September 30, 2021 was “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation” in Canada. The day has been observed for several years by our northern neighbor’s Indigenous peoples. This year, however, marked the first “official” recognition of the day by the Canadian government, a collective response to the shocking news earlier in 2021 that thousands of children forcibly removed from their families died at “residential schools” and were buried in unmarked graves.
The disgraceful practice of removing Native American children from their families and homes and compelling them to attend boarding schools – in order to strip them of their language, culture, and sense of pride – began, not in Canada, but in the United States, and is part of the colonial legacy in both Canada and the USA. This inhumane treatment of Indigenous children (and, thus, their families, clans, and nations) has resulted in intergenerational trauma, as explained by Paul Smith, a freelance writer and citizen of the Métis Nation, in an op-ed piece recently published in the Guelph Mercury Tribune:
Poverty, disproportionate child welfare apprehensions, over-incarceration, low graduation rates, high suicide rates, poor health status are all a legacy of residential schools and ongoing colonial policies. Current treatment of children in all these institutions is a focus for many of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls.
A powerful and irrefutable slogan – Every Child Matters – has become a tangible and accessible symbol of hope and solidarity within the truth and reconciliation movement. A Remembrance Walk – sponsored by the Seneca Gaming Corporation – took place in Niagara Falls, USA yesterday evening in honor of residential school survivors and in memory of those who did not survive. Several thousand walkers participated in the event, many of whom wore orange shirts proclaiming “Every Child Matters.” [Today’s Buffalo News includes an article that explains the symbolism of the orange shirt under the headline, “Students honor Indigenous children victimized in schools.“]
I was among the walkers. And, I was embarrassed by the fact that I had forgotten to wear an orange top until a youthful grandmother, proudly carrying her beautiful, four-month-old grandson so that he also could see the sea of people, assured me that the important thing was that I was there to remember.
Here are images of the Remembrance Walk, capturing, I hope, not only the warm and embracing mood of the crowd, but the serenity that I don’t ever recall experiencing in the past when visiting Niagara Falls’ famous cataracts.
With All Due Respect,