More than about ‘one day’: Thousands attend South Island Powwow on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The South Island Powwow is pictured in Victoria on Sept. 30, 2023.

Chiefs, Elders and dignitaries from across Vancouver Island gathered at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria for the grand entrance of the South Island Powwow on Saturday.

The grand entrance honoured residential school survivors and the children that did not make it home, as part of this year’s National Truth and Reconciliation Day ceremonies.

“This is just another symbol, but it’s an important symbol of how critical it is for us to be working together,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto.

“We need to recognize the wrongs of the past but we also need to recognize the incredible resilience of the nations,” she said.

For those who came to witness the ceremonies, many were feeling both joy and sadness, given the historic tragedies of residential schools.

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The South Island Powwow is pictured in Victoria on Sept. 30, 2023.

“It’s a really important day for everybody to come out and be together, first of all, but to also… to share our cultural ceremony to allow people to understand what is normal for us,” said Brenna Emile, an Indigenous vendor at the powwow.

Indigenous children’s author Ren Louie added that it was important to remember that residential schools are a recent part of Canadian history.

“It’s so important to be here to honour the survivors and remember the victims of the residential schools,” he said.

“And it’s so important to recognize that, and you know, the residential schools only closed 27 years ago,” he said.

READ ALSO: A brief history of Vancouver Island’s five residential schools, and the children who died there

Orange Shirt Day Victoria organizers were happy to see how many people turned out wearing their shirts on Saturday.

More than 10,000 people were believed to be in attendance.

However, Orange Shirt Day Victoria organizer Eddy Charlie says he wants to see people acknowledge the painful history and impacts of residential schools beyond the national holiday.

“My hope is that people don’t just think that coming to commemorate residential school survivors is about one day,” he said. “It’s about recognizing that we need to talk about it constantly.”

With files from CHEK’s Tchadas Leo

The South Island Powwow is pictured in Victoria on Sept. 30, 2023.


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