Residential school atrocities recognized in Morley, Alta.

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Indigenous community members and their allies gathered in Morley, Alta., on Friday to recognize the intergenerational traumas of Canada’s residential school system.

The second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was commemorated with an “Every Child Matters” walk between the McDougall Memorial United Church and the Morley United Church.

Both sites carry a long and painful history for those impacted, including Valentia Fox of the Îethka First Nation, who attended residential school at Morley United.

“For us to heal, we have to tell the stories, the ugly truth that happened to residential school students. The greater society needs to hear our stories and to believe us, because we experienced it,” Fox said.

“Once that truth is out of your body, not just out of your mind, but out of your body, then it’s easier to start working on healing.”

Fox spent 11 years attending residential school. She told the story of her first day, when her mother made her brand-new moccasins that were quickly taken from her by her teachers.

“Once we were there and our parents left, we were taken down to the basement, stripped of our clothes, doused with kerosene and then shoved under showers,” Fox said.

“And then later, the teachers hired a dentist to come to the school and work on children’s teeth. He pulled our teeth with no anesthetic and when we cried, he slapped us and said, ‘Shut up, you stupid little Indian.’”

Those painful memories are why a couple hundred people marched Friday in honour of the children who didn’t survive.

Walk organizer Eve Powder is a survivor of the David Bearspaw Indian School and said she was overwhelmed by the support of community members.

“Moving forward, I just want everyone to know that we’re all in this together,” Powder said.

“Sometimes, I just don’t want to talk about it because it just hurts. It really hurts, but we need to come together.”

The second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was commemorated with an “Every Child Matters” walk between the McDougall Memorial United Church and the Morley United Church.

The event was also meaningful for family members of residential school survivors, including Shyles Smalleyes, whose grandparents attended residential school.

He emphasized the importance of education for younger generations.

“We need more people to listen because the more they stick around, the more they understand what happened,” Smalleyes said.

Young children attending the event who are just learning about residential schools agree that there’s no reconciliation without first learning of the past.

Akayla Haynes is just 10 years old, but she’s looking forward to listening for years to come.

“I get to see all the different cultures and find out what other people have been through,” she said.

“Events like this show that lots of people are supporting this and I’m happy about that because back in time, not many people cared.”

Friday’s event included several speakers, a powwow and a safe space for residential or day school survivors to share their stories.

For Fox, the hope is that reconciliation conversations continue to create more positive changes for Indigenous peoples in the future.

“Forgiveness, I think, is key, and forgiveness will help us move forward,” she said. 

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