Events for National Indigenous Peoples Day spanned over June 20 and June 21, 2021 at the Ma-Me-O day use-park and Village at Pigeon Lake.
Sunday June 20, at the Ma-Me-O day-use park, guest speakers including MLA Rick Wilson and survivors of Indian Residential Schools were present. Survivors shared their stories and there were performances by local singers, drummers, and dancers to honour the survivors of the Canadian Residential School system.
Monday June 21, 2021, on National Indigenous Peoples Day a tribute honouring the children who perished in the Canadian Indian Residential School system was held at the Village at Pigeon Lake.
Community members shared their stories and there were more performances from local singers and dancers including Hobbema Cree Drummers.
During the event at the Village at Pigeon Lake enough shoes were donated and collected to circle the entirety of the village square, a visual representation of the stark amount of children that never came home from Indian residential schools. Two thirds of the shoes were donated to a local church following the event, and one third was donated to the local women’s shelter.
Local grandmothers Mary Rose, Edith Yellowbird, and Maxine Cutarm let dances to performances by Hobbema Cree Drum group, including a dance towards the end of the event where everyone present was invited to join in.
The events were organized by Sandra Clarke, Joelene Yellowbird, and Azure Johnson.
In her speech at the June 21 event Clarke said that organizing these events was an important part of reconciliation, that to her, calling out racism and supporting her friends, their businesses, and their stories was no longer enough following the shocking confirmation of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops residential school.
“I thought that these things together was enough,” Clarke said. “Then three numbers changed my world.”
“Out of our mutual tears, Joelene and I charted a simple path—to collect shoes. We did not know where to start and it turns out that one tiny spark was enough.”
In addition to the hundreds of collected shoes, at least a hundred people showed up to the Village at Pigeon Lake to hear the guest speakers and see the performances organized. In fact there was so much interest from community members for the events, that the original one day plan had to be extended into events spanning two days.
“For the children that were lost a piece of our hearts are lost with you. We are listening to you and your message,” said Clarke. “We are learning. We are honouring you as we guide our steps to a new way of living as a community.”