“A most holy day”
In welcoming more than 500 people to the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, on Sunday March 9, elder Ethel Ahenakew described the Remembering the Children event as "a most holy day." I have to say that for me, this stop on the Church and Aboriginal leaders' tour to raise public awareness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be named by the Government of Canada was an incredible, holy experience. There was a real sense, as a contemporary song puts it, that we were "standing on holy ground" and that the angels of God and the spirits of our ancestors were all around.
As leaders and participants gathered, there was an opportunity for smudging. Early in the program, Alison Iuti sang a song "we were all treaty people." She introduced her composition saying, "There will be healing when there is repentance." Church leaders shared excerpts from the apologies they have made to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and gave examples of their ongoing commitment to healing and reconciliation.
But for me, by far the most powerful of the sacred moments came during remarks made by Chief Lawrence Joseph of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Network and by Ted Quewezance, the executive director of the National Residential Schools Survivors' Society. The chief moved us from a consideration of the horrors associated with what he called "the holocaust of the residential schools" to the hope represented by the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the telling and recording of the whole story of the residential schools. He then challenged everyone present to tell at least ten other people what they would see and hear that day.
Ted spoke of "the little boy" within him—the little boy who was taken from his grandparents, the little boy whose clothes were taken from him, the little boy who was abused. He spoke of the "many secrets" in the residential schools and of the silence with which so many survivors have suffered for so long. He also spoke of the hope this tour and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission represent, and he called on us all to seize this opportunity to build a better Canada.
As the event ran its course, the last few lines of the prayer for "Remembering the Children" kept coming to mind":
"We dare to dream of a Path of Reconciliation where apology from the heart leads to healing of the heart.... Hear our prayer of hope, and guide this country of Canada on a new and different path."
In reminding us that the Scriptures call us to "an eternal commitment for justice," Bishop Mark MacDonald called on Church leaders and everyone present to renew their baptismal vows "to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being." It was incredibly moving to see everyone on their feet and to hear them say with one voice, "We will, with God's help."
This event ended with a wonderful feast and a round dance led by a local drumming group, "Young Thunder."
Ethel was right. It was "a most holy day."
More from the event
- View photo highlights from the Saskatoon event.
Posted at 4:43 PM -