Normally flooded with people in green and white, Mosaic Stadium was filled with a sea of orange t-shirts this Thursday for Miyo-wîcîwitowin Day.
The landmark event was the first of its kind and attended by over 12,000 students from across southern Saskatchewan.
“I feel as if we lost our past, we lost our voices to residential schools and we’re not able to do our ceremonies. Being able to actually reconcile is one big thing for me,” Kym Wapemoose a student at Martin Collegiate who was attending the event said.
“I lost my mom to depression and PTSD due to being oppressed in a residential school. She is still with us but she can’t teach my as much she used to because it triggers her PTSD,” she said.
Other students said they were excited to take what they learned and teach it to others, including parents and grandparents who likely haven’t had the same learning experience.
“It’s important so that our generation can learn and we can pass it on to other generations,” Willow, one of the students from Sheldon Williams Collegiate said.
Some of the students attending are new to Canada and welcomed the chance to learn about their new home.
“I just came to Canada this year and I don’t know much but I’m learning,” Ankita Sharma said.
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Meanwhile, performances from groups like the Snotty Nose Rez Kids were a big draw for the youth in attendance.
In between performances, First Nations leaders from across the province and country celebrated indigenous culture new and old, and also shared first-person stories about the abusive practices of colonization.
Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme hopes that hearing these stories can help youth carry reconciliation into the future.
He said that he walked up and down the stands twice and the students were eager to interact along the way.
“It was such a great feeling, hearing ‘Chief can I get a picture of you,? Great job,'” he said.
“And I tell you most of those messages were from non-Indigenous students and, you know the Indigenous kids sittings sitting there seem just as proud that they don’t feel alone too.”
The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald said that the youth will leave with “something new in their hearts, new knowledge, new understanding which will help their generation really move forward on the healing path.”
Wapemoose added that she hopes events like these also help fellow Indigenous youth feel more confident in expressing their own culture
“I hope I can see more of my fellow people, indigenous men and women start dancing more and start smiling more with proud faces and speaking their own language,” she said.