The blessing and official opening of Penticton’s Rainbow Crosswalk brought representatives from the Penticton Indian Band, School District 67 and the City of Penticton down to Queen’s Park Elementary on Friday morning.
Despite visible damage from vandals who wasted no time in expressing their backward hate for the crosswalk, there was a strong positive atmosphere as the kids of Queen’s Park gathered in the schoolyard to watch the ceremony.
Elder Grace Greyeyes dedicated a prayer to the crosswalk and to all those it represents and the children.
“I asked the Creator, I thank him every day with my prayer, the same one I say everywhere I’m asked, thank the Creator for this day and for our land or the water that we drink, for the food that we eat and for the spirit animals who come all the time,” said Greyeyes. “I also thank the families, all of you and for the children that walk on this.
“They will be proud someday to say that I witnessed this. I won’t be here but they will.”
City councillors, Chief Greg Gabriel, SD67 Superintendent Todd Manuel and other members of the Penticton Indian Band, district and city were all present as Greyeyes cut the official ribbon for the crosswalk.
Nicole Simons, the teacher who started the push for the crosswalk when she was a teacher at Queen’s Park, was also in attendance.
“Well, it is for the children, youth and families within our community,” Simons said. “The crosswalk is representing love, kindness, and inclusion. Schools are a safe place for children and youth and families and we need to show that, and this crosswalk is a start.”
The process of putting the crosswalk together has been a year-long one, which required collaboration both with the school district and city, and also the Penticton Indian Band. At the end of the day, the wait has been worth it and the importance of showing the support for inclusivity is one that community leaders hope is not lost.
“We use picture books, and text to tell stories, stories are powerful,” said Simons. “We know that from our Indigenous peoples that storytelling teaches a lesson.
“This rainbow sidewalk with representation is also a story being told and it’s important for our children, our youth, our families to see themselves represented in text, in our schools, and in our community. And that is the big picture.”
Repairs for the damage done to the crosswalk are currently being worked on. Due to the damage the city has been communicating with the crosswalk’s manufacturer to find a way to do repairs, with one section of the crosswalk’s colourful covering worn down to asphalt underneath.
The city is also looking at ways to prevent further vandalism from happening. No plans have been decided yet and there is no timeline currently ready.
Even with a few marks on the crosswalk, there was no place for hate at the gathering.
“I hope that they hear what they did is wrong and they need to stand up and own it and apologize for what they did,” said Greyeyes.”
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