Film Screening and Panel Discussion: Canadian Residential Schools: Their Survivors and Their Descendants
On Monday, September 27th, the #RisingYouth program held a special film screening and panel event in recognition of Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this week. Kayla Rosteski-Merasty, host and Northern and Indigenous Advisory Panel Liaison for the #RisingYouth program shared this reflection as she opened the event, which included heartfelt prayers by Elder Mary Lee:
“Orange Shirt Day is on September 30th and it opens the door to global conversation on all aspects of residential schools. It’s an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of residential schools and the legacy that they left behind, a discussion all Canadians can tune into and create bridges to each other for reconciliation, a day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter and so do those that have been affected. Every child matters, even if they are an adult now.”
In the spirit of that education, the Orange Shirt Day Toolkit was discussed as a valuable resource to support those important conversations. The toolkit includes approvable ideas and budgets related to Orange Shirt Day and the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. (You can also find a toolkit with approvable projects related to the TRC Calls to Action).
“Everyone has a different voice, but everyone’s story is so powerful.” — Alicia Morrow
This national day of remembrance is about coming together, sharing stories and learning from each other. #RisingYouth Alumni Alicia Morrow of the Comeback Society talked about her nonprofit and podcast and what guides her work, explaining, “A lot of the time we only hear about the bad about indigenous people. We talk about the deep dark and the ugly, but we rarely focus on what they are doing now and how they overcame that.”
“It’s so important to amplify stories of excellence, as much as we reveal the truth.” Kayla Rosteski-Merasty
As part of revealing the truth, Dwight Ballantyne of the Ballantyne Project created an important documentary sharing the truth of residential schools, along with presentations that shine a light on issues of the divide between remote reserves and urban settings. Through presentations and filmmaking, Dwight Ballantyne found his voice, after feeling invisible and voiceless in his home community.
“When I do my presentations, I focus on the positive because us Indigenous people, we already know about the bad times.” — Dwight Ballantyne
The #RisingYouth event screened Ballantyne’s project, Canadian Residential Schools: The Survivors and Their Descendants, a film about residential schools, including archival footage and original narration based on stories from his community.
Creating the film was a journey of weaving together that footage, those memories and also research to create something that would tell important stories. As part of the event, we learned about another incredible journey, that of B’yauling Toni.
B’yauling Toni, a non-Indigenous student, hosted a moccasin making workshop alongside a knowledge keeper, with a goal to make a pair of moccasins for every federally recognized residential school in Saskatchewan. Twenty youth came together to make twenty pairs of infant moccasins which were delivered to each residential school site.
The journey took 24 days by bicycle and was called “Moccasins for Remembrance.” Its goals were to raise money for the Orange Shirt Society, to tell the story of residential schools and support survivors in telling their stories, to connect with Indigenous communities and celebrate their cultures and to pay homage to the survivors and the children who never made it home.
Each of these projects share the stories of survivors and raise awareness of residential school issues. Each participant had their own reasons to do this important work and so did our host.
“When I moved here, many people didn’t even know what a residential school was, let alone a reserve. There’s a big divide. We are the way we are because of Canada’s history.” — Dwight Ballantyne
“I grew up and I didn’t really even know much about it, my grandparents were in a residential school but it was never talked about. It’s so important for me to share about the residential schools because as an indigenous person and my family not knowing, how many other non-indigenous people might not understand or know the history and like the realities of what indigenous people faced?” — Alicia Morrow
“I think that when people are aware they can come at it from a different type of understanding. From there that can create empathy and sympathy for the current situation, because all of our kin are on their own independent healing journeys. We’re not all at the same place.”
“Non-indigenous people: it’s on us to take that first step in building a relationship. Often it’s still left to Indigenous people to really push and get the truth out there. There needs to be a lot more allies and non-indigenous people who take it as their responsibility because just as a Canadian, just growing up here, I benefit from colonization, I benefit from genocide. I have an innate role to play to facilitate healing. That’s part of who I am as a Canadian. It’s not some special thing I’m doing. I think that’s really important for non-indigenous people to understand that we are now in a position where we need to facilitate the healing process.”
Following more prayers from Elder Mary Lee, host Kayla Rosteski-Merasty left the audience with a compelling quote from Honorable Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “Education got us into this mess and education will get us out.”
That wisdom also came through in words from B’yauling Toni when he shared, “We can’t know how to facilitate healing if we don’t understand what even happened, because it’s covered up. That truth needs to come out before there can be a relationship built.”
This powerful film, the insightful conversation and the stories of these travellers on the road to Reconciliation were all intended to help achieve the goal of building relationships and understanding. Watch the whole event right here for yourself and enjoy this gathering of hope for the future:
Thank you to Alison Tedford for authoring this blog post summarizing the event, and to everyone involved for their participation.