By Pauline Kerr
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
BROCKTON- Brockton’s commemoration of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and Orange Shirt Day, on Sept. 30, went a step further than acknowledging the importance of telling the true stories of the devastating abuses of the residential school system, and other abuses perpetrated by the colonial system on this country’s First Nations.
The activities held in Market Garden, and in front of the library, celebrated listening to the truth as a vital first step toward reconciliation.
Truth and Reconciliation Brockton is a committee of people committed to truth and reconciliation, and implementing the 94 Calls to Action. The event on Sept. 30 was one of several the group has organized this year.
The Sept. 30 event opened with a welcome from committee member Alisha Oberle and continued with the municipality’s land acknowledgement, read by Sacred Heart High School student Spogmy Shinwari.
Committee members welcomed four guest speakers, band councillors of Neyaashiinigmiing, also known as the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation _ Coun. Bev Nadjiwan, Coun. Miptoon, Coun. Thoren Solomon, and Coun. Jessica Keeshig-Martin.
First to speak was Keeshig-Martin, who said she was “hopeful _ the truth has come out, but deep understanding has yet to come.”
When that comes, reconciliation comes, she said.
“Truth has to come from First Nations voices.”
Solomon, the youngest elected member, continued by saying, “We are spiritual beings, but the residential schools tried to strip away that spirit? for years, our people have been silenced.” He described how his people have fought for their rights, and are still fighting, “for peace for our children? one day our people will not have to fight? to know love, we need peace. We fight for a future?
surrounded by love.”
Those listening were reminded many First Nations people fought with the Canadian Armed Forces in wartime and continue to serve in the military.
Nadjiwan and Miptoon told personal and family stories that illustrated the devastating impact of the residential school system, little children, many of whom never returned home, taken from their mothers’ arms. The ones who did return home brought trauma with them.
“How can you learn from a priest and a nun how to raise a family?”
The guests commended Brockton for being one of the first municipalities “to invite us to come and share our stories.”
Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody said, “It’s important to listen to those stories.” He said that as Bruce County warden (for at least one more term, he hopes), he plans to commit the county to “learning the truth.”
Once the formal part of the afternoon concluded, everyone was invited to move to the activity areas where they could paint a rock (to be taken home, left in the Market Garden or taken to the garden at the library), use sidewalk chalk to leave pictures or messages, participate in other crafts, visit the Bruce County Library table, learn some Anishinaabemowin words, and listen to a special reading by author Dorothy Ladd from her delightful book Memengwaa (Monarch Butterfly).
The afternoon’s activities concluded with a walk to the Walkerton library, where the steps once again became a memorial to the little children who died at residential schools. The group placed items, stones, flowers, feathers, and gathered by the “Every Child Matters” flag for a moment of silence.
Pauline Kerr/ Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/THE WALKERTON HERALD TIMES/LJI is a federally funded program