How Truth and Reconciliation Week Came to Be
While the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council (BUAPC) has, in the past, organized workshops for the community, Truth and Reconciliation Week was a departure in that it was immediately seen as a recurring event rather than a one-off with narrowly defined goals, such as research related to Indigenous employment or education in Brandon and how to improve outcomes.
The plan was to use the inaugural week to create a draft template for future years, as it is recognized that the work of reconciliation in Brandon and area, as in Canada, is only just beginning. Many agree that it will take several generations to right the wrongs of past policies that sought to erase Indigenous peoples and their cultures.
Most of the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council member organizations and institutions participated in some way or another in making Truth and Reconciliation Week an exceptional success. We also had much help from other community organizations. The week, initiated August 12, 2021, launched September 27, with closing ceremonies on October 1.
The creation story for Truth and Reconciliation Week 2021 involves pre-existing events and committees that overlap with BUAPC membership, while coinciding with the evolving and tragic watershed moment of the year: the very public detection of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and the federal government’s announcement of a new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The City of Brandon – mayor and council, as well as administration – is very sensitive to the matter of unmarked graves. The Brandon Indian Industrial/Residential School operated from 1895 to 1972. It was demolished in 2000, and work is ongoing related to the estimated 104 graves of Indigenous children who were taken from their families and communities as per federal policy. Further, the City of Brandon is actively working with Sioux Valley Dakota Nation with the work involved regarding the unmarked graves.
While in 2019 a committee largely made up of Brandon educational institutions came together to hold Indigenous Awareness and Education Week in late September, a committee spearheaded by the Brandon Friendship Centre had organized Orange Shirt Day since 2013.
In August 2021, after the federal government’s announcement of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the education committee met and decided unanimously that the week they envisioned would be “more” – more meaningful, more inclusive, and more accessible, with more learning opportunities and more relationship building. BUAPC staff took notes, planned five days based on the ideas generated, and began fundraising and managing the logistics of holding a days-long outdoor event at the Riverbank Discovery Centre.
The Riverbank Discovery Centre, a nature preserve along the Assiniboine River, is a recreational and tourism hub for Brandon and the larger Westman region. It is also, according to Elders BUAPC works with, a site where Indigenous people camped and traded long before Brandon existed.
The objectives of Truth and Reconciliation Week are:
- To honour:
- the Indigenous children who never made it home;
- the Indigenous children who made it home but would not survive the damge done to them;
- the Indigenous children who made it through despite the life-long scars in and on their persons inflicted by horrifying policies made real or, worse, nightmares, by people willing to enact and abuse those policies;
- the Indigenous children and children's children of the survivors who continue to live with the consequences of those policies, including what is now ingrained in Canadian systems and society; and
- the families and communities from whom the children were stolen.
- To offer immersive learning opportunities, free to all Brandon residents, steeped in Indigenous history, perspectives and culture.
- To build stronger relationships among Brandon's diverse population and the Indigenous people who have lived on these lands for millenia, rooted in mutual respect and understanding.
- To bring the community together in the spirit of reconciliation, based on truths of the past.