A Red Deer woman started four emotional days of commiserations and conversations with neighbours and strangers about Canada’s residential school past.
Through Facebook, Theresa “Corky” Larsen Jonasson invited people who were “triggered” by the discovery of 215 children graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school to tie remembrance ribbons to a tree in her yard from Thursday to last Sunday.
“Those in need of a healing ceremony” were also invited to add an organic item to the Red Feather Women’s yellow cloth memorial by leaving such things as seeds and pine cones in a collection bin in her yard on Michener Hill.
“I wanted to create a space that was safe to have conversations — but I never expected so many people,” said Larsen Jonasson.
All 215 ribbons that she’d left out had been tied to a tree by Sunday by a steady stream of visitors who were described as “heavily non-Indigenous.”
Many people wanted to apologize for the great wrong done to First Nations people as this colonial country was founded, and to start conversations about such things as white privilege, she added. “I just about lost my voice we were talking so much…”
Larsen Jonasson said some visitors struggled to find the right words to say about Canada’s horrific past — “and maybe there are no right words…
“Those 215 little souls…. it’s not a grave site, it’s more like a crime scene.”
Other visitors were angry, she said, while a few just sat on her deck and cried.
Larsen Jonasson fears that the growing public awareness about historic aspects that were never taught in schools — that Canada was founded through suppression “and what I would call genocide”— will create a big big burden for younger generations to carry.
“It’s a really hard thing for us to deal with because we all think that Canada is pretty perfect…”
But stories that have surfaced since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its findings, make it hard for Larsen Jonasson to sing O Canada now.
She next plans to bring the organic items left in her yard to a Red Feather Women gathering at Fort Normandeau, where the items will be honoured, and then burned in ceremony.
The Red Feather Women then plan to start some community conversations. Small gatherings will be held to better share information regarding residential schools and their inter-generational effect, and to review the Commossion’s Calls to Action and the progress made so far.