Vehicles stretched as far as the eye could see on the gravel road from the former St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School site Thursday, Sept. 30 as those wishing to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation turned out to mark the occasion.
Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people, organizers quickly shifted gears and redirected attendees back down the picturesque valley, striking in all the colours of fall, and to the equally stunning powwow arbor site at Williams Lake First Nation.
Thomas Talleo, as he waited with his family for the traffic to move, told the Tribune for him the day is a formal recognition of what happened to Indigenous people in Canada.
“I’d like to think now that we get a chance to be heard. It’s OK if we’re angry, but we’re moving together in a positive way with the awareness and the acknowledge. The healing can start.”
At the arbor, the mood was warm and welcoming.
Those who wanted it, were brushed off with sage by WLFN cultural coordinator David Archie before Chief Willie Sellars took to the stage, telling the crowd he was floored and speechless thinking about the turnout and how everyone came together at the arbor for the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“What a powerful statement to the region to see us all come together and not just Indigenous but non-Indigenous. We have our kids running around here. I read my kids The Orange Shirt Story this morning and it gets really emotional really quick when we start thinking about present day and our kids having to go to residential school. It’s not something I had to live through myself but it was only a generation ago that we did and we could feel the emotion coming and we could feel the hurt and trauma and to see the turnout today fills your heart and it continues to fill your heart the more that we come into nekw7usem and to unity and we stand together side-by-side.”
An opening prayer was given by elder Jean William in both Secwépemc and English before drumming started at precisely 2:15 p.m. to honour the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc who called on people worldwide to drum simultaneously for the missing children of Indian Residential Schools for the first Canadian National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Drumming and singing as well as speeches from other Indigenous leaders and Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson continued into the afternoon, as warm fall sun shined down on the crowd.
Sellars said he was proud and grateful of the hard work of Phyllis Webstad on behalf of Indigenous people, while MLA Doerkson also acknowledged the efforts of Sellars.