’am community member. Everyone can support reconciliation every day by learning, by caring and by taking action.

The ICPP teams were urged to take time to honour September 30th and attend community events. One team travelled to the ?aq’am community to attend a powwow ceremony in the spirit of truth and reconciliation. “We observed the grand entry, which was quite impressive because of the attention to detail on all the regalia and the energy that goes into the drumming and dancing, even the young children got involved. It was definitely a highlight of my experiences as a coordinator,” explained Bill Phillips, ICPP Coordinator. 25 to 30 people came forward that were affected by residential schools and introduced themselves; Bernadette was one of those brave people. She attended the St Mary's residential school until it shut it down in 1970.

The team also stopped at a local fall fair where an ?aq’am community member, who lost their house in this summer’s forest fires, was selling Indian Tacos and fry bread. The coordinator tried his first Indian Taco and thought it was great! ?aq’am is a community that had seven houses burn from the summer forest fires. “We drove to the community on Saturday, after the powwow, and there were lots of areas (land and trees) burned in addition to the seven houses that were destroyed,” explained Bill.

The other ICPP team attended a pipe offering officiated by an Elder of the Horn Society. Guest speakers shared their stories of residential schools and systemic racism. The team then attended a powwow and market. The day prior, the contractor hosted a lunch and had a video link to a presentation by Dr. Lana Potts, who told her story about being orphaned as a young woman with younger siblings and how it was like winning the lottery when she received a scholarship. She also talked about the racism and ridicule she faced even after receiving her medical practitioner's license and the challenges of opening a medical clinic in her home nation of Piikani. She has held many positions, including three terms on the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada board. It was an inspirational presentation.

“We have to recognize and navigate the darkness before we can see the light.” Shayla Stonechild

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