While reconciliation can take many forms, a visual marker is flying high in Saskatoon.
Dozens of people gathered at city hall Wednesday morning for the 2017 reconciliation flag raising ceremony to honour residential school survivors and those who lost their lives.
“What reconciliation means to me is a healing process,” said Cindy Tootoosis, who was at the event. “Moving forward, learning from our past and our past relationships and moving forward to build a stronger community with First Nations and our allies and the rest of society.”
The event included performances from Wild Horse Drum and a few dancers. Students from St. Michael School joined Krystle Pederson to perform the Métis National Anthem.
Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas spoke about how reconciliation will be done differently in each community – whether through words or actions.
“We are the ones that have to define what it’s going to look like,” he said.
The Office of the Treaty Commissioner recognizes reconciliation as “exploring the past and choosing to build a better future.”
Shirley Isbister, the president of the Urban Métis Federation Inc. said her call to action has always revolved around diversity, with cultural inclusivity being a focus point.
“All of our children, no matter what mix of blood that they have, they need to be proud of it,” Isbister said.
Eugene Arcand, who went to a residential school, spoke about how the number of living survivors is decreasing. He still carries a picture in his back pocket of his classmates during that time.
“There’s 32 kids in the picture, only nine of us are still alive,” Arcand said, adding he feels it’s his duty to speak publicly about their experience.
Arcand noted demographics are changing in Saskatchewan and that children, from all cultures, are the best chance for continued reconciliation.
“(Make sure) the children … know their language, know who they are – be they Honduran, Syrian, Dene, Blackfoot, it don’t matter. That’s the process of life,” Arcand said.
The flag raising ceremony is one of the honorary events happening in Saskatoon this June. The Rock Your Roots walk for reconciliation takes place June 21.