Candles were lit to honour the 70 children who died at the former Red Deer Indian Industrial School on the Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
About 100 people attended the Little Souls: The Journey On event at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery on Saturday. This event was presented by Shining Mountains Living Community Services, Métis Local 492, Urban Aboriginal Voices Society, Golden Circle Resource Centre and the MAG.
“We can’t move forward without joining together,” said Raye St. Denys, Shining Mountains executive director.
“I was taught if you sat with people and shared their food, you cannot fight with them anymore. For me, truth is about saying what happened – that’s a hard part. Lots of people didn’t even know we had the industrial school here. It’s about saying the truth and moving forward in a good way.”
Tears were shed throughout the room as the names of the 70 children who died at the Red Deer school were read aloud during the event.
“I’m a mom. I’m a grandma. I’m a great-grandma now. If someone had tried to take my child, my grandchildren or my great-grandson, there would be no peace in my heart,” said St. Denys.
The event also featured Mayor Ken Johnston reading a proclamation, a musical performance by Zack Willier and a quilt ceremony for the Little Souls community blanket.
“We used to make quilts for our babies. I’ve made quilts for my grandkids and my in-laws. We realized all of those children in residential schools never had quilts made for them – their families didn’t get a chance to make and give them a quilt. We wanted to make a quilt for those children,” said St. Denys.
“Last year, we cut up pieces of cloth and gave them to people who wanted to paint, bead or make a design. No one told them what they needed to put on there, they created what was in their heart. The pieces were sold together and the quilt was born.”
The quilt has been on display at Shining Mountains for the past year. Next it will go to Métis Local 492 – other organizations will get the opportunity to have the quilt in their space afterwards.
“It belongs to the people,” St. Denys said.
Rick Wilson, minister of Indigenous relations and Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin MLA, issued a statement on the Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“On Sept. 30, Alberta’s government honours First Nations, Inuit and Métis survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. It is an important day to acknowledge and reflect on the history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, and to honour those children who did not make it home,” said Wilson.
“Each of us has a responsibility to move reconciliation forward. We do this by deepening our understanding of the harms experienced at residential schools and offering compassion to those still suffering from intergenerational trauma. Learning from Indigenous Peoples is at the heart of reconciliation.”