Thousands join Walk Your Roots reconciliation walk
- EFN Staff | June 24, 2016
The people of Saskatoon turned out in droves to Walk Their Roots and support survivors of the Indian Residential schools. In a gigantic act of reconciliation, almost 3,000 Saskatonians of all ages, races, creeds, colours hit the bank of the South Saskatchewan River in an amazing show of community unity and love.
Even though they were prepared for it, the turnout was a pleasant surprise to organizers. “We we all over the board on how many people would actually come but we thought for sure over a thousand,” said Gilles Dorval who is the Director of Aboriginal Relations for the City of Saskatoon and was co-chair of the committee in charge of the event. “But we planned for 3000 of everything and we are glad we did. Out partners really turned out. The Intercultural Association and the Open Door Society tied reconciliation into their language instruction for new comers to Canada and they brought all their students and we had the churches come out and the schools. It is good to see the diversity. We really emphasized diversity today so that people showed their own culture. It turned out really good.”
In response to the TRC Calls to Action, the City of Saskatoon, Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Saskatoon Tribal Council, Central Urban Metis Federation Inc., along with over 30 supporting organizations, planned a month-long series of events to promote Reconciliation in Saskatoon. The events educated, engaged and inspired citizens on what it means to reconcile and find their own call to actionand culminated in the walk.
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Participants celebrated their unique cultural heritage by wearing or holding symbols of their culture or organizations during the Rock Your Roots Walk for Reconciliation. The walk went from 19th Street and Avenue F, downtown to Friendship Park and then looping back to Victoria Park. The walk passed by the War of 1812 Monument where drummers and dancers performed. At Friendship Park, Dallas and Phil Boyer played the red river jig for half an hour straight as the walkers strolled by. The walkers were then greeted by a Saskatoon Police Service officer playing the bagpipes at the John Lake and Chief Whitecap statue at the bottom of the traffic bridge. Along the way there were messages of hope and reconciliation on sign boards.
The Day of Reconciliation continued with activities and entertainment in the park. In the spirit of Reconciliation goals, participants had an opportunity to listen to the stories of survivors and their families; learn about our history and about residential schools, in a safe, open and accessible environment; show-up to support Reconciliation in our community; and to share their personal responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action.
The walk was powerful and showed the unity of the city.
“The day is beautiful. Our hope and prayer was that we could offer our children hope for their future and hope for the survivors so that their children and their grandchildren would live a better life than we ever did,” said Lorna Arcand, the project coordinator. “We hope that our grandchildren can take their place in society, which is why we enjoyed sharing this journey with the settler community in Saskatoon. The turnout is wonderful. It brought joy to all of our hearts. This was in our prayers. We did all the protocol that we have been taught through the Elders and I believe the Creator blessed us today. I think having 62 survivors join us for the walk was outstanding. It showed they will still walk with us any time we need them.”
The massive show of support bodes well for the future of Saskatoon. “The turnout tells me that our community is ready. People have committed from their personal perspective and they have brought their families and they are talking about what they can do about reconciliation in their organizations,” added Gilles Dorval. “I think the climate is right for us to make change in Saskatoon. Not just as a municipal government but the NGO`s and faith based groups are getting more people working together to increase the quality of life for people in the Aboriginal community. We want to focus on the positive. So when I saw that long lineup of people, and the diversity in the crowd and the reaction of the media that’s going to send our message to the wider audience of Saskatoon that didn’t get a chance to participate, I became really happy and very hopeful.”