'Reconcili-action': Indigenous speaker at Newmarket Truth and Reconciliation event hopes for change
Oct. 6, 2021
As grief continues to surface through the discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at residential schools, the hybrid word was used repeatedly during a rousing presentation by Barry Maracle at Newmarket’s Truth and Reconciliation event to signal hope for change.
Maracle, a fourth generation Spirit Filled believer in Jesus Christ and a Mohawk raised on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, spoke to more than 200 residents at Fairy Lake as part of Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Sept. 30.
The event also included Dr. Gerard Roberts, First Nations leader with the traditional name of Abouyou, of the Karina nations, and Peta-Gay (Tayaliti) Roberts of the Taino/Arawak First Nations.
They are the founders of the Indigenous worship bank OKAMA (okama.ca).
Maracle spoke of the “atrocities” committed against generations of Indigenous children forced into residential schools by authorities determined to “kill the Indian in the child.”
Now, as more Canadians become aware of the nation’s disturbing treatment of Indigenous peoples, it’s time to embrace “reconcili-action” by implementing the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Report.
“Mass grave after mass grave. Now, all these things have brought us to this day, a day of truth and a day of reconciliation,“ Maracle said, adding more graves are yet to be uncovered.
“We are here today for a day of truth, for a day of reconciliation and a day of reconcili-action. So much energy flow around these days and we cannot afford to waste these moments … The choice today is ours.”
There is a sense that the winter season is ending and a new era, one needing patience, kindness and understanding, is emerging, Maracle said.
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“Am I delusional, am I full of false hope? ... Do we have the audacity to dream of a better tomorrow? ... How can we work together to make this great nation so much better? ... Thank you for your time. Thank you for your hearts. Thank you for believing and hoping.”
Following the presentation, the crowds walked along the Nokiidaa Trail -- Nokiidaa being an Ojibwa term meaning “walking together” -- to the bridge by the town hall for the unveiling of an art installation, an act Maracle referred to as an action symbolizing crossing a bridge to a new day of opportunity.
But while there is hope, some are fearful little of substance will change.
Before Aurora’s Truth and Reconciliation event, traditional Anishinaabe grandmother Kim Wheatley spoke just 10 days after the federal election of her mistrust of meaningful action coming from Ottawa.
“Trudeau is a failure. He doesn’t walk his talk, he doesn’t honour our people and he didn’t deserve our vote the first time, the second time or this time … He’s done us wrong,” she said, saying he hasn’t prioritized acts of reconciliation.
“When is it going to happen? Where’s the money? Why don’t you show up to any of the dead children’s sites? Why don’t we have (clean) drinking water? This is your third time in your seat.”
Newmarket’s event also featured speeches from politicians.
Newly re-elected Liberal MP, Tony Van Bynen, called the gathering an opportunity to commemorate the survivors of residential schools and to allow space for Indigenous peoples to grieve those who never made it home.
“We all have the responsibility to learn, to listen and to act as we work together to ensure justice for Indigenous people prevails across Canada,” he said.
Mayor John Taylor, who years ago taught in an Indigenous community in Manitoba, said he saw the impacts of intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools and systemic racism.
“We're out here talking about reconciliation, and that makes me hopeful. I think what we're seeing right now is the broader Canadian community, for the first time ever, really paying attention,” he said.
“But if I leave everybody with one message today, it's that reconciliation makes us hopeful. But it's hard work and it takes decades and decades. And so we need to be committed to this as a community.”