'We're here to honour survivors:' Turtle Island Healing Walk returns to London, Ont.
Healing, hope and honour — those were the main themes expressed at the second annual Turtle Island Healing Walk through downtown London, Ont. on Canada Day.
“I think it shows that there's London has a lot of spirit and a lot of compassion,” said Grand Chief Joel Abram of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) referring to the diverse crowd at Victoria Park.
“It lets you know that, you know, the tide is turning in terms of recognizing the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples isn't what it should be It's sort of a reckoning, and having regular everyday Canadians come out support us means a lot.”
The day began with drumming, jingle dancing, speeches on the stage and then the walk.
London police closed Richmond Street as a sea of orange filled the road from the park to Oxford Street.
At the corner, another drum and dance ceremony was held, followed by the release of orange smoke as a way to honour and remember those who died in residential schools.
One residential school survivor took the stage to share her story.
Lyla Bruyere of Sarnia, Ont. attended St. Margaret’s Residential School in Fort Frances, Ont. in 1959 when she was six years old, until she was 14.
“Being a survivor, like I always said, are a part of a nightmare,” said Bruyere, who is now a residential school educator.
“I look at the good side, and I look at these people coming together and pulling together like all nations here, and we learn from each other, so that this doesn't happen again,” she added.
Bruyere was thrilled with the amount of laughter in the crowd. “Laughter is healing,” she said.
With a number of events taking place on Canada Day, organizer Alyssa Rose wasn’t sure what the turnout would look like.
She was thrilled when it surpassed a few thousand.
She expressed the need for local communities and ethnicities to continue to move forward together.
“I hope it continues to create awareness,” said Rose.
“But also, relationships between our communities and Indigenous communities because that has been missing for so long. So I hope that's what this brings is new friendships,” she added.
Over the past year Rose said there have been ongoing conversations surrounding residential schools and the discovery of the graves.
Hearing Bruyere’s story drives home the importance of telling the history of residential schools and those who suffered.
“These are real stories,” said Rose. “They're not just something that happened a long time ago, but it's still impacting everyone today who has been touched. When we go back to our homes or communities we see it. It's evident in all of our indigenous relatives. Everyone knows about it. So when we get to hear those stories, it's just that reminder that how real that actually was because there's the stories that are here today.”