Sea of orange: Thousands help mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg

 By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Orange shirts, powwow dancers, and chants of `Every Child Matters’ filled downtown Winnipeg’s RBC Convention Centre on Friday, as Manitoba and all of Canada recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Thousands turned out for the second annual Orange Shirt Day powwow and were treated to an elaborate Grand Entry, and the sight of hundreds of powwow dancers both young and old.

The first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day also commonly referred to as Orange Shirt Day, was recognized last September and will be held every Sept. 30 to reflect on what the federal government says is “the tragic legacy of residential schools, the missing children, the families left behind, and the survivors of these institutions.

The day began with a Survivors Walk from the Oodena Circle at The Forks with marchers heading to the RBC Convention Centre.

“This was just an idea a few years ago,” said Wayne Mason Sr., a long time Indigenous advocate and the executive director of the Winnipeg-based Wa-Say Healing Centre on Friday. “And it keeps getting bigger.”

As the director of an organization that works to support residential school survivors and all those harmed by the intergenerational trauma caused by the residential school system, Mason Sr. said he wants Sept. 30 to be a day to honour survivors, but also “all those kids who didn’t make it home.

“We have a lot of work to do, we have a lot of healing to do and that is what our organization is helping people do. We work with all the residential school survivors, the day-school survivors, the sixties scoop survivors, so there is always a lot of work to do.”

He added that on Sept. 30, and every day of the year, people must acknowledge not only survivors and those was passed away, but also recognize what this country has put generations of Indigenous people through, and the harms it created that still continue for many.

“I don’t like to get too political, but we have to remember that Canada did this to our people, Canada did this to our children all the way from three or four years old and up, and they did it for many, many years,” he said.

Fellow advocate and Mason’s son Wayne Mason Jr. spoke after his father, and said that over the last two years, attendance at Sept. 30 events in Winnipeg has greatly exceeded the expectations of those who have worked to organize those events.

“Last year we thought we were going to just have a little pow wow and thought maybe 100 people would show up, but thousands showed up, and I think we’ve more than doubled that this year” Mason Jr. said.

He said that when more people of all backgrounds attend Orange Shirt Day events that is significant, because more people brings more attention and awareness to Orange Shirt Day and the Every Child Matters movement.

“It brings an awareness of what happened and we can never forget what happened. Our parents and our grandchildren have been affected, we’ve all been affected by the intergeneration trauma of what happened.

“So we have to get the truth out there before there is any kind of reconciliation.”

 -Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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