Regina marks National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

Regina residents stood alongside residential school survivors and wore their brightest orange shirts Thursday to celebrate Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Eagle Heart Centre held a walk through Regina’s North Central neighbourhood to bring awareness to the day.

Delora Parisian, executive director at Eagle Heart Centre, said it was also an opportunity to educate the public.

“We handed out bags of information that included the 52 (truth and reconciliation) recommendations and as to why it is so important to Indigenous people to be able to have this time and this recognition from the Canadian government and to know they are supportive of us on our journey to health,” Parisian said.

Residential school survivors were also given the opportunity to share their stories.

Landa Kinequon is a third generation residential school survivor. She said she was fortunate to not send her own children to those institutions.

Kinequon added that a lot of the language around truth and reconciliation is in the past, but she is here in the present and still dealing with the aftermath of the system.

“Every single First Nations friend that you have is either one of a grandchild, a child or have attended a residential school themselves,” said Kinequon.

At the former Regina Indian Industrial School site, a birthday party was held to celebrate the children who couldn’t celebrate themselves.

“When I was in school they didn’t really celebrate your birthday,” Janna Pratt, residential school survivor and Regina Indian Industrial School committee member, said. “When I did have birthday parties when I was younger, I was always brought home to have those birthdays. It was never done at the school.”

Pratt added that a birthday party was also a lighter and more approachable way to address the heavy topic of truth and reconciliation.

The party featured a magic show, face painting, cupcakes and a moment to walk around the burial grounds and reflect.

“It doesn’t have to be heavy. It doesn’t have to be full of grief and trauma,” Pratt said. “We can start to open up and unwind and celebrate and I think recognizing these kids in that light is going to start bringing new energy to this day.”

Both Eagle Heart Centre and Regina Indian Industrial School Committee said the federal creation of this holiday is a good step forward, but more needs to be done to educate the public on the history of the schools.

The organizations said they hope the Saskatchewan government will make this a provincial holiday moving forward.

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If you are a residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419