Today is Truth and Reconciliation Day, which is an opportunity for the community to learn more about Indigenous culture and history. The Town of Strathmore is holding a reconciliation walk at 12:30 in Kinsmen Park, as well as a Kairos Blanket Exercise from 6:00-9:00 PM at Lord of all Lutheran Church.
Mayor Pat Fule says this day is an important day to reflect on Canada's history with Indigenous people and learn about some of their experiences.
"Truth and Reconciliation Day is a day about honesty. It's a chance for people to continue to learn what was done to Indigenous people, to hear about their experiences, and to learn what they need in order to recover from the residential school system. And then for us all to make honest commitments about what we can do and what we will do to achieve reconciliation," he said.
Fule explained that he and town council toured Old Son College, which used to be a residential school. They learned from Butch Wolfleg about some of the experiences he suffered through in his time at the school.
"He didn't have to go to the school, but he wanted to be with his cousin. And then when he got there and realized that it wasn't what he wanted, he was scared. And he wanted to get away. He was brought back and he relates the experiences that he had in his punishment, being put under a small stairwell with a board blocking it, and he had food and water given to him. And this is a 5 year old."
"The day gives us a chance to learn about things and so that we can make some real, honest commitments to try to help achieve reconciliation. I'm not sure we can totally achieve it, but we can sure try, and our town is always willing to try."
While today is a day to recognize the need for reconciliation, Fule said the Town's commitment to Indigenous people and Siksika Nation is an everyday thing that they constantly work towards, and have taken several steps to strengthen their relationship with Siksika.
This includes things like putting Siksika's flag in the council room, as well as naming one popular meeting room in the Municipal Building the Siksika room, which has Indigenous art on the walls, as well as a table that shows the river flowing through the Nation. There are also plans to raise Siksika's flag in front of the Municipal Building, alongside the Town of Strathmore, Alberta and Canada Flags.
The Town has also taken much more concrete steps, like the tripartite agreement with Siksika and the RCMP, as well as engaging with Siksika Elders on the smudging ceremony at the healing garden. Fule said he was especially proud of the work done at the hospital, which took a lot of effort and collaboration between the Town of Strathmore, Siksika Nation, and former Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
"We've been able to get a 24/7 Indigenous speaking liaison physician at our hospital in town here. And that just helps that much more with Siksika Elders who may have some problem with the language barrier, and it can also make them feel a lot more comfortable when they can get some information and help in their own language."
Through these actions and ongoing dialogue with Siksika Nation, Fule hopes to continue working to support Siksika Nation and strengthen the relationship between the Town and the Nation.
"We want to try to do anything we can to make things more safe, more accepting, more beneficial for Siksika Nation residents who come to Strathmore to shop or dine. We want to make this a comfortable community for them, but also for all cultures in town where we're looking at trying to come up with all sorts of actions that can be done to make us more and more welcoming and an inclusive community for all cultures."
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