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Truth and Reconciliation Bobcaygeon raising awareness of local Indigenous history

KAWARTHA LAKES- Sherry Telford has lived in Bobcaygeon all her life. Until recently she says she had no idea of the history of Canada’s Indigenous people locally. “I didn’t see the history right here, I saw it in other places. I think I didn’t see it because I had another lens on. We are trying to provide another lens.”

Telford is part of the Truth and Reconciliation Bobcaygeon, Committee. The group is holding a series of four events to raise awareness this summer. The first was Monday night at Kawartha Settlers Village in Bobcaygeon.

A presentation of “The Secret Path” a documentary by musician Gord Downey was the opening night piece. The film highlights the life of Chanie Wenjack, a 12 year old Ojibway boy from Ogoki Post who died while trying to run away from a residential school in Kenora.  Indigenous children, forced to attend residential schools far from their families, would often run away. Nine others ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School that same day as Chanie, all “caught” within 24 hours.

After the screening, the attendees broke out into a circle to discuss the film and the issues surrounding Truth and Reconciliation.

Between 1880 and 1996, 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their homes and forced to live in residential schools, banned from speaking their native language or talking about their culture.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released in 2015 found life in these schools was “lonely and alien.” They say the “buildings were poorly located, poorly built, and poorly maintained. The staff was limited in numbers, often poorly trained, and not adequately supervised. Many schools were poorly heated and poorly ventilated, and the diet was meagre and of poor quality. Discipline was harsh, and daily life was highly regimented. Aboriginal languages and cultures were deni- grated and suppressed. The educational goals of the schools were limited and confused, and usually reflected a low regard for the intellectual capabilities of Aboriginal people.” The last school, operated by the Canadian Government, closed in 1996.

Click here to read the report: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf

In the Kawartha Lakes it was at least 12,000 years ago the First Peoples migrated into the area, soon after the retreat of the ice sheet. Their arrival was documented by archaeologists on Rice lake and Stony Lake near Burleigh Falls. According to Truth and Reconciliation Bobcaygeon these sites are some of the earliest human habitations found in Ontario. “We are really trying to be mindful and respectful to the fact that these are Indigenous lands. We are treaty people and the more we learn about that and the more conversation we have around that, hopefully the better job we will do respecting that.” says Telford.

Truth And Reconciliation Bobcaygeon believes The Kawartha’s hold a spiritual and cultural meaning for Indigenous people. Ceremonial and burial sites were used for hundreds of years. Jacob Island on Pigeon lake is one of these “special” places according to james Conolly, Professor of Archaeology at Trent University. Another important local site is the Teaching Rocks or Petroglyphs near Woodview. Early evidence from 2500 years ago has been uncovered on Big Boyd Island near Bobcaygeon and a ceremonial centre from about 2000 years ago can be found at Serpent Mounds on Rice Lake.

French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in the Kawartha’s is 1615. Find out more about his exploration and relationship with Indigenous people here: http://www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/400-champlain-exploration-of-ontario/

There are three more educational events planned at Kawartha Settlers Village over the summer. All events start at 7pm.

July 17th-Insights from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation, community workshop.

August 7th-Curve Lake Treaties video presentation.

August 21st-The Language of Reconciliation, community workshop.

Telford feels these are an important first step. “The workshops are an opportunity to further our understanding of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. It’s a long journey”

For more information and to find out more about the history and origins of Indigenous people locally click here: https://trcbob.wordpress.com


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Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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