Page 6 - Presbyterian Connection
P. 6

6 FALL 2021
 Travelling into the Past
  By Vivian Ketchum, originating from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation of Northern Ontario, a member of Place of Hope Presbyterian Church
in Winnipeg, Man., and former member of the Life and Mission Agency Committee
It has been over two weeks since I came back from my B.C. trip with my friends. An emotional trip that took courage to walk into our past. A caravan of Indigenous mothers and grandmothers. Some of us were Residential School Survivors and leaders of the community. A journey doesn’t begin with one step, it begins with taking action. Let me explain how our journey started.
News of the 215 graves began to ripple through social media. I got a message online from Geraldine Shin- goose, or “Gramma” Shingoose as she is referred to in the Grassroots community. She was extremely upset at the news of little ones being found in unmarked graves in Kamloops. Gramma is a Residential School Survivor and has shared her story in schools. She attended a Catholic- run Residential School. I suggested we tie orange ribbons at St. Mary’s Catholic Church downtown. A ribbon for each child; and that the ribbons be tied by Residential School Survi- vors. Gramma Shingoose liked the idea and we agreed to meet at the church later that day. Once there, Gramma Shingoose smudged the ribbons before we tied them onto the fence. Other Residential School Survivors came to help. Once the or- ange ribbons were on the fence and the doors of the church, Gramma Shingoose sang a song on her drum. Tears were running down her face as
she sang to the little ones. An em- powering moment that had others wanting to do more for the 215 little ones found.
Alaya McIvor, a youth grassroots member, wanted to set up a Sacred Fire for four days at the Manitoba Legislative Building grounds for the 215 little ones found in Kamloops. The Sacred Fire stayed lit from May 29 to June 2. Alaya set up the Fire after asking the grandmothers of the community for permission. The Fire burned for four days at the Legisla- tive Building grounds and people gathered to offer prayers. Residen- tial School Survivors and the general public came by to offer their support and put shoes by the Legislative Building steps. Survivors came from as far away as Northern Manitoba and Ontario.
After the four days of mourning at the Sacred Fire, Gramma Shin- goose decided to travel to Kamloops to give the Sacred Fire’s ashes to
the Tk’emlúps te Secwe’pemc com- munity. The Sacred Fire held all the prayers of people that came down to the Legislative Building grounds during the four days. Gramma Shin- goose put a call out for items to be put in the Sacred Bundle. A copper Vessel for the Sacred Fire’s ashes. Treaty One Territory flag, Métis sash, items for children like infant mocca- sins and a Star Blanket. Four Sacred medicines—Sage, Tobacco, Sweet grass and Cedar. Medicine bags and other items were added to the Bun- dle.
Then Gramma Shingoose con- tacted me again asking if I wanted to travel to B.C. to take the items to Tk’emlúps te Secwe’pemc. She was organizing a caravan of mothers and grandmothers to go on the trip. Some of them were Residential School Survivors and their children and grandchildren. We left on June 28 to head west. Our trip was sponsored by various Indigenous organizations and individuals in Winnipeg. Our first stop was at Cowessess First Nation, where 751 unmarked graves were found. Beautiful scenery greeted us as we entered the territory. Then as the caravan pulled onto the grounds where the unmarked graves were, it was heartbreaking to see the little or- ange flags over the field. Little stuffed toys next to some of them. The grandmothers and mothers spoke of being overcome with emotion at see- ing the flags. The group gathered at the far end of the field after walking through the orange flags. (We asked for permission from the commu- nity members before doing so.) The women sat down in the shade of the trees to sing and drum for the little ones. Then we walked back to where the tipi was for the welcoming cer- emony to greet us. At the end of the day, we left with heavy hearts and thoughts of what we had witnessed.
The caravan of women decided to take a few days off once we had reached Kamloops. On the day of giving the Sacred Bundle over to Tk’emlúps te Secwe’pemc, it was smudged by Gramma Shingoose with the help of the women. Then we drove to the Kamloops Residential School memorial site. Again, seeing the stuffed toys and gifts placed by the memorial site was heart-wrench- ing. Especially with the school loom- ing in the background. It looked so similar to the school I had attended as a child. There was a ceremony held to give the Sacred Bundle to the Chief, Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlúps
te Secwe’pemc, and members of the council. The caravan of women were greeted warmly by the Chief and members of her band.
The caravan of grandmothers and mothers began the long trip home east, changed by our experiences and what we saw around us. We had to support each other on this journey that was filled with tears and sorrow. We each came home with stories, as Gramma Shingoose liked to describe it. Stories of how a group of Residen- tial School Survivors went to console a community down west. Of the lit- tle ones they connected with through songs and tears.
   A Journey to Kamloops
 By David Phillips, St. Andrew’s– Chalmers Presbyterian Church in Uxbridge, Ont.
The congregation of St. Andrew’s– Chalmers Presbyterian Church in Uxbridge, Ont., decided to help bring light to the discovery of the unidenti- fied graves at the former Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., along with the painful history of Residential Schools overall, by taking on a challenge that invited participants to walk, bike, swim, run,
or use any non-motorized means to cover 215 kilometres.
The congregation set a goal to log 3,969 km, which is the distance between St. Andrew’s–Chalmers church and the site of the former Kamloops Residential School cem- etery. This goal was set with the ex- press intent to remember the children and work towards reconciliation. It was not a challenge to see who could do the most, or be the fastest, or to raise funds. It was strictly to raise awareness.
There were 34 people involved—22 members from the church and 12 people from the community.
The accomplishment was great. We covered 4,974.74 kilometres, exceeding our goal by 265.73 km. We crossed Ontario, the Prairies then to Kamloops Residential School. Our journey continued and we went to Vancouver and Victoria finishing in Alberni, the site of The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s westernmost Residential School.

   4   5   6   7   8