By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

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Despite the continuous rain, ?Aq’am community (formerly known as St. Mary’s Indian Band) successfully held the Truth and Reconciliation Walk and Pow Wow event on September 30. 

“We knew that it was going to be an annual event that we hold. This year was the third year,” said Denise Birdstone, ?Aq’am’s language and culture manager. She is one of the organizers of the event.

The walk towards the top of Crying Hill started at 10 a.m. on the school grounds of St. Eugene Mission Resort, a former residential school in Cranbrook. Birdstone explained the hill was aptly called Crying Hill because from the top point of view, people could see the residential school, and when the kids were about to be dropped off at the school, some who were at the top of the hill would cry.

“We had speakers of former residential school students speak. And they ranged in age from mid-60s to 80s. We listened to a number of speakers, and then the people came back down,” she added. 

After the walk, people had lunch at the resort and went to the Dan Joe Memorial Gym, where they had an ?Aq’am traditional Pow Wow featuring dancers and drummers.

“We’re guessing we had up to 500 people in attendance for the walk, and we had about 300 people stay to participate [in the Pow Wow],” Birdstone said. 

She added that despite the constant drizzling rain, they had a significant turnout. The ?Aq’am community was amazed and happy by the number of people who participated. 

When asked about what Truth and Reconciliation Day meant to her, Birdstone said, “That’s a hard one. I think it’s just a time to reflect on the past. And to recognize that each person has their own story. We need to respect those stories. And from those stories, [we must] learn and grow. At some point, we need to reconcile the truth of our history with our current lives. And when that day comes for each person, then we can know when it’s time to reconcile,” she stated. 

Birdstone explained that reconciliation is an ongoing learning process for everyone. 

“Our lives continue to change every day. There’s a change of some sort. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact change or what it should be. So, I think it’s an evolving process. It’s going to take time, but we will evolve. And for each of us individually, when we have come to the point of reconciliation, we will know it,” she concluded. 

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(Photo submitted)

(Photo submitted)