‘They’re here listening’: Wolastoqey gather to honour children of residential schools

Click to play video: 'Wolastoqey Nation says NB Power backtracked on three of six terms for Mactaquac dam'
Wolastoqey Nation says NB Power backtracked on three of six terms for Mactaquac dam
The Wolastoqey First Nations says talks with NB Power on an accommodation agreement over the Mactaquac dam have ceased. Nathalie Sturgeon has more – Sep 21, 2022

On the banks of the St. John River, known to Indigenous people as the Wolastoq River, groups gathered to honour the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

As children dressed in orange watched, the community remembered the trauma of residential schools in Canada.

Part of the path for many is recognition that the land is unceded and the return to traditional names.

Elder Maggie Paul attended the commemoration.

“Just stop and look at it, that water. The Wolastoq is so beautiful. She talked to me, she said I want my name back.”

Paul said on Friday she is also there to honour the survivors of residential schools, and those who never made it back.

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“That’s what I want to acknowledge this morning, those children. They’re here,” she said. “They’re here listening. They’re here listening to us.”

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It’s the second official National Truth And Reconciliation Day, observed federally, the first one marked officially by the province.

New Brunswick Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Arlene Dunn said people have had a long year to reflect on the importance of Truth and Reconciliation Day, and what it means to Indigenous Peoples.

She said recognizing it in New Brunswick is a step in the reconciliation process. “I do hope that in the near future I will have the opportunity to talk about some of the stuff, in terms of how we’re trying to repair the relationship,” Dunn said.

“I think it’s a step in a positive direction… When the decision was made, I was humbled to the point where you had to really just stop and think for a moment, ‘this is really happening.'”

Though New Brunswick is acknowledging the holiday, Sitansisk First Nation Chief Allan Polchies says there is much work to be done. Indigenous voices need to be at the table, he said.

“It’s folks, leaders like myself, and leaders across this country that will embrace the allies that come together and continue to educate one another on the stark history,” Polchies said.

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“And of course, look at what reconciliation is about but more importantly it’s reconciliation action, and how we do our part, you and I, and of course everyone across Turtle Island.”

Polchies said for many, the horrors of residential schools are still present.

Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers says there are critical roles that local governments play in truth and reconciliation.

“We share this territory, so it critical that we do this work and I would say all municipal governments, when you look at the acts of truth and reconciliation, there are certain calls to action that are specific to municipalities and I think that we all as Treaty peoples need to honour those and fulfil those recommendations,” Rogers said.

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