Canada’s newest holiday National Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30 will be celebrated at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park.
The event will take place from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park and is being organized by Wesley Mitchell of the University Hospital of Northern B.C. (UHNBC) drum group.
Mitchell also organized an open drum circle at the park to commemorate National Indigenous People’s Day on June 21.
The federal government declared Sept. 30 a federal statutory holiday to commemorate the history of residential schools and recognition of the ongoing trauma to Indigenous people.
Sept. 30 has also been known as Orange Shirt Day in honour of the campaign’s founder Phyllis Webstad’s whose brand new orange shirt was taken from her when she was sent to residential school.
Mitchell says he’s partnered with Lheidli T’enneh to organize the event and it will be hosted by himself and fellow drummer Ivan Paquette.
The event will start with an opening prayer at 11 a.m. at the Kiwanis Bowl with Lheidli T’enneh Elder Darlene McIntosh.
Mitchell said there will also be dancers, drummers, activities for children and Elders will be on hand to share their stories.
“We are going to continue on with any Indigenous survivors and Elders or anyone who has stories of residential schools or 60s scoop,” said Mitchell. “Just some of that to get the awareness out there.”
Mitchell said he is currently working on the event’s COVID-19 safety plan. He says the event was originally planned to be much larger but had to be scaled back as new restrictions have come into place to combat the rising cases throughout the province.
While details are still being finalized, Mitchell says there will definitely be a gathering at the park to commemorate the day.
“There are a lot of things we are working on to make sure it is the safest it can be and we can bring those stories out there,” said Mitchell.
“This year we want that message to continue especially on Sept. 30 ,”he added, remarking the holiday is especially important in the wake of unmarked graves confirmed at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School and the following discoveries around the country.
“On that day we have a stronger voice. When these Elders come out and hare it not only helps them heal but it helps everyone from non-Indigenous to immigrants.”
Mitchell also encourages everyone who attends to wear orange shirts and celebrate Indigenous culture.
“My main theme is a cultural side of this – because culture is the opposite of genocide,” said Mitchell. “We are bringing our culture back.”
As Sept. 30 is now a federal stat holiday that means all federal employees have the day off.
In B.C., officials with the Ministry of Finance say public-sector employers and employees who would normally be entitled to provincial and federal holidays have been asked to observe the day "in recognition of obligations in the vast majority of collective agreements."
Because of this, all public and post-secondary schools, research universities, child care centres, Crown corporations and provincial government offices will be closed.
In Prince George, City Hall, including the service centre, and Masich Place Stadium will be closed to the public. Other Civic facilities, such as the CN Centre and the arenas will be open for regular hours.
As details for the Sept. 30 event at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park are finalized they will be posted online.
- with files from Wayne Moore, Castanet