An estimated 300 people watched the ceremonial inauguration of the Seven Feathers crosswalk on Albert Street on Thursday – the first Truth and Reconciliation Day. The road was closed for the event from Division to Third and starting at noon, several people spoke about the atrocities of the residential school system and the promises to First Nations that have been broken. Tracey Vaughan, the Town’s CAO, did a superb job as MC and introduced Jessica Outram, Poet Laureate, Chief Dave Mowat, Mayor John Henderson, MPP David Piccini and Elder Stephen Pashagumskum. Each spoke about the failed promises and the need for learning and reconciliation. The seven feathers crosswalk was finished only a short time before the event and represents the seven Indigenous values of Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Humility, Truth and Wisdom.
Most people were masked and some were seated in chairs set up on the road.
Before the event, local indigenous people performed a smudging ceremony which uses smoke from sacred plants (cedar, sage, sweetgrass, tobacco) to cleanse themselves.
Apart from the introductory remarks by CAO Tracey Vaughan and the poem by Jessica Outram, three speakers were especially notable:
- Chief Dave Mowat. Dave thanked the crowd for their turnout and said that the Government had failed to live up to their promises.
- Mayor John Henderson. Visibly emotional, John said that this was “One of the most important days in my term”.
- Elder Stephen Pashagumskum spoke eloquently about how children had been taken from their families – in his experience via a float plane. He described how mothers would then not see their children again until years later when the plane would return with the children. But in some cases, the child the waiting mother hoped for, did not get off the plane. He said that the Anglican Church frowned on Indian names but said that he didn’t like to talk about his horrible experiences. He said “All those memories I’ve had to carry but today I want to celebrate”. Part way through his speech, he said that “I’m not very steady” so he had to sit. When he was finished, he received a long standing ovation.
At no point did anyone talk about compensation to First Nations people – the emphasis was on learning.
See the photos below and the links below them for more.
- Report on this event by Bill Hornbostel at Cobourg Now – More details about event.
- Quotes – as reported by CTV News
- National Film Board A selection of films by Indigenous filmmakers and allies about the tragic impact of residential schools in Canada.
- The History of Residential Schools
Addendum – Oct 5
The paint job was obviously poor since today it was so badly deteriorated that the Town scrubbed it away. Before they did, Wally Keeler took a photo (at right). But it’s only temporary – it will be repainted and regularly maintained.