On May 25, HD Stafford students gathered in a circle in the gym, around a group of lights where presenters stood.
Nisga’a Elder and residential school survivor Mercy Thomas opened the assembly as she shared the story of her childhood.
She recalled the experience of her parents having to hand her over to a residential school. She told students that for 10 years she only saw her family during summer breaks, the rest of the time was spent at the school.
In turn, students performed a short play displaying the difficulties of life in residential schools. Students also shared what Truth and Reconciliation meant to them.
Then a painting was unveiled as a gift to the school to show thanks for their dedication towards Truth and Reconciliation.
The painting was done by Stafford teacher, David Sandquist. It depicts a residential school survivor being welcomed back into her community with a blanket ceremony under a blossoming cherry tree.
In the reflection is the image of her as a girl with a nun behind her, silencing her —representing the loss of First Nation’s language.
The residential school stands behind her in the reflection only, a thing of the past. The blossoms in the tree above represent the healing that has begun because of Truth and Reconciliation. The painting will be displayed in the school’s foyer.
The assembly moved into a sharing of song and drumming. Finally, Kevin Kelly, speaking on behalf of Kwantlen Hereditary Chief Marilyn Gabriel, gave thanks to the members of the school and the students for participating in Truth and Reconciliation.
Langley schools have been on a journey of truth and reconciliation with several blanketing ceremonies and assemblies like this one. Former Langley school trustee Cecilia Reekie has dedicated the last year and a half to speaking at schools across the district and beyond about residential schools and the need for truth and reconciliation.
“We must continue the dialogue on reconciliation,” she said.
Her journey has led her to once again help organize the second Walk in Spirit of Reconciliation taking place this weekend in Fort Langley and Mission. Part of the weekend will visit a residential school that once operated in Mission.
On Friday, June 2, from 5:30 to 8:30, the public is asked to join in the walk which will go from the Historic Site to 88 Ave. at the TransCanada Trail to east of 264 Street.
On Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. the walk will go from 88 Avenue at the Matsqui Trail Park picnic area. On Sunday, at 2 p.m., the walk will go from the picnic area to Fraser Heritage Park where a closing ceremony will be followed by a feast.
The walk is supported by several churches including Willoughby Church, United Churches of Langley and the Christian Reformed Church.