Convoys from all over northwest B.C. arrived in Terrace on Monday, June 21, turning George Little Park into a sea of orange.
Hundreds of people wearing orange clothes gathered in the park on National Indigenous Peoples Day along with Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Kitsumkalum, Haisla and Kitselas First Nations, and a convoy of truckers and bikers from Kitimat to honour the 215 children whose remains were found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops in May.
Matt Woods-Louie from Tahltan First Nation, who helped organize a trucker convoy from Kitimat to Terrace, was inspired by the massive convoy that arrived in Kamloops from across the province earlier in June to honour the 215 children and their families. He put forward the idea of having a similar parade on June 21 and multiple northwest-based trucking companies responded to the call on social media.
READ MORE: Kitimat truck drivers rally together in honour of 215 bodies discovered at Kamloops Residential School
Several northwest First Nation groups gathered in Terrace to welcome truckers as they arrived on Monday afternoon.
A Nisga’a Nation group containing over a 100 people arrived from Gingolx village with members beating their drums to prayer songs and dancing in full regalia before they ceremoniously welcomed the truckers, bikers and bus drivers who arrived with the convoy.
Arlene Roberts, the representative of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society in Terrace and wife of Don Roberts, Kitsumkalum First Nation’s chief councillor, had extended invitations to residential school survivors and neighbouring northwest First Nation members.
After Roberts welcomed the gatherers to Kitsumkalum traditional territory, a Nisga’a chief from Gingolx opened the ceremony with a prayer. That was followed with people observing a moment of silence for two minutes and 15 seconds.
Some of the residential school survivors who were present at the gathering addressed the crowd and honoured the truckers by presenting them rosebuds made of cedar wood shavings for their efforts.
Different groups of people came forward and offered to help as soon as they heard about the event, said Roberts, listing several non-profit agencies, local businesses, the RCMP and local First Nation bands who provided logistical support.
There were also dedicated groups such as Kitsumkalum Health who went around distributing water, masks and hand sanitizers to the people, to ensure there was a “safety factor,” she said.
Roberts said that acknowledging the truckers was an important part of reconciliation because they took the initiative to honour the 215 children.
“They (the truckers) didn’t wait for anybody to do something…they all came together and said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do this to honour the babies,” she added.
Reconciliation was something that happened naturally and organically at the gathering as people from different races, walks of life and across northwest B.C. came together, said Stephanie Louié from Kermode Friendship Society who was one of the organizers.
“This is what reconciliation looks like,” said Louié about the event.
“These 215 children, were like lightning bolts, waking up Canada… and to be able to see our communities, move towards reconciliation naturally is incredible,” she added.
Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross, who arrived along with the convoy from Kitimat, also addressed the crowd and spoke about how recent events have ushered in a new wave of reconciliation with non-Indigenous and Indigenous people coming together and standing “side-by-side” to honour the children whose remains were found at the site of the former residential school.
“This will be the biggest symbol of reconciliation in my entire lifetime, to have Aboriginal and non-aboriginals standing side by side,” said Ross.
The Skeena MLA also applauded the efforts of the truckers and presented his tie – a BC legislature tie signed by him – to truck driver Matt Woods-Louie.
Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard