Monday saw residential school survivors honoured across the country, with Orange Shirt Day.
In Portage, a ceremony was held at the Keeshkeemaquah Centre.
The keynote speaker was Senator Mary Jane McCallum, who was taken to a residential school as a young girl. She spoke at length to the gathering, and tells us about her message.
“Going through life that we adopt certain behaviours to cope with what we had to deal with at the time,” she says. “And that now we have to unlearn what we’ve been taught, and learn more healthier behaviours, so that we can move ahead.”
Portage school students took part, as well as students from Winnipeg’s Kelvin High School. Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches says it means a lot.
“They’re great agents of change,” he says. “We’re witnessing a lot of young people step forward, and it’s really promising to see them get involved, and help acknowledge our shirt day is a blessing to have them here, so they can understand a bit of the history of residential schools.”
Mayor Irvine Ferris donned an orange shirt, and talks about the importance of participating.
Residential schools impact not just the survivors and their families, but the entire community,” he says. “A lot of the issues that we’re grappling with today are a direct result of seven generations of young people being sent away to residential schools. It’s about empowerment, and I’m really encouraged by what I heard, and what I saw this morning.”