MCFN marks Orange Shirt Day with healing dance

The sound of happy little voices carried throughout the air while community members at Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation marked the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Their carefree happiness and laughter could be heard throughout the grounds as the children frolicked on bouncy castles and adults enjoyed a feast, in stark contrast to the childhood of residential school survivors just a few generations ago.

To continue the healing from the church and government-run schools that aimed to wipe out Indigenous culture and identity, MCFN held a healing jingle dress dance at the community powwow grounds before holding a moment of silence for residential school survivors.

Traditional knowledge keeper Val King explained the significance of the jingle dress, the corresponding dance and how it helps people heal from trauma.

“The dress makes that swishing sound (and) as they dance around, it’s like a vacuum cleaner,” said King. “It pulls off the sickness off people, your mind, your body, your spirit, and your emotion. And when the dance is finished they have to go clean themselves off with medicines and they have to clean their cones off with medicines, so that they don’t get sick.”

A jingle dress is a type of traditional regalia covered with cones, usually 365 to be precise, that makes a jingle sound as the cones touch each other while the wearer is dancing.

King noted that although residential schools closed in the 90s, the effects are still felt today by generations of survivors and their descendants.

“No one’s exempt here from intergenerational trauma from residential schools even if your family members didn’t attend,” she said. “It still affects our communities all across Canada.”

Some of the social ills that still plague Indigenous communities across the country include disproportionately high rates of imprisonment, child welfare involvement, addictions, and other socio-economic indicators of intergenerational trauma.

The healing continued at MCFN, with guests at last week’s event, also known as Orange Shirt Day, put down tobacco for residential school survivors.

MCFN Chief Stacey Laforme said Orange Shirt Day continues to be important because, “it’s a time of education, a time of understanding, and hopefully, a time to come together.”

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