Grade 6 students from École Ste-Marguerite Bourgeoys joined students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School for a walk to the Cecilia Jeffrey School Memorial to honour the dozens of students who were forced into the residential school system.
"I thought it was very beautiful," said STAHS Grade 11 student Ally Manzie. "It was a great way to include the Anishinaabe teachings and culture into our school. It's really important in our school community and actually our society and across Canada, to learn about that culture."
The walk was part of Catholic Education Week and Kenora Catholic's "Journeying in Hope and Reconciliation." For the eight weeks leading up to Catholic Education Week, schools across Kenora Catholic have been learning about the residential school system in Canada.
"The gathering at the Cecilia Jeffrey Memorial was an important encounter at a holy place all of us need to remember is there. Truth and Reconciliation is not a destination, or an 8 week learning event, but an attitude and a stance that says we value our Anishinaabe and Metis brothers and sisters and truly want to honour the Treaty that we are a part of," said Religious and Family Life Coordinator Mariette Martineau.
Students began the morning with a prayer service in the foyer of the school. Following the service, they walked to the memorial site, which is at the corner of Airport Road and Valley Drive. There they were met by Elders Larry Henry and Bert Landon from Grand Council Treaty #3 who spoke with students about the residential schools and their experiences.
"I thought the prayer song [by Elder Bert Landon] was really nice. It takes a lot of courage, especially for someone who's been through what they've been through. They stood up and talked about their experience and then they did the song and that really stood out to me," said Manzie.
While the walk was the culmination of the eight week "Journey in Hope and Reconciliation", Martineau emphasized that the work they are doing has only just begun.
"This land on which the Memorial sits is home to a sad chapter of Canadian history that is still impacting so deeply our brothers and sisters today and therefore impacting us all," she said. "Standing in solidarity as treaty people means standing together, and praying to the creator for hope and courage to live better together."