For some, Thursday’s Indigenous awareness rally was about honouring family members sent to residential schools.
“My grandparents are residential school survivors,” rally participant Tatiana Weasel Moccasin said. “I have aunts and uncles who attended day school, who were really lucky to come home.”
For others, it’s the hope of a better future for their children.
“I have a four-year-old and a six-year-old,” participant Chate-Lane Fox said.
“They would both be in residential schools right now.”
Hundreds of people braved the sweltering Canada Day heat, marching across downtown Lethbridge from Mayor Magrath Drive to Galt Gardens.
Wearing orange, with red handprints painted on faces, community members shared their stories and a moment of silence was held in honour of children sent to residential schools.
Organizer Kellita Day Chief said the event was meant to educate.
“I see it as a wake-up call,” Day Chief said. “All of us have been telling everybody what we’ve been going through.
“This is just the wake-up call so they finally listen.”
Fellow organizer Ava Mountain Horse Singer agreed.
“We want to help educate people so they understand why we’re mourning and why we’re hurting and why we’re not celebrating Canada Day,” Mountain Horse Singer said.
It’s education Fox feels is still needed and long overdue.
She remembers learning about residential schools beginning at a young age, but said her classmates were not as informed.
“I remember going to high school and only being taught a little bit of the Indian Act,” Fox said.
“I always knew, but there was other kids that didn’t know, and it was strange to me.”
An even bigger crowd returned to Galt Gardens for an evening candlelight vigil and organizers said Thursday’s event exceeded expectations.
Fox said it’s not only the size but also the diversity of the crowd that gives her hope perspectives are beginning to change.
“The fact that we’re all supporting one another is amazing, because that’s what Canada should truly be about… coming together and celebrating each other’s cultures.”
For Weasel Moccasin, the rally was not about assigning blame, but a step towards the future.
“These are our stories,” Weasel Moccasin said. “We’re not asking you to feel guilty or pain.
“We just want change.”
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.