Indigenous Elders hope recounting their experiences at residential schools on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Saturday will foster healing and reconciliation.

The idea for the project began in 2021, with news from Kamloops of a potential burial ground outside the residential school. The Elders Knowledge Circle Society and Calgary’s Arts Commons decided to team up. The ideas was to help Elders recover from the trauma of residential schools and share their experiences with young Indigenous people and the wider public. 

“We are in the very early stages of our own journey towards reconciliation, and we just want to help the healing and help make Calgary a better place for everyone,” said Tasha Komery, the event coordinator with Arts Commons. 

Courtesy: Arts Commons

The Elders hope that sharing their experiences might help Indigenous people deal with the trauma triggered by the discovery of the potential graves. 

“The Indigenous youth were quite traumatized by it and the Elders that were residential school survivors were retraumatized by the findings, so they got together to say it’s time for us to tell our stories, to heal,” said Komery.

The head of Arts Commons, Alex Sarian, met with Elder Reg Crowshoe and Elder Rose Crowshoe two years ago where he learned about the residential school survivors’ efforts to share stories about their experiences. Arts Commons offered up the Jack Singer Concert Hall to host the event. 

Komery stresses the event is “completely Elder-led.” 

“The biggest part of reconciliation is just building awareness, is understanding what the truth is, about the past. And so my hope is that people will be curious enough to learn more.”

The Calgary Public Library, Calgary Counselling Centre, University of Calgary, and United Way are also partners in this event with the Elder Knowledge Circle Society. 

Arts Commons is also hosting two other events –  a film screening, and the Indigenous  Makers Market – on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. 

“We have a number of films that are being shown.Those are graciously provided by the National Film Board,” said Komery.

Along with live music, the Indigenous Makers Market will showcase the works of First Nations artists and artisans from Treaty 7 and beyond. 

“About 800 people are expected at the event,” said Komery.

The event will also feature smudging and drumming.

“We’re expecting people that are curious and interested and looking for more information about residential schools, about reconciliation.”

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