Thousands of people gathered on the Halifax Waterfront on Friday morning to mark the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Traditional Mi’kmaq drummers and dancers entertained the crowd, which included Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and newly-appointed Minister of Indigenous Affairs Karla MacFarlane.
Pamela Glode-Desrochers, the executive director of the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Society, helped organize the event.
“It’s really important that we recognize that it is for everybody. That it’s not just for the Indigenous community. It is truly meant for everybody to come down to understand and have conversations and be part of the understanding and the truth,” she told Global News.
She addressed the crowd, saying she hopes that everyone in attendance will take the time to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action and will take the time to understand and champion them.
“I think today is a really good sign of us all wanting things done very differently.” she said.
Fancy Shawl Dancer, Tehya Millia said she was happy to see the turnout and feels the support of her community, especially since the pain she experienced since the discovery of the mass graves at residential school sites earlier in the year.
“It hit you all at once, like, wow that really happened to my people. My people really went through that. And it like hurt, knowing that my family and just my people hurt like that. And now, I don’t even know my language and it’s sad,” she said.
The weekend events will provide historical context around truth and reconciliation. Thursday afternoon was an opportunity for children to decorate orange T-shirts.
On Friday, a salmon dinner for up to 500 people will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis to mark Treaty Day, a reflection of Mi’kmaq peoples’ communal way of life.
“Throughout the whole weekend there is actual videos and demonstrations. There is dancing and drumming. So, please come down and enjoy that with us,” said Glode-Desrochers.