A progresion of indigenous people on the road

Why I’ll forever remember Truth & Reconciliation Day 2021

Editor’s note: The author is writing about a march from Tla’amin Nation lands to Willingdon Beach  in Powell River.

qathet Living, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

I attended the Truth and Reconciliation Day march on September 30. I was photographing it for qathet Living, so a lot of my attention was focused on taking pictures, however, there were multiple moments where I would stop and look around and be filled with a thousand different emotions. 

Cindy Pallen getting the crowd together for the march – photo by Abby Francis

A couple days prior to the march, I drove past Willingdon Beach, and had seen the dozens of orange shirts on all of the trees. I was speechless. My first feeling was being quite surprised at how many shirts there were. Then I saw the banner with big numbers on it – numbers that I wish didn’t have to exist. The feeling I left with was like a stab in the heart. 

Two men ready for the march, one holds a sign – Photo by Abby Francis

That experience left me with painful thoughts; why would anyone ever think it is okay to do that? To take children away from their homes, separate families, and have children be treated like that? It makes me feel angry, frustrated, and confused. 

The banner shows the numbers of the children who were found in the residential school graves – Photo by Abby Francis

Resources, land, racism, and money should never be the reasons to treat people, especially children, that badly. It’s so sickening to think that this was how things were back then, even now, in some places.

Relatives, neighbours, friends, and elders, every young First Nations person knows someone who had been affected by these schools. It is awful knowing that the people who we have so much respect for were disrespected and forced to unlearn the culture that so many of us cherish so deeply. 

Poles can be seen like this one across the march pathway. – photo by Abby Francis

It is up to those young First Nations to relearn our culture and listen to the ones we know have been disrespected, so that we can one day be able to pass on our culture to the future generations.

This group wears orange for the march. – photo by Abby Francis

On a lighter note, the number of people who participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Day march shocked me. I did not think the turn out would be that big (I estimate about 600 people marched). This left me with a couple different thoughts. For one I was overwhelmed, as I had not been around that many people in a couple years. I was also in awe because of the number of people who came and showed support. First Nations communities were hurt, and to this day those same communities continue to hurt. There will not ever be a way to fix that hurt, but there is a way to help it heal. 

The fists are raised in respect for the children who had died. – Photo by Abby Francis

That is the overall feeling I had from the march. The feeling of not only my community but other First Nations across Canada being able to start healing too. 

It is very difficult to heal alone though. Seeing people at the march from all over qathet really shows the connection Powell River and Tla’amin communities have. That, I believe, is something special. And is a big step towards reconciling. 

The woman in the back holds cedar, cedar was given to everyone in the march. – Photo by Abby Francis

It was an experience you really have to be there to fully understand. The extent of emotion a day like this brings is so powerful, meaningful, but also very sad. 

After going through the hundreds of photos I had taken that day, my final thought was gratitude. This was Canada’s first Truth and Reconciliation Day, a new chapter in history, and I got to be at and take part in our region’s march, with photos I will now have throughout my whole lifetime. 

Cindy Pallen glances over and smiles.- Photo by Abby Francis

I just wonder how Prime Minister Trudeau spent the day, seeing as it was a federal stat, and Parliament Hill was holding a ceremony to raise its flag in honour of these children?

This boy wears a traditional headdress and carries a sign during the march. – Photo by Abby Francis

Top photo credit: A mother brings her child back towards the march of people. – Photo by Abby Francis

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