Awareness walk and inclusive pow-wow set for Truth and Reconciliation Day

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

A special awareness walk and all-inclusive pow-wow will bring people together to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this year.

Scheduled for Friday, September 30, the entire event is the result of numerous businesses, organizations and groups, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, coming together to recognize the need for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. The organization of the event is a co-operative effort, and Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre (GHAC)’s Sam Korzinski said that, unlike last year, 2022 gave them plenty of time to plan out a large-scale event.

“Last year, because they declared that a holiday so late, we only had about a month to plan that walk last year,” Korzinski recalled.

“So this year we had so much more time to plan, so I started contacting other agencies in the area back in May, just to see if they’d be interested in partnering again. Actually we ended up with three more partners this year, so that increased the funds that we were able to access, so we thought we could do something even bigger this year, especially since we had all these additional agencies partnering together. That’s what’s kind of neat about this; we have so many different agencies partnering together.”

The plans for the day kick off with the Awareness Walk that is scheduled for the morning of Sept. 30, which will begin at 9:00 a.m. at the Sorting Gap Marina and proceed along the riverfront and highway to the memorial site at the Nanicost building on Couchiching First Nation. Korzinski said the walk will be structured in a way that participants can make tobacco offerings along the path, as well as first aid, snack and water stations. There will also be Orange Shirts available for the first 500 participants who show up for the walk.

Once at the Nanicost grounds, the day moves into its second phase.

“When we get to the memorial site, we have two of our elders who will share their survivor stories,” Korzinski said.

“Then we also have 500 lunches to give out, first-come first-serve. We’re also going to have kids activities going on, booths set up from different agencies with resources and information, and then at 2:00 p.m. the pow-wow will start.”

The pow-wow taking place at the Nanicost grounds will run from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., with a fish fry scheduled for 5:00 p.m. and is open to all, and Korzinski stressed that they really do mean “all.”

“That’s one of the big things, that’s why we’ve been posting on Facebook and everything; we want to make sure that everyone knows this is an all-inclusive event,” she said.

“You do not need to be Indigenous to come to it. That’s what part of this day is about, bringing everyone together. That’s why it’s so important that we have our elders, that we have stories being shared, so everyone can further understand what the day is about.”

Korzinski said the reception to the planned events has already been quite enthusiastic. Not only have businesses and other organizations joined in, but she said she’s even heard from local schools who will be bringing their students to the event as well.

“It sounds like we have about 400 students coming to the walk, and that’s just students,” she said.

“It’s been really awesome to have that support from the schools.”

Adding in the large number of student participates, and looking back on the turnout from some of the previous awareness walks in the area, Korzinski said it’s not outside the realm of possibility that 1,000 people could wind up taking part in this year’s walk and powwow for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“It’s just been fantastic to see what people are willing to do,” Korzinski said.

“I’ve had lots of people in the community reaching out and wanting to volunteer and be part of the day. Seeing all these different agencies being able to work together for one big cause is amazing. We’ve had quite a few businesses in Fort Frances that have been willing to help us out, like the Rendez-Vous and Betty’s. It’s just a huge help, I didn’t think it would get this big, but it’s awesome that we’re able to do something so big for the community.”

According to the Facebook event set up for this month’s walk and powwow, some of the organizations and agencies taking part include GHAC, the United Native Friendship Centre, Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services, Shooniya Wa-Biitong, the Fort Frances branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Seven Generations Education Institute, Agency One First Nations Lands, Treaty three Police Services, the Ontario Provincial Police and Weechi-It-Te-Win Family services

The themes of Truth and Reconciliation are not new in Canada, having been widely announced in 2015 following an extensive research period and resulting in the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action report. However, over the past few years they have come to the forefront of public thought both inside and outside of Indigenous communities following the re-discovery of lost graves at many former residential school sites across the country. Korzinski said she believes part of the immense response to this year’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation events in the area is that the public at large is beginning to better understand the impacts of residential schools and other injustices committed against Indigenous peoples in Canada.

“I think people are finally starting to accept that we need to make a change,” she said.

“We need to accept that these things happened and we need to bridge that gap and allow for healing. That’s what a big part of this day is about: healing and bringing everyone together. A big part of education is remembering those people that went through all that, the survivors, the ones that didn’t get to make it home and not pushing things under the rug. Acknowledging that these things happened, and what can we do going forward to make it better and to support people?”

this year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation promises to be full of activities that will bring communities together, and Korzinski said she’s grateful to all of the volunteers, businesses, organizations and agencies who have also come together to help make the event what it is.

“I can’t explain how grateful I am to have all of these other agencies to partner with, that we can make this happen,” Korzinski said.

“Everyone has been just so vital in making this day happen, and everyone is really taking time out of their schedules to do this. To me, that just shows how much this community is changing for the better.”