To mark the first Truth and Reconciliation Day, an impromptu walk brought out hundreds wearing orange shirts who walked from the Penticton Peach to the Okanagan Nation’s Residential School Survivor Memorial on the Penticton Indian Band land.
The five-kilometre walk is equivalent to 6,000 steps in recognition of the over 6,000 children whose bodies were discovered in unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools this summer.
The residential school survivor memorial is located where many parents were forced to bring their children before they were taken away by train to either the Kamloops or Cranbrook residential schools.
More than 200 people of all ages, many of whom were not Indigenous, joined the walk on Thursday under raining skies.
Once they made their way to the memorial, members of the Penticton Indian Band and other bands, including residential school survivors and family members sang the Okanagan Song.
A few of those residential school survivors also spoke to those who gathered at the memorial. They spoke of the scars they still bore, many physical but just as many internal; they spoke of the nights they froze with a lack of proper clothes; they spoke of the hunger that they were forced to endure through their entire time at the schools.
They shared their experiences, something that many people could not imagine, and their hopes that non-Indigenous and Indigenous people could come together and learn and change for the better.
At 2:15 p.m., at the same time as other gatherings in Kamloops and across the country, a moment of silence was held for those first 215 children’s graves were found, who did not survive the residential schools, followed by a raising of voices in song.
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