Snuneymuxw acting chief Bill Yoachim speaks with guests just before the start of the opening ceremonies at the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event Friday, Sept. 30, at Rotary Bowl stadium. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Snuneymuxw acting chief Bill Yoachim speaks with guests just before the start of the opening ceremonies at the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event Friday, Sept. 30, at Rotary Bowl stadium. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Community members in Nanaimo rally for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Ceremonies included reflections on Indigenous assimilation policies

Elders, community members, political figures and dignitaries gathered at Nanaimo’s stadium district plaza today to honour the second statutory holiday of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Snuneymuxw First Nation, the City of Nanaimo and Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools partnered together and asked the public to honour with them those impacted by government Indigenous assimilation policies, including residential and day schools.

“We stand before you, each and every one of you today, the Snuneymuxw people,” said acting chief Bill Yoachim. “Our ancestors are standing with us to make today possible … We wanted to share our commitment and share the lands with you that you’ll reside on … We’re here over a heavy subject about history. We’re here for those that never made it home. And we’re here for those that survived the horrors of residential school.”

Elder Yvonne Rigsby-Jones said the day is meant to celebrate the survivors as much as it is to honour the lost.

“Residential schools were invented to break down the family structures of our Indigenous people. And they did a pretty good job … So, for many years, we’ve been working hard in recovery … and many, many families have done a really good job,” she said.

She asked for people to show compassion and understanding when seeing those struggling with trauma and to “regain balance from the harm” through education.

“Maybe your world view can shift a little bit … Through education that world view is changing and I’m excited about that,” Rigsby-Jones said.

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools chairperson Charlene McKay said that “naming” places is a crucial step in the reconciliation process, as that adopting traditional names honours the language and culture of Indigenous peoples.

In early July, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools trustees approved the re-naming of the NDSS Community Field to Q’unq’inuqwstuxw (ki-kin-ish-took).

“It has so much meaning – ‘to pass back, to return’ – we often hear about giving back as a piece of reconciliation … Sometimes we want to give so much more than we’re able to, but naming is a piece that we can do,” she said. “And there will be a lot of people that do not understand when we change names back to traditional words … I know all of you are here today because you honour those changes in the community and I ask you to be brave and share why it’s important when you hear someone say ‘I don’t understand.’”

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, dedicated as Sept. 30, was first observed in 2013 to increase awareness of the residential school system and the impacts, including generational trauma, that it has had on Indigenous communities for more than a century. It was deemed a statutory holiday for federal government employees by the Parliament of Canada in 2021.

The Kuu-Us toll-free crisis line can be reached at 1-800-588-8717 and is available 24-7 to support all survivors and their families.

READ MORE: Snuneymuxw, City of Nanaimo, SD68 partner on Truth and Reconciliation Day event


mandy.moraes@nanaimobulletin.com

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