This past Saturday the Central Wellington district high school (C.W.D.H.S) Aboriginal Club of Fergus, in union with other groups and businesses from the surrounding area, hosted the landmark event Truth and Reconciliation: What’s law got to do with it? Guest speakers and performers included Justice and 3rd level Midewiwin medicine man Mizhana Gheezik (Murray Sinclair) the chair of the truth and reconciliation commission; three time Juno winner Dr Susan Aglukark, O.C.; Kelly Laurila (Saami nation) of Mino Ode Kwewak N’gamowak.
The event was opened by C.W.D.H.S Aboriginal Club member Kristie-Lee Leighton who told around 200 audience members, “Today’s event is about educating people on the issue and opening discussions between communities.”
Kristie-Lee then introduced Kelly Laurila of the Drum/Singing group Mine Ode Kwewak who talked about their efforts to build bridges through song to aboriginal and Canadian communities. “It’s an opportunity to share our connection and understandings. Our drum group reflects a sweet grass teaching. One blade of sweet grass itself is not very strong and can break easily. When several blades of sweet grass are braided together, the sweet grass is strong and cannot be easily broken. The opening prayer was then done and Mino Ode Kwewak performed.
A traditional lunch was available that consisted of wild rice, cedar tea, Indian tacos, and strawberry juice that was enjoyed by all.
Hannah Wallace-Lund then introduced Dr Susan Aglukark, who talked about how she is a second generation person removed from the residential school experience and how she was definitely affected by it. “Almost every other person in our northern communities has been abused, myself included.” Rather than give exclusive focus on the negative side of the issue, Dr Aglukark talked about how to move forward. “We can build a strong generation of youth if our generation can heal just enough to give that strength to our young people and they can give a little more strength to the next generation to become strong people in strong communities. We are given opportunities in life and it’s our choices that make the difference. Whoever you are right now as a person is good enough.” Dr Aglukark also performed songs like O Siem with the audience at the end giving her a standing ovation.
The next speaker was Mizhana Gheezik-Justice Murray Sinclair who spoke about the nature of Canada’s current relationship with Onkwehonwe people. “We received an apology but it’s like the woman in an abusive relationship who gets hit by the man who apologizes for the first time but then hits her again, that’s where the relationship is at now. We have to understand the history of this relationship. Treaties were made out in the west very quickly so Canada could get the resources. The Red River Rebellion wasn’t a rebellion, it was resistance.” Justice Sinclair stated “God was here long before Christianity. Everyone’s creation story is true.”
“Almost half of those who went to residential school suffered serious injuries and filed a claim. We are not a government program, we are a survivor program. The survivors don’t want to go into their futures walking backwards. It’s about your children and your grandchildren. How do we make them stronger and better people. Ironically these schools brought us to this problem and it will take another kind of education to bring us out” concluded Justice Sinclair.