The Winds of Change Steering Committee has declared the week of Sept. 16 to 22 as the area’s first Reconciliation Week.
The intent of the observance, which will coincide with national hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada taking place in Vancouver, is to raise awareness of the impact of residential schooling on the community “in the hope that it will promote conversation, learning and reconciliation in our lives and our communities,” said a Monday (Sept. 9) press release.
“I really support this initiative by the Winds of Change,” said Lil’wat Nation Chief Lucinda Phillips in the release. “No one in our community is exempt from the impact of Residential School because of the intergenerational effects of the trauma. A campaign like Reconciliation Week is not only to educate others but it also represents another step in healing for the survivors by having their experiences acknowledged.”
Canada’s residential school system was designed to assimilate and integrate First Nations people into Canadian society, but many students faced horrible experiences and substandard education as a result. Stories of sexual, physical and mental abuse, illness and punishment for practicing Aboriginal culture are common among survivors of residential schools. For more than 80 years, up until 1981, Lil’wat children were sent to residential schools in Williams Lake, Kamloops and Mission, said the release.
Ursula Carus, the mental health team lead at Mount Currie’s Pqusnalhcw Health Centre, said she has seen first-hand the impact the residential school system had in the Lil’wat community.
“I’ve seen it affect the whole person – all four aspects of being – the spiritual, the physical, emotional, and mental,” said Carus. “In the wider community context, it affects relationships to family, relationships to community, and relationships with the land and spirit. The impact is profound. And the effect goes beyond the residential school survivors themselves. We call this ‘intergenerational trauma’ and not addressing it continues the disconnect of family, challenges in relationships and communication, and the perpetration of abuse.”
Winds of Change board member and Lil’wat Coun. Joanne John said in the release that there was broad support from Lil’wat elders to open up the discussion about the impacts of residential schools.
“Their feeling was that too many people don’t know the real story and if we can shed more light on the reality it could assist in releasing guilt, shame, blame and help with the healing process,” said John. “Personally, I think that the more the general public learns, they will begin to understand the true impacts of residential school and credit us with being a resilient people despite all that which has been sent our way.”
The Winds of Change will launch Reconciliation Week via its blog, the Wellness Almanac, located at www.thewellnessalmanac.com. Personal stories, essays, reviews of movies and books on the topic of Canada’s residential school system and live youth updates from the hearings in Vancouver will be among some of the content posted to the Wellness Almanac to help spark discussion.
The Winds of Change is a collaborative roundtable spearheaded by the Lil’wat Nation, Village of Pemberton and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Electoral Area C dedicated to addressing the harm and impact of addiction in the Pemberton and Mount Currie-area community.
Individuals experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience, or those with a loved one struggling with past trauma, are encouraged to call the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. Those calling the number can obtain access to emotional and crisis referral services and information on other available health resources.
Meanwhile, the Winds of Change has also announced Nov. 2 as the date for the fourth annual Wellness Gathering. This year’s event will take place at the Pemberton Community Centre.