A feast to honour children who were buried at the old Red Deer Industrial School cemetery is set for the end of the month.
Organizers expect 1,000 people at Fort Normandeau on June 30 for the feast, starting at 11 a.m. The ceremony will be for those who have a connection to the school, who went there or had relatives who went to the school.
One of the organizing committee members, Lyle Keewatin-Richards, explains that the ceremony will be to feed the children, with each person in attendance contributing a small bit of food from the feast to a plate, which will be placed by the graves.
A pipe ceremony led by around 20 Stoney Nakoda First Nations people will be held at the cemetery and another pipe ceremony and the feast will be led by Cree people and will take place at Fort Normandeau.
Keewatin-Richards explained that looking after a First Nations gravesite involves more than just cutting the grass..
Keewatin-Richards first became familiar with the site more than 20 years ago when he was working at the Red Deer and District Archives as a summer interpreter. First Nations Elder Albert Lightning walked into his office, wanting help to find out what had happened to his brother David, who had died while attending the Red Deer Industrial School, which operated from 1893 to 1919.
The feast has been organized by the four bands of Hobbema, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Paul First Nation, Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Saddle Lake Cree First Nation, Whitefish First Nation, the Métis Nation of Alberta and the United Church of Canada.
Participants in the feast have been asked to park at Red Deer College’s parking lot Q and take shuttles.