OTTERBURNE, MB – In the days leading up to September 30th, students, faculty, staff and residents of Otterburne participated in various activities that took place during Truth and Reconciliation Week at Providence. The event kicked off on Monday afternoon with the setting up of two teepees beside the Student Life Centre, which also featured a fire pit where traditional food like bannock, goose, fish, and moose stew were shared. Since its inception in 2021, Providence has marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as an institution-wide holiday, but this was the first time a full week was devoted to the commemoration of stories and experiences from local First Nations and Métis people.
As expressed in the Mandate for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the process of acknowledging past injustices and working toward healing involves, “a profound commitment to establishing new relationships embedded in mutual recognition and respect that will forge a brighter future.” This indeed was the aim of what took place on campus, which was coordinated by Providence Seminary’s Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Liaison for Support and Reconciliation, Karen Jolly. “Reconciliation happens because different groups come together with a common purpose,” said Jolly, “and we need to talk about hard things sometimes in order to move forward and make a better Canada for all people.” Substantive and lasting change begins with education – especially listening to stories from Survivors, families, and communities who were directly impacted by residential schools.
Located on Treaty One Territory, the closest Indigenous community to Providence is located approximately 40 minutes south at Roseau River First Nation – also known as Okwewanashko-ziibiing, meaning “Rag Weed River.” It was from there that Elder Debra Henry was invited to be a guest of honour on Wednesday, along with friend Elaine Naytowhow. “When you look at our people and see the brokenness, it was because of the residential schools,” Elder Henry shared. “We need to educate ourselves about the truth, so it won’t get repeated.” In addition to the performance of a drum song during Community Chapel and leading an outdoor smudging ceremony, these representatives from Roseau River taught and shared stories in one of the teepees about intergenerational trauma and the important work of healing. “There are a lot of things that have happened in my life,” conveyed residential school Survivor Naytowhow, “but I can still smile, I can still love, and I can still be kind.”
Since the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation or Orange Shirt Day falls on a Saturday this year, classes at Providence will be cancelled for students on Monday, October 2nd, and employees have the day off. For more information about actively working toward reconciliation, visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at NCTR.ca.