By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand led a crowd of supporters through the streets of Saskatoon July 20, walking “for reconciliation, for residential school survivors, and for all our children who never made it home.”
A sea of orange shirts spanned several city blocks as hundreds participated in the “TRC Calls to Action Awareness and Education Walk.”
Many carryied signs with messages such as “Every Child Matters,” “There Are No Short Cuts to Truth and Reconciliation,” “Education is what got us here, and education is what will get us out.” And “Truth and Reconcili-Action!”
Chief Arcand spoke to the crowd at the end of the walk, describing a ceremony held earlier in the day at Whitecap Dakota First Nation “for the children that never came home, trying to give them a good path home,” which he said involved five different groups of Elders (Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Dene and Métis).
“Their message was unity – work together; don’t blame the churches, don’t blame… Anger is not going to solve this issue,” Chief Arcand said. “Working together collectively is going to make a difference in people’s lives.”
The Elders spoke in favour of events like the July 20 walk, he added. “The direction was: keep going, bring people together, advocate, educate, create awareness.”
“How do we make it better so that everyone can have a quality of life? With understanding, respecting what residential schools did to people,” stressed Chief Arcand. “This friend of mine, Chief Cadmus Delorme from Cowessess, said it right: ‘Indigenous People are not asking for pity. They are asking for understanding.’ Understanding leads to partnerships, relationships, and a quality of life for everyone.”
Arcand added: If you see an elder or a residential school survivor, acknowledge them. Tell them we are all in this together. Because when you listen to the stories, it is hard to listen to. They are 80 years old – 60, 70, 90 years old – and they are still living with trauma from when they went to these schools. That has affected their children, their grandchildren, etc. But we can all do better.”
Needed actions include businesses being committed to hiring Indigenous employees, as well as the dismantling of both the child welfare system and the incarceration system, and finding ways to help those who are homeless, Arcand listed.
“When you wear this shirt that says ‘Every Child Matters,’ it is not just Indigenous children. It is every race, every culture, every identity – every child matters. They all need a quality of life, “ Chief Arcand said.
“So I want to thank everybody for coming out today, for bringing your kids – bringing yourselves, bringing your companies, and most importantly, for understanding. I want you all to go home, have a good day, hug your children, hug your families, tell them that you love them, because those are the stories that our people didn’t get when they went to residential school.”
He concluded: “Stay tuned, we are going to do great things together.”