Manitoba

Orange shirts flood downtown Winnipeg for commemorative powwow and walk

Thousands of people clad in orange flowed through Winnipeg's downtown in honour of the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Pipe ceremony, survivors' walk, powwow honour residential school survivors, those who didn't make it home

People walk through downtown Winnipeg on the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Thousands of people clad in orange flowed through Winnipeg's downtown Friday in honour of the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Among them was Riley Brown, from Manitou Rapids, also known as Rainy River First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, who now lives in Winnipeg.

Brown wore a shawl she was gifted that bears the handprints of her fellow schoolmates from her Grade 12 class she just graduated from.

For her, it represents "the residential school survivors and those who didn't make it home."

Brown's mother is a survivor.

Daerion Hidalgo, 10, sits at the Oodena Circle at The Forks for the 2022 powwow and survivors walk marking the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

"I'm pretty much wearing this for her and everyone else."

Last year, Brown was among roughly 10,000 people who took part in the walk, but this year, organizers from the Way-Say Healing Centre were hoping for double that.

"Compared to last year, there's a lot more attention and awareness," said Wayne Mason, the executive director of the healing centre.

"Within the last month or two, a lot of people have been coming forward and saying, 'What can I do? We're going to have the day off. Where do I get an orange shirt?'"

The tone of the pipe ceremony, survivors' walk and powwow isn't exactly clear or straightforward, said Mason.

Thousands of people in orange walk through downtown Winnipeg to honour residential school survivors, those who didn't survive and Indigenous resilience. The organizer says it was an emotional time for many people who have been impacted by colonialism in Canada. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

"It's a time to celebrate, a time to awaken everybody, to learn, to educate themselves on what had happened in these Indian residential schools and the survivors and the children that didn't make it home, so all these things are going to make it very emotional," he said.

That rings true for retired Cpl. Melvin Swan, who is an elder.

Although it's not yet recognized as a provincial statutory holiday in Manitoba, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is recognized federally as one.

"It doesn't feel like holiday because every day is a struggle trying to get the culture back intact, the language, the ceremonies and recognizing where we came from," Swan said.

Jordan Apetagon yells in support of the thousands of people taking part in the survivors' walk in downtown Winnipeg. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

"It's going to take several generations to make that right."

Valerie Thomas feels as though she's on a journey of healing that people are beginning to understand better.

Growing up, her father survived residential school, and did his best to heal from what he experienced, but was worried the church would take his children away if he taught them the Cree language.

For her, that healing starts with forgiveness.

"You're gonna be free, you're gonna be happy, you're not gonna have all that all that anger, all that hatred, all that black negative stuff in your body … it happens in walks such as this," Thomas said.

"It's a healing walk for the survivors knowing that their stories are finally heard."

Two youth hold up flags - one is an upside down Canada flag with orange hand prints, the other says "Every Child Matters."
Danielle and Jayden Bear hold up flags at the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street on Friday to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. (Bert Savard/CBC)

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee was overwhelmed by the support from people who aren't Indigenous.

"A lot of people are wearing orange all over the city of Winnipeg that are non-Indigenous, and that really makes me feel good, that people are starting to realize the significance of this day," he said.

"We want to continue to promote awareness of what really happened in residential schools — people actually died and some were murdered in these residential schools.… It's good to come together, to unite as a people."

Honouring residential school survivors, those who didn't make it home

2 months ago
Duration 2:44
In Winnipeg, a sea of orange flowed through the streets of downtown. Thousands of people came out to show their support for residential school survivors and those impacted by its legacy.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available to all Indigenous people across Canada, 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Email story ideas to rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

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