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First Nations University of Canada hosts community smudge walk ahead of Sept. 30

A sea of orange circled the University of Regina and First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) campuses Thursday morning when more than 100 people took part in one of the largest smudge walks hosted by FNUC.

The walk was held to honour residential school survivors, as well as children who never made it home.

Star Blanket Cree Nation Chief Michael Starr, who took part in the walk, said ceremonies such as this walk also help communities heal from the impact of intergenerational trauma.

“It helps heal our people because we’re all together. We’re thinking the same thoughts,” Chief Starr said.

“If you see others, the way they are impacted, you try to absorb their energy, their good energy. There are a lot of good people around … so that’s my way of healing.”

Starr said these types of traditional gatherings have played a significant role for him and his community in the last nine months.

Last January, Star Blanket Cree Nation announced the findings of human remains and 2,000 anomalies around the former site of the Lebret residential school.

Starr said a team continues to gather research about former students and analyze the information.

He said they are hoping to find out just how many of the anomalies could be unmarked graves.

“Every one of our Indigenous people from all our nations are on different levels of healing,” he said.

Sarah Longman, board chair of Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS) Commemorative Association, helps with similar work to restore and honour the RIIS graveyard. She said work is always ongoing to educate people about the atrocities that took place in residential schools.

“Some of us will feel, ‘Well we didn’t have a role to play in that,’ but certainly our ancestors all had a role to play in that,” Longman said.

“It’s very difficult to step out of your grief and to become a teacher and educate so many other people who don’t know the history of what we’re dealing with.”

Longman called it a dark, uncomfortable history that will be top of mind on Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

She believes it is everyone’s responsibility to learn their ancestors’ roles in residential schools, whether it’s comfortable or not, and that learning should not stop after the month of September.

“It’s history that exists in our own backyard and a lot of times it’s much easier to process some of the truths, some of the atrocities, that have happened by distancing ourselves,” Longman said.

“When we look at other provinces, for example, and what they are finding, there is a certain amount of empathy. But, I think there is fear when we’re looking in our own backyard and seeing that this history lives right here.” Top Stories

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