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Sylvan Lake community healing together through candlelight vigil

The Town of Sylvan Lake helped to organize and facilitate a “vigil for healing” on June 30

Tansi. My name is Clare Butterfly. I am Cree and have been a member of the Sylvan Lake community my entire life.

Tonight (June 30), we are remembering those whose lives were lost in the residential school system, as well as those whose lives were lost in other ways, but are still with us.

I myself was never in a residential school. My father was. He has said that, “If you have heard horrible stories about what happened at the residential schools… it WAS that bad.” To that, there is no debate.

Unfortunately, the past is that way; no matter how much we would like to go back and right the wrongs, we are entirely unable to do so. The best thing that could be done was to educate the rest of the world on what happened, in the hopes of getting further down the road of reconciliation.

But then, the graves were found. It seems like every few days more graves are found, and undoubtedly that will continue for some time. For many, the wounds which have been slowly stitched up over the years since, have just had the sutures torn out by the recent news. For too many, their wounds were not given any care to begin with. For the survivors, the thought of those neglected and mistreated children will bring back memories that they thought they had dealt with, or were not dealt with at all.

The story of the residential schools is perhaps the saddest chapter in Canada’s history. But I hope that we as humans, and citizens in this land, can ensure that it will always be a chapter, and not the whole book. And don’t rip this chapter out of your book, as uncomfortable or painful as it may be to read. If it is painful for you to know, think about how much more painful it was for the children, and all the families affected.

We are where we are now in this moment as well, and we can’t change that either. And unless every white person or immigrant is going to get on a boat tomorrow to go back to their respective homelands, we are ALL in a position to deal with this tragedy. I don’t say that to lay blame on all white people. If there is anyone still alive who ordered or implemented these atrocities, I hope that they can find it in their hearts to come forward and deal with it properly, for it truly was a crime.

However, I hope that we as people in this community can move forward from this tragedy towards true reconciliation. Reconciliation, by definition, is unattainable unless both sides are equally invested, and are in agreement with each other. There must be an equal amount of forgiveness for all the sorrow felt, in order for any healing to take place.

This week, people everywhere will be celebrating Canada Day. We can not be angry with them for not understanding why, for so many, there is no pride or emotional attachment to a collective body that has failed the indian people so miserably, so many times.

To the white people; if you see or know a residential school survivor, don’t tell them to simply “get over it”, and demand they celebrate Canada Day. You have no idea what you’re saying. Listen to their stories and be understanding of what they are dealing with.

To my people; don’t hate your white neighbours or those who do celebrate Canada Day, as if they are the ones who committed these wrong doings. Hate will only broaden the gulf, and make it harder to build the necessary bridges. Take every opportunity to educate them as best you can.

In Cree, a braided rope made from animal hide is called “sakanapiy”. If every strand in that braid is secured from top to bottom, it can carry a heavy load. But if one or two strands are not secure, the braid loses its strength and will break. For many, with the recent discoveries, the load is back on as heavy as it ever was, and it is feeling like the other strands are not secured. We as people in this community, as well as this entire country, must all be a strand in that braid, for it is a burden and weight that is impossible for only one strand to carry.

It is my hope that out of the awful news that comes daily, there will also come some good. Pray for those families who have lost friends and relatives and have to relive their trauma.

I want to leave you with a quote by a man named High Chief, who was a Cheyenne leader in the late 1800s.

“I know that it is the mind of God that white men and Indians who fought together should now be one people. There are birds of many colours -red, blue, green, yellow- yet it is all one bird. There are horses of many colours -brown, black, yellow, white- yet it is all one horse. So cattle, so all living things -animals, flowers, trees. So men; in this land where once were only Indians, are now men of every colour -white, black, yellow, red- yet all one people. That this should come to pass was in the heart of God. And everywhere there shall be peace.”

Hiy Hiy.

-Submitted by Clare Butterfly