HUMBOLDT — The Horizon School Division raised flags alongside partner First Nations and community organizers to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Kevin Garinger, Horizon’s director of education, said that the flags were to represent the partnerships and collaborations critical for their success.
“This year our country has once again been faced with the heartbreaking realities of the residential school system with the discovery of unmarked graves at former school sites in Kamloops, Brandon, and within Muskowekwan First Nation, and we recognize these sites are only the beginning,” Garinger said.
“While I have my message to share today, one of the most important things I will do this morning is to listen. For this reason I’m so grateful for the dignitaries we have joining us this morning.”
The residential school system was designed with the objectives of assimilating Indigenous youth into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living.
The schools would forcibly separate children from their families and forbade them to use their own languages or acknowledge their Indigenous heritage. If the students disobeyed, they would be beaten.
The day included speeches from Byron Bitternose, George Gordon First Nation Chief; Michael Behiel, Humboldt’s mayor; Brent Walker, Humboldt Chamber of Commerce chair; and Shelly Romanyszyn-Cross, Carlton Trail College’s president.
Albert Pinachie, a board of education trustee and residential school survivor was also one of the speakers.
“I call myself a lifer, I spent 11 years in residential schools, seven years in Muskowekwan and four years in Lebret,” Pinachie said. “In Muskowekwan they would pick me up with a grain truck and take me to church first, then to the schools and if we didn’t go to church on a Sunday we went to bed hungry and we weren’t allowed to watch a movie.”
Since leaving the residential school system Pinachie said he hasn’t stepped foot in a church, and seldom goes out to see a movie.
Entertainment for the division’s event on June 21 was organized by Bryan McNabb, assistant superintendent of Indigenous education, which included traditional dances and music.
The George Gordon First Nation group Gray Buffalo Singers performed “In Honour of the Children” to remember and memorialize the children whose lives were lost across the country in the residential school system. Performers include Jared Bird, Tommy Twist, Jeff Longman, Jason Keewatin and Danny Longman.
During the song community members were encouraged to join in a round dance.