The healing walk acts as a spark for a week of honour, remembrance

Sitansisk First Nation’s Farah Brooks danced on Fredericton’s Bill Thorpe Pedestrian Bridge in her fringed dress on Wednesday, followed by a crowd of classmates and community members wearing orange t-shirts.

Brooks, who is in 4th grade, said she felt happy dancing and singing during the walk.

« It’s for the kids who haven’t come home, » Brooks said.

Wolastoqi elder Imelda Perley said hearing the jingles coming down from the bridge, she couldn’t help but be moved.

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Fredericton’s Bill Thorpe Pedestrian Bridge served as a gathering place for Indigenous peoples and their allies to march and remember those who never returned home.

A healing walk involving Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School, George Street Middle School, Under One Sky Friendship Center, University of New Brunswick and community members took place in Fredericton on Wednesday.

Brooks was part of a group of four who sang the song Forgiveness. She said they trained for a week to prepare.

Prayers, speeches from community leaders, an offering of tobacco, and song and dance were part of the ceremony to honor residential school survivors and children who did not return home.

Wolastoqi elder Imelda Perley said she couldn’t help but be moved when she heard jingles coming down from the bridge. (Edwin Hunter/CBC)

Perley said that march was the spark of the whole week. She didn’t want the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to last just one day, so they started preparing the children in early September, she said.

« Bridging the Gap of Misunderstanding »

« The idea is to never forget – that it’s not just September 30, » Perley said. « So it’s [why] I wanted it to be a permanent memory to make sure we lived for those who didn’t. »

The idea for the march was also in honor of Perley’s own brother, who was taken to Shubenacadie Indian Residential School and did not survive.

She really wanted the healing walk to be a « witness », which is why the bridge was chosen.

On Wednesday, students and community members lined the Bill Thorpe Pedestrian Bridge after meeting in the middle and listening to songs and speeches. (Hannah Rudderham/CBC)

« If it’s just us Indigenous people doing it for ourselves, then that’s not an act of reconciliation, is it? » Perley said.

« That’s why I wanted to make it as public as possible and use the bridge as this symbol to bridge the gap of misunderstanding. »

Annual event

The Healing Walk will be an annual event and she hopes that next year people will be able to stretch to the Westmorland Street Bridge.

For Perley, the event combines two action elements – acknowledging the river’s name as Wolastoq and having children be the leaders in this regard.

She said 215 children’s footprint decals, containing the words « I’m sorry », have already been ordered for next year. His goal is to have them on the sidewalks, at the Willie O’Ree Center and in the Prime Minister’s Office.

« I really want that awareness, » Perley said. « And that’s where the healing comes, when we have witnesses. »


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