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Walk in qathet region raises emotions for Tla’amin residents

Participants asked to wear orange to honour children who survived residential schools, and those who did not

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day take place on September 30, with ceremonies happening across the country, including the qathet region.

A majority of Tla'amin Nation elders have lived through residential schools that were federally operated in Canada between 1867 and 1996.

“This year, we will once again be walking from Tis’kwat (Townsite, old hospital site) to ah joo miexw (Willington Beach) for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation/Orange Shirt Day, Saturday, September 30,” said organizer and counsellor at qathetSafe Cyndi Pallen. “This day raises a lot of emotions for many of our Tla’amin peoples, as many reflect back to our own lived experiences and thinking of all the relatives who were taken away to residential schools.”

The walk begins at 2:15 pm in recognition of when the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation (Kamloops) announced, in May of 2021, that ground-penetrating radar had detected what are believed to be 215 unmarked burial sites. 

“I have been organizing this for the past couple of years, and this year we are gathering a bit earlier at 2 pm,” said Pallen. “We will start the walk at 2:15 pm, that was the time children were found in Kamloops.”

Pallen invites the qathet community to join the one-hour walk, wear orange to honour the children who survived the residential schools and remember those who did not.

“I work with qathetSafe now, and I do a lot of work with people who have experienced grief, loss and trauma on a personal level,” said Pallen. “We work on the frontlines so we are the ones who hear the stories.”

Pallen said there is a recognition on the federal government level to transfer jurisdiction to First Nations people for health and healing.

“That’s one of the 94 calls to action implemented by the government, however, in saying that, it’s our role and responsibility to communicate about this [impacts of residential schools and 94 calls to action] on behalf of those who walked before us,” said Pallen. 

According to the government of Canada website: “The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a response to call to action 80, which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration; and Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day intended to raise awareness of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of residential schools.”

The closing ceremony will be at the Willingdon Beach Rotary Pavilion, at 3:30 pm, honouring National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and the 94 calls to action, with guest speakers.

“I have been a service provider for most of my life, and I am grateful for the continued teaching of our elders, who I continue working with today,” said Pallen. “We will continue our journey to wellness and raise awareness on how First Nations people have been impacted. It is our role and responsibility to continue the communication on the 94 calls to action, implemented by the government, and what this means for our neighbours and this community we reside in.”

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