“We can’t have reconciliation if we don’t know the truths”; Candlelight vigil in Six Nations
The Six Nations of the Grand River community came together at Chiefswood Park Thursday, to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a candlelight vigil.
Luminaries and traditional medicines were left along the lawn, and a giant heart took shape, made of messages to residential school survivors and the Indigenous children who never made it home.
“We can’t have reconciliation if we don’t know the truths,” Elected Chief Mark Hill told the crowd.
“One of the biggest things that can happen is that we educate Canadians about the true history of Canada,” said Peter Schuler, a cultural monitor for the Survivors’ Secretariat, created to oversee the police task force that will search for unmarked burial sites on the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute in Brantford.
They say education is a major component of truth and reconciliation, and what’s been taught to Canadians is a bent version of the truth.
The recent discoveries of unmarked graves on the sites of Canada’s former residential schools is part of a painful past that most Canadians are just starting to learn, they add.
While the history has been described as nothing short of heartbreaking, those in Six Nations say the sea of orange has been uplifting.
“To still be here and to still be able to speak and to use our voices, I think that’s powerful and I want to continue to use mine,” said Chief Hill.
“The time has come where we stop bending over and stand up to be who we are,” adds Schuler.
Chief Hill hopes next year the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation also becomes a provincial holiday in Ontario.
But he says everyone needs to continue learning and taking action beyond September 30.
“We all have a responsibility to get informed and to be informed.”
Attendance was limited due to COVID-19 protocols, but was livestreamed on the Six Nations Facebook page.
If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.