'Yesterday was about healing': Cowessess Chief offers appreciation for those who stood with First Nations on Canada Day

The chief of Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan says he is appreciative of Canadians who stood with Indigenous communities this Canada Day.

Chief Cadmus Delorme told CTV News Channel on Friday that the outpouring of support he saw across the country on Thursday was "uplifting" in response to recent discoveries of more than 1,000 unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools.

"Yesterday I felt across this country that Canada said, 'Cowessess, we stand beside you in this moment of your truth, and our truth and let's heal together'," Delorme said.

Cowessess announced last week that it had found an estimated 751 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

The news followed the discovery of 215 unmarked burial sites by Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. Most recently, the Lower Kootenay Band announced on Wednesday that a radar scan had found another 182 unmarked graves at a former residential school near Cranbrook.

Amid these findings, there were calls across the country to cancel Canada Day, which some cities and towns did.

Delorme said the town of Melville, which is located near Cowessess, forwent its celebrations to stand in solidarity with its neighbour.

"[The mayor] and his council cancelled Canada Day celebrations to mourn with Cowessess. It was very impactful to hear that," Delorme said.

He says he has already heard from the mayors of Toronto and Moose Jaw, Sask., among others, to express their support for the First Nation.

While Delorme acknowledged that Canada Day should be filled with fireworks and parades, he said yesterday "was about healing."

Canadians traded in the traditional red-and-white garb, wearing orange instead while taking part in marches and protests across the country as part of a national reckoning with the horrific legacy of the country's residential school system.

"In the longevity of this country, we're going to have some high moments and we're going to have some low moments in reality of our history we all inherited," he said.

Delorme said he felt a collective understanding from Canadians on the legacy of Canada's treatment of Indigenous Peoples.

"Yesterday I didn't feel like I had to fight to be an Indian. Yesterday I didn't feel like I had to remind of the pain that still happens because of policy this country once made and invested in," he said.

While Delorme said the day felt like a step towards reconciliation, he noted that more work still needs to be done.

In his Canada Day message, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the horrific findings at the site of former residential schools have "rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country's historical failures" and injustices that still exist for many.

"While we can't change the past, we must be resolute in confronting these truths in order to chart a new and better path forward. Together, we have a long way to go to make things right with Indigenous Peoples," Trudeau said.

With files from The Canadians Press