It was an emotional afternoon at Memorial Park in Bracebridge as more than 100 people gathered today to hear from residential school survivors and local Indigenous rights activists.
The event took place on National Indigenous People’s Day and coincided with the posting of 215 signs in the park meant to honour the 215 children found buried in Kamloops.
Traditional drummers Rodney Stanger and Devin Jerick started off the ceremony as local politicians including MP Scott Aitchison, Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, Muskoka District Chair John Klink and others looked on under cloudy skies.
Residential school survivor Lila Tabobondung gave an emotional speech to those gathered.
Tabobondung said she didn’t want to discuss her personal expenses with residential schools but she fought through tears as she discussed the numbers of children that were run through the residential school system.
She called on those in attendance to take action and for politicians to make informed decisions so Aboriginal children don’t continue to suffer. She also distributed a poem she had written called, “On the wings of an eagle soaring.”
Doug Pawis from Shawanaga First Nation told the crowd of his relatives’ experiences with the residential school system, including his mother’s experience at the so-called “Indian Hospital ” in Gravenhurst.
“This is to honour the children and recognize the ones who died,” said Pawis. “Our people have known about this for a long time and now everyone else is finding out about it.”
Trish Cowie, an activist for Indigenous rights and former federal Liberal candidate for Parry Sound – Muskoka helped organize the event and said it was just the first step on a path to honouring residential school survivors.
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