Riel Houle joined several Piikani elders on a journey this week to see Pope Francis apologize on behalf of the Catholic church for its part in the residential school system.
According to Houle, it’s stirring up different feelings for those who travelled to Maskwacis, Alta.
“It was really good to hear (the elders’) stories throughout the trip. There have been mixed emotions,” Houle said.
“I’m still processing, but it was definitely a time to remember.”
Two residential schools operated on the Piikani Nation: St. Cyprian’s, run by the Anglican church and Sacred Heart, under Catholic control.
Both schools closed in 1961.
On Monday, the pope apologized for the “deplorable evil” committed by the Catholic church.
“The apology was long overdue,” said Wesley Crow Shoe, who also went to hear the apology in person.
“We had an apology from the prime minister a few years back, from Stephen Harper, but to reiterate this apology from the Catholic church was a strong message of reconciliation.”
“It was good that (the pope) made the trip and I’m glad we made the trip,” Houle said.
But while some Piikani members appreciate the apology, Houle is disappointed one point was left out of Pope Francis’s message.
“I was curious to see if they would take on the opportunity to denounce the Doctrine of Discovery,” Houle said. “It didn’t get addressed during the speech.”
The doctrine has been used as justification for colonizing lands considered to be uninhabited, but were actually home to Indigenous people.
According to papal visit organizers, Canada’s bishops are working with the Vatican on possibly issuing a new statement regarding the doctrine.
Now that Houle and Crow Shoe have returned to southern Alberta and the pope continues his Canadian trip in Quebec, the hope is this visit creates further action.
“The Catholic diocese can work with us to work with the federal and provincial governments to move things forward for Frist Nations,” Crow Shoe said.