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Walk planned in Bella Coola for Truth and Reconciliation Day

The federal government announced Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Bella Coola will be marked with a walk around the townsite, followed by speeches, a light lunch and traditional dancing.

The event will be hosted by Nuxalk Nation and centred around Nuxalk Hall Thursday, Sept. 30. The walk will start at the hall at 11 a.m. At noon there will be speeches and a light lunch catered by Phoenix Café with dancing to follow at 1 p.m. Those attending are asked to wear orange and bring your drums and regalia.

“We are really excited that we will all get the opportunity to observe the day and hear from some of the survivors and guest speakers who are on an amazing healing journey and willing to share that with us,” said Kirsten Milton, health director for the Nuxalk Nation.

She said the cultural team has been practicing cultural dances every week since the announcement of the 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School at the end of May 2021.

“It has been a scarey time and we were not sure if we would be able to continue with the event with all the provincial restrictions. It was sort of a week-to-week but I think we are still a go. Right now we are able to host the event because it will be outside weather permitting.”

She said they are also really happy that Phoenix Café was able to cater the event on such last-minute notice.

In July 2021, the federal government announced it had designated Sept. 30 the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a statutory holiday for federal employees and federally regulated workplaces.

While the day will not be a provincial statutory holiday, the B.C. government is directing “public schools… post-secondary institutions, research universities, Crown corporations and B.C. government offices,” to close.

Creating a national day of recognition was one of the 94 recommendations given by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and comes as unmarked graves continue to be discovered at the sites of former residential schools across Canada.

The last day in September was chosen as a nod to Orange Shirt Day, created in 2013 by Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation member Phyllis Webstad in remembrance of the children who attended residential schools.

The holiday invites B.C. residents to “learn more about the history and ongoing legacy of residential schools (and) have important conversations with their families, their friends, and their communities.”

Most private sector workplaces and businesses will remain open unless they individually choose to close for the day.

“Recognizing Sept. 30 this year is an interim measure while the Province begins to engage with Indigenous partners and the business and labour communities to determine the most appropriate way to commemorate this day going forward,” the statement added.

All public school and post-secondary institutions in B.C. have formally announced their Sept. 30 closures.

- with files from Black Press

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