Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation mark Canada Day with candlelight vigil

This Canada Day, the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation are wearing orange, not red and white.

In light of the ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country, the community is holding a candlelight vigil on Golden Lake.

"It wouldn’t be fitting, of course, to have a celebration on Canada Day," says Wendy Anne Jocko, Chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation. "So we are having a reflection of silence and mourning on this day."

The Light Up The Lake vigil is to allow those outside of the First Nations community to join in the grieving and healing process.

"We’ve had such an outpouring of love and support from the surrounding community and asking us, how can we participate, how can we support your community in this time?" says Kerry Andrews, one of the vigil organizers and a member of the community’s Every Child Matters Task Force. "Why don’t we invite our neighbours to place candles and to literally help us light the way; to guide these children home to the Creator."

This July 1 at dusk, a pontoon boat carrying drummers will travel along Golden Lake, playing loudly to send healing energy to those who need it. Those along Golden Lake and in surrounding communities can participate by placing a lit candle out on their dock or shoreline.

Neighbouring municipalities are also following the lead of the Golden Lake community, with places like Pembroke and the Bonnechere Valley refraining from celebrations and lighting candles of their own.

Before the public vigil takes place, an intimate ceremony just for locals is also being held.

"We’re coming together as a community to dance, to sing, to pray, to light the sacred fire," says Naomi Sarazin, another member of the Every Child Matters Task Force. "So that we ensure our internal fires are lit, so that our culture continues, so that our language continues to be spoken."

Jocko is a veteran and says Canada Day is always a time of reflection for her. She adds while Thursday night’s vigil is for the children lost, it’s also for those living with the trauma in Pikwakanagan.

"There’s a lot of people who survived the residential school system and they’re here with us now, and that is really another reason that we are coming together to support each other and heal in tonight’s ceremony."