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Lethbridge recognizes National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge recognizes National Day for Truth and Reconciliation' Lethbridge recognizes National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Sept. 30, 2021 marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, and orange shirts were out in full force in Lethbridge. As Danica Ferris explains, the message from many out recognizing the day is to elevate Indigenous voices. – Sep 30, 2021

University of Lethbridge student Chataya Holy Singer designed the t-shirt being worn by many in Lethbridge on Thursday, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The young artist says she hopes the day — also known as Orange Shirt Day — encourages people across the country, and in southern Alberta, to support Indigenous businesses and amplify Indigenous voices.

Chataya Holy Singer’s design for a shirt for Truth and Reconciliation Day commissioned by the University and the City of Lethbridge. University of Lethbridge website

Read more: City of Lethbridge will recognize National Day of Truth and Reconciliation as statutory holiday

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“In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, it would be really important for non-Indigenous people to engage with our community, with the Indigenous peoples,” Holy Singer said. “And if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask, because we’re willing to share.”

“Truth and Reconciliation Day is a national symbol of resilience, and how far we have come.”

For those wanting to listen and learn, many were sharing their stories in downtown Lethbridge on Thursday, gathering at Galt Gardens throughout the afternoon.

Elaine Creighton Fox was one of numerous speakers, she recounted some of her memories from a childhood that included six years at St. Mary’s residential school on the Blood Reserve.

“I remember growing up on the reserve, the fields where the grass was just flowing, and I was his age when I was taken away from that,” she said, motioning to her young grandson. “No explanations.”

Read more: Tourism Lethbridge honours 144th anniversary of signing of Treaty 7 in southern Alberta

Creighton Fox says she’s teaching her grandchildren the Blackfoot language as part of her continual healing process, one that she said has made her realize the importance of her roots.

“All I remember is being brought to this big brown building — that was my first encounter with our white brothers and sisters — and after that is when my spirit was broken,” she said.

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“It’s taken me a long road of recovery, and big time healing for me is connections, reconnections.”

Click to play video: 'Orange Shirt Day organizers speak out against the exploitation of Indigenous artists' Orange Shirt Day organizers speak out against the exploitation of Indigenous artists
Orange Shirt Day organizers speak out against the exploitation of Indigenous artists – Sep 29, 2021

For Margaret Potts, the months since 215 bodies were found in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. have been extremely emotional.

Potts says her mother is a residential school survivor who believes that healing can be done, as long as people have open hearts.

“A lot of people are still needing to be educated, and there’s a lot of reconciliation that needs to be done,” Potts said.

“The only way that’s going to happen is people let us tell our truths, and they have some empathy and compassion to what has happened in the past, and for us to start healing.”

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Read more: Grief, sorrow after discovery of 215 bodies, unmarked graves at former B.C. residential school site

Thursday’s event at Galt Gardens was organized by a group of Piikani Nation members who have recently established a non-profit called We Will Recover Addiction Support Services; the group has been fundraising by selling orange t-shirts.

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