As Airdrie gets set to mark a solemn day of ceremonies and events for the second annual National Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30, the focus will be on building community and collective healing, according to Adrian Pruden, Co-Chair of the Circle Connections for Reconciliation Society.
“We are very happy to put this event on, and obviously recognize our Indigenous citizenship with the City of Airdrie,” Pruden said. “We hope the event will be a day of healing for the city and the community.”
The group will be erecting a teepee and holding a Métis trapper’s tent-raising starting at 10 a.m. in Nose Creek Regional Park. Those will be followed by a day of ceremonial activities and discussion circles with local Indigenous and Métis Elders.
There will also be free, fire-cooked bannock available for the public as well.
Everyone is invited to attend, according to Pruden, both to learn about Canada’s colonial history and to learn how to take better steps toward the future.
“It helps to raise awareness about colonization, and the effects that has had on Indigenous people such as residential schools,” he said. “It helps to repair fractured relationships and can really help to break the cycle of racism, violence, and hopefully help us to move forward in a more peaceful manner for the future.”
The Circle Connections for Reconciliation Society event goes until 4 p.m. on Friday.
Sept. 30 is also less formally known as “Orange Shirt Day” to honour residential school survivors and remember those children who were victims of the institutions and did not come home again.
Orange Shirt Day has gained traction across Canada, particularly after the remains of more than 5,000 Indigenous children were found on the sites of former residential schools across the country last year. Canadian residential schools operated from the 1870s until 1996, in some circumstances prior to confederacy. Approximately 150,000 Indigenous children attended Canada’s residential schools.
To remember this appalling legacy, the Orange Footsteps walk will be returning to Airdrie this year, after first receiving approval by City council in August 2021. The walk will begin in Nose Creek Park at 6 p.m. and make its way to City Hall for another ceremony on Friday evening. City hall will be illuminated orange for the event, confirms Michelle Jorgensen, culture and heritage strategist with community development for the City of Airdrie.
“It’s really important as a community development model to be working with the community, and definitely around building those Indigenous relationships,” Jorgensen said. “It is important for the City to show that leadership in honouring the day, and building those community connections for education.
Jorgensen feels that the strong focus local organizers and Elders taking part in the Sept. 30 events are putting on collective healing can go a long way toward reconciling Canada’s present with the injustices of its past.
“There is certainly more awareness around it,” she said, “and there is starting to be more understanding. There is still so much more to learn around the ‘truth’ part of (truth and) reconciliation.”
For more information on National Truth and Reconciliation Day events in Airdrie on Sept. 30 visit airdrie.ca and circleconnectionsforreconciliation.com.
—With files from Jordan Stricker/Airdrie City View