BONNYVILLE – Events are already underway in the Lakeland to commemorate Orange Shirt Day and Canada’s second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Both days of reflection take place on Sept. 30.
Many events and activities that have and will take place in the Lakeland have been organized by the Lakeland Society for Truth and Reconciliation.
“It is to Indigenous people as Remembrance Day is to others, they're comparable,” explained Corita Vachon, the president of Lakeland Society for Truth and Reconciliation.
“For people who aren't able to attend any community activities, if they take a moment of silence, wear orange and just think about where we are today, moving forward and reconciling with the past and learning to heal – that is the goal.”
Beginning last week, free community activities started taking place, including a Blanket Workshop in Bonnyville and a ribbon skirt and vest sewing workshop in Kehewin.
A tour of the former Blue Quills Residential School was also booked by the Lakeland Society on Monday to provide community members an opportunity to learn the history of a residential school that operated within the region.
On Sept. 29, a Teepee Teaching and raising will take place at the Bonnyville and District Museum grounds starting at 1 p.m. The event and teaching will be led by elder Melvin John and will conclude with a blessing.
That evening, an Orange Drive procession will take place through the Town of Bonnyville. Those wanting to participate will meet at the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre (C2) parking lot at 6 p.m.
“Some people call it a parade, but it's really not intended to be a parade. It's intended to be like a funeral procession because we are remembering those that have passed, those children that didn't come home from residential schools and those that came home broken,” stated Vachon.
This year, Vachon is hoping that more people will participate by displaying a red dress, red shirt or orange shirts visible from their home. “Hanging them out your window or on your door to show your support or step outside and wave during this time,” she encouraged.
A full day of events will mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Bonnyville on Sept. 30.
A sacred pipe ceremony will be held at the Beaver River Fish and Game Hall 10 a.m. Following this Indigenous artisans will begin setting up booths for a market.
Educational displays from the former Blue Quills Residential School will also be available to view, as well as a Red Dress Series installation at the Beaver River Hall.
Starting at 4 p.m. an Orange Shirt walk will take place down Bonnyville’s Main Street.
A traditional dinner will begin at 5p.m. and will include testimonials from residential school survivors, speakers and performances by Indigenous and Métis groups. Seating capacity may be limited and will operate on a first come, first served basis.
These free events and activities were made possible through grant funding received from Heritage Canada.
“But what we do costs a lot more than the grant. So, we reached out and asked for support from the Town and the MD of Bonnyville and the St. Louis Parish and Métis Nation of Alberta Region II,” noted Vachon.
Local businesses have also contributed donations and in-kind support to events. Financial contributions were also made by the Diocese of St. Paul’s Indian Residential School Fund.
Orange shirt sales
Proceeds raised from the sale of Lakeland Society for Truth and Reconciliation’sorangeshirtswill stay in the community to help fundraise for future community eventscentred around promoting truth and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
About 40 per cent of each $20 T-shirt goes towards local events, while the remainder supports local businesses. “We're all about local. So, we buy local, and it stays local,” said Vachon.