The Indigenous Eats food truck is raising funds and awareness for residential school survivors and victims.
The fundraiser was inspired by Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest proclaiming Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 Truth and Reconciliation Week, said Indigenous Eats food truck managers Darian and Caitlin Kennedy.
“We have been passionate about spreading awareness. We decided we wanted to do something to help with Every Child Matters and spread awareness,” Caitlin said. “I noticed back when the Kamloops school was searched, you saw it all on social media. Now it’s starting to fade away.”
For the fundraiser, the food truck will first be parked at Waywayseecappo Gas Bar on Monday and Tuesday, followed by a stop Sept. 24 at Livingstone Landscaping before heading back to the Waywayseecappo Gas Bar on Sept. 25.
During the event, Indigenous Eats will be offering large tacos for $10. Funds raised will be allocated by the Brandon Friendship Centre. Orange Every Child Matters T-shirts will also be available at the food truck and Brandon Friendship Centre for $25.
Darian said he hopes to see as many people as possible attend the fundraiser and help start and maintain conversations about the horrific legacy of residential schools in Canada.
The fundraiser has been informed by the duo’s work with the Brandon Residential Schools Cemeteries Project based out of Simon Fraser University. The project’s goal is to bring the bodies of children discovered at former schools back to their communities and families so they can be buried with their relatives. He noted the future of each unmarked grave will be decided by individual First Nations.
In June, when graves were discovered in Kamloops, Darian saw an overwhelming urgency, including at the Brandon Residential School Cemeteries Project, in regards to unmarked graves.
The discoveries demonstrated the need for Indigenous voices in Canada and highlighted gaps in the country’s education system that failed to address the traumatic history of residential schools.
“Remembering the children should be at the forefront for everyone. We need to understand why the children are there in the first place. It’s because they were deemed a problem and the residential school was the solution. It was inhumane and it was wrong,” Darian said. “It’s reflected in how they were disposed of.”
Unmarked graves continue to be found at former residential schools, Caitlin said, and she wants to see people continue to engage as the number of confirmed unmarked graves rises. Each grave contains a child who was unable to return home and whose family was left wondering what happened to them.
“We’re all still mourning those children. The survivors still have to live with the trauma,” Caitlin said. “It’s never going to be done. It’s never going to end. We’re always going to be mourning those children that never made it home.”
It is difficult and uncomfortable having these conversations about the traumas that occurred at residential schools, Darian said, but there is a need to understand and unpack how these traumas ripple through to contemporary society.
Canada is getting better in terms of understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, but hard work remains in regard to reconciliation.
“With Indigenous Eats programs, with the Friendship Centre and other great programs across Canada, I feel like we can have hope,” Darian said. “I see a problem here and I think about it as if they were my own children. We need to find a solution because we need to give dignity to the ones that lost their lives at the residential school.”
The food truck serves as a way to connect and share culture in a positive way, Caitlin said. She shared a story of Indigenous Eats visiting the Dakota Tipi First Nation for a powwow. During the celebrations, they interacted with visitors trying bannock and attending a powwow for the first time.
“That’s exactly what we want. We want them to come and be friends with us and get to know our culture and learn,” Caitlin said.
For those affected by the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools across Canada, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun