Fernie turned out on Canada Day, with residents lining 2nd and 3rd Avenue for a reconciliation walk led by community leaders from theYaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation and the City of Fernie.
The community came together for prayer and ceremony at City Hall to focus on Indigenous reconciliation, which has been front and centre across Canada in light of recent discoveries of unmarked burial sites at multiple Residential Schools.
Nasukin Gravelle of the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡI ‘it made comments before and after the walk, talking about the wisdom passed down by community elders and the pain the community was feeling, asking for unity and understanding.
“Every discovery opens up that wound, and puts salt in that would every time because it hasn’t closed, and until all of the children come home, those wounds will not close,” she said.
“We’re not asking for pity, we’re asking for understanding, acknowledgement and to stand with us, to walk with us.”
Nasukin Gravelle said that the living reality for Indigenous communities across Canada was “not history, because it’s still happening today.”
Nasukin Gravelle said that the turnout at the walk and the town residents that lined 2nd and 3rd Avenue spoke volumes, saying it was a start in a long journey of understanding.
“I’m grateful for everybody that came here today, I’m grateful for my family, my children, my partner. I’m grateful to still have them, I’m grateful my kids weren’t taken from me. But that’s not the case for everybody, and it’s still happening today. There’s the child welfare system, there’s the justice system. The atrocities didn’t end with residential schools – they still happen, and we’re asking for your help.”
Mayor Ange Qualizza also spoke, saying that she couldn’t have been more proud of the community for its turnout. Qualizza has committed to making Indigenous reconciliation a permanent part of Canada Day in Fernie, saying reconciliation “wasn’t an either-or situation.”
The walk was through the centre of downtown Fernie, starting and finishing at City Hall. Walkers were led by a drum group and community leaders, and the entire event was closed with traditional song.
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