Saskatoon Tribal Council walking to raise awareness of effects of residential schools
Group is hoping to walk all of Circle Drive
WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
About 100 people gathered with Chief Mark Arcand of the Saskatoon Tribal Council Monday morning for a walk around the entirety of Circle Drive intended to raise awareness of the intergenerational effects of residential schools.
The group started at the council's office in the Sutherland neighbourhood, with Chief Arcand and many participants hoping to walk the full distance of around 30 kilometres.
Chief Arcand addressed the crowd — most donning orange shirts — just before 7 a.m. CST, thanking those who came to show their support.
"Today is all about awareness, bringing the community together, really reconciling about residential schools," he said.
"I didn't go to residential school, but my whole entire family did. And you can see the cause and effects of what we deal with each and every day inside our city, inside our province."
Arcand said Indigenous children make up a large portion of children in the child welfare system. He also said high incarceration rates of Indigenous people are a result of intergenerational trauma due to residential schools.
Walking for loved ones
The walk comes nearly three weeks after the preliminary discovery of an unmarked burial site at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., containing the remains of 215 children. For many of those taking part in the walk, the impact of residential schools is still felt.
Jolon Lafond is an intergenerational survivor of the residential school system, with family members who attended the schools.
He said attending events like the walk warms his heart.
"It really affirms that we're still here, that the processes that began a long time ago didn't take hold. That we're still on this earth, on this land, and we're looking toward the future moving forward," Lafond said.
Tara Arcand, who works at the Buffalo Youth Lodge in Saskatoon, said she's been grieving and isolating since the discovery in Kamloops.
She said she's walking for her parents, who are survivors of residential schools.
"My mom's not here anymore, and my dad is a survivor," she said. "I just feel sad for them."
She said that she hopes more people will join throughout the day to help raise awareness on the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A mix of emotions
While many expressed a mixture of hope and sadness, others said that they feel frustrated.
Cary Tarasoff said that he wasn't taught about residential schools growing up and only started learning how to be an advocate over the past few years.
"I think there's a lot of people here who are just tired, that simple changes that should take place haven't been done," Tarasoff said in reference to the Saskatoon Tribal Council's call to rename John A. Macdonald Road.
"We should have learned better by now, shouldn't we?" he said.
The walk is expected to end in the afternoon. Chief Arcand said that he knows it will be a long day, but thinking about the kids who attended residential schools will keep him going.
"It's our job to educate people and make sure we're doing this together," he said. "It's about creating a discussion about how we're going to improve the quality of life for all people."
The Saskatoon Police Service is urging motorists to reduce speeds and use extra caution when near the group.
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered 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.