On September 30th, members of our Tsleil-Waututh community, and our family members from Musqueam and Squamish, will take part in a pilgrimage walk to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Walking from our Tsleil-Waututh Reserve, located along Dollarton Highway in North Vancouver, our community members and staff will walk 8.5 kilometres to the site of the former St. Paul’s Residential School, now the site of St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary School.
The purpose of our walk is to create healing for our community and to hold up multiple generations of our Tsleil-Waututh Elders and youth. Those taking part will be remembering and honouring the children who attended St. Paul’s Residential School and who did not return home. Many of our community members will be walking the actual path that their relatives took every day to “school”. As a way to honour those children and retrace their steps, Residential and Day School survivors and their families will participate in this walk.
“When we talk about those in Residential and Day Schools, some may think it goes way back in history, but it doesn’t. It goes back to one generation in my family,” says Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Jen Thomas. “My dad went to St. Paul’s Indian Residential School. I’m grateful he survived. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here today… I am grateful for the work that has yet to be done.”
Elder Stan Thomas attended St. Paul’s and is taking part in the walk, saying “Today, I feel the strength of the community as we took the journey here together to face this day with one heart and one mind. I have had a flood of memories of this place with the recent news. I am the youngest of eight children, and I was the last to go to residential school out of my siblings. I was only six years old when I left my home in Tsleil-Waututh to come to St. Paul’s residential school.”
Along the journey, the public is invited to create a wall of protection and line up along 3rd Street as well as Cotton Rd in front Park and Tilford in North Vancouver. If the public would like to make a donation to Residential and Day School Survivors in the Tsleil-Waututh community, they can do so here.
“We ask that you respect this healing journey that we will walk together for our people. We also ask that you take this time to embrace not only the Tsleil-Waututh truth, but the truth of Indigenous communities across Canada. This is not history, this is the legacy of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people that spanned hundreds of years up until 1996, the effects of which we see today,” says cultural leader Gabriel George. “Community members of all ages will be in attendance, including Elders that attended St. Paul’s Residential School. You will see the resilience of our people, and get a small glimpse of the journey our elder’s and survivors walked. We ask that you reflect and commit to taking some form of action towards Reconciliation. Be a part of moving this country meaningfully from a dark past to a bright future.”