With celebrations scaled back Canada Day, Kitimat residents and Haisla Nation community members joined together to honour survivors of residential schools and remember the Indigenous children who did not return home.
Ceremonies began at the Riverlodge Recreational sports fields, for the Every Child Matters (ECM) soccer tournament, with blessings from hereditary Haisla chiefs, the Haisla Braid singers and dancers, and speeches from Haisla Nation members affected by the residential schools, as well as prominent community members.
“This year many of us who usually celebrate will be reflecting on the tragic aspects and horrible injustices that are part of Canada’s story. […] Like many other Canadians, I am grappling with the atrocities of colonialism and residential schools and what it has meant for those who’ve experienced the impacts. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have suffered and are suffering those injustices,” Mayor Phil Germuth said in a speech at the opening ceremonies for the soccer tournament.
After the ECM opening ceremonies, Haisla Nation members and Kitimat residents gathered at Centennial Park and continued to honour and remembers those impacted by Canada’s residential schools. At the gathering, speeches from Haisla members like Dolores Pollard, Teresa Windsor were made, as well as performances by Haisla Braid singers.
Earlier this month, Haisla Nation also made a statement on their website about the 751 unmarked graves that were discovered at the former Indian residential school on the territory of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. The statement emphasized how Indigenous people are facing an emotional time and that the country should take what has been learned to build a path forward.
“While now is a time for reflection and mourning, we can begin to take solace in the fact that there has been such an outpouring of support and sympathy, not just within Indigenous communities but from countless non-Indigenous allies who are understanding of this dark stain on the country’s history, and who are committed to a positive future,” Haisla Nation chief councillor Crystal Smith.