Final, critical Fort Normandeau exhibit will be unveiled

The “final, critical exhibit” at Fort Normandeau will be unveiled on Wednesday, and the public is invited for the big event.

The “final, critical exhibit” at Fort Normandeau will be unveiled on Wednesday, and the public is invited for the big event.

The outdoor exhibit Looking Back, Looking Ahead will be officially opened at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the heritage site southwest of Red Deer.

The display incorporates a backward-looking piece focusing on the harmful history of Indian residential schools in Canada. One of those schools was operated from 1893 to 1919 just across the Red Deer River from the fort site. A new telescope-like tool will allow visitors to peer across the river to see where the school would have stood and what it looked like.

The other half of the spectacle will speak to the steps that have been undertaken to move towards healing and reconciliation. As part of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission event last year at the site, the lives of the 325 native children who were forced to attend the Red Deer school — some of whom died and were buried while there — were honoured.

The forward-looking section is oriented toward the location of a sweat lodge and healing site on the grounds.

Schoolchildren, elders and descendants of Red Deer Industrial School students will be around for the opening ceremony, and there will be programming for school groups throughout the morning and afternoon.

From 9:30 to 11:45 a.m. at Gaetz Memorial United Church in Red Deer, a special educational opportunity for adults will be presented. The KAIROS blanket exercise is designed to examine the nation-to-nation relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada, teaching “a history of Canada that most people never learn.”

Both events are being held in conjunction with the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation, marking the federal government’s 2008 apology to residential school survivors.

The blanket event is open to the public, but people are asked to phone ahead to confirm numbers. To attend, contact the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre at 403-340-0020.

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