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Here's how Edmontonians marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

From a new garden on the Alberta Legislature Grounds, to cultural performances and history lessons – people in the Edmonton area marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with different events over the weekend.

The federal holiday is recognized on Sept. 30 and was created as a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a way to commemorate residential school victims and survivors, as well as their families and communities.

Fort Edmonton Park has closed for the season, but up to 3,000 visitors were welcomed Saturday to take in the Indigenous Peoples' Experience.

"Every new face that comes in and interacts with the content for the first time, they learn something that maybe they didn’t know, and they can take that learning and take it out into the community," said Renée Williams of the Fort Edmonton Management Company. 

Indigenous staff brought knowledge and history to guests, sharing insight on art, symbolism, treaties and their continuing impact.

"Sometimes really difficult questions that we engage with the individual, it comes from a place of having that open heart and open mind about the future of our Indigenous people," said Pamela Greene, an Indigenous history interpreter.

"It is very heavy stuff, but it’s stuff that’s happened," said visitor Darryl Davies. "We have to recognize it, and we have to come to terms with it and move forward together."

Pamela Greene shared Indigenous knowledge and history with visitors to Fort Edmonton Park's Indigenous Peoples' Experience on Saturday. (Jeremy Thompson/CTV News Edmonton)

'WE ARE SCHOLARS'

Saturday, the Telus World of Science Edmonton (TWOSE) offered free admission for Indigenous visitors.

Several activities were offered, combining western science with Indigenous ways of thinking and seeing.

"I strongly believe there is a connection between the non-Indigenous and the Indigenous aspects of world teachings," said Elder Brent Burnstick. "We are scholars, we are star-seekers, we're philosophers, we're doctors – just like in the western concept of the world today."

Visitors could learn about the night sky by creating a Cree constellation viewer, or they could learn about coding and computational thinking through beading, said TWOSE president and CEO Constance Scarlett.

"Using Indigenous knowledge is another way we can understand the world around us," Scarlett said. "It also provides an interesting access point into scientific concepts as well."

"The opportunities for that exchange of knowledge are really limitless."

An artisan's market at the Telus World of Science Edmonton on Saturday offered different hand-made products from Indigenous vendors. (John Hanson/CTV News Edmonton)

'IT DOES MY HEART GOOD'

Runners and walkers were at Kinsmen Park Saturday to raise money and awareness for people impacted by Canada's residential school system.

Race director Anita Cardinal said the annual Orange Shirt Day Run/Walk brings together people from many walks of life to work toward reconciliation.

"I think that is an individual as well as a community obligation," Cardinal said. "We're coming together as a community to learn from one another, to listen and learn, amplify and centre Indigenous voices."

More than 600 people helped raise more than $13,500. The money will go to the Orange Shirt Society and to promoting and supporting Indigenous athletes.

"It does my heart good to see the support," said Elder Terry Lusty.

Lusty spent nine years in a residential school in Manitoba, and he shared his story with runners and walkers before the race.

"It's not a way for a child to have to grow up," he said.

"We want to remember, reflect on those years that we spent in residential school and pray to creator that this kind of situation never occurs again."

Elder Terry Lusty shares his story with hundreds of people at the third annual Orange Shirt Day Run/Walk on Saturday. (Jessica Robb/CTV News Edmonton)

'WORKING TOGETHER'

The weekend began Friday with Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led grassroots initiative to raise awareness of the impacts of residential schools.

At the Alberta legislature, Indigenous Elders were among the dignitaries to unveil the Kihciy Maskikiy/Aakaakmotaani garden on the east lawn.

The name combines Cree and Blackfoot words, translating to "sacred medicine/save many people," which the government said is a place to reflect, seek guidance and find solace.

Alberta’s new official residential school monument, a stone sculpture called Mother Earth Circling, was unveiled.

It was created by Saddle Lake Cree Nation artist Stewart Steinhauer, and commissioned as part of the TRC's 82nd Call to Action, which asks all provinces to host monuments in honour of the victims and survivors of residential schools.

"This garden is an incredible example of the work that we are focusing on towards truth and reconciliation, and we must accomplish that by working together," said Elder Bernie Makokis from Saddle Lake Cree Nation

"When you maximize resources and collaborate, we reach that goal much faster…I am thankful we were able to create this beautiful space."

The garden includes a linden tree, a medicine wheel and small footprints pressed into a pathway, a symbol of the many children who did not return home from residential schools. 

The new reconciliation garden to honour residential school survivors in Edmonton on Friday September 29, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

'A PATHWAY TO RECONCILIATION'

Friday, students across Edmonton spent the morning learning about the past and moving toward reconciliation with a ceremony based at Victoria School of the Arts.

The event was broadcast to all public schools in the city and featured cultural performances and messages from students and an elder. Commitments to ongoing reconciliation through education were also shared by officials.

"We are committed to deepening our understanding of Indigenous knowing and being, of learning about the past, of learning ways of honouring our commitments going forward," said board chair Trisha Estabrooks.

"Every one of our kids here today and the 115,000 students at Edmonton Public Schools deserves a future, a place in our community and a pathway to reconciliation," said superintendent Darrel Robertson.

Edmonton Public Schools honour National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at Victoria School on September 29, 2023. (Amanda Anderson/CTV News Edmonton)

'IT HELPS DURING THOSE TOUGH TIMES'

In Sir Winston Churchill Square Friday afternoon, Edmonton police officers hosted the Hand-In-Hand event, where they met with the public and served soup and bannock.

"It's a special time for us, it's a commitment," Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee told CTV News Edmonton, adding the event was about reflecting, learning and improving the future.

"When you get a chance to sit down with your community and have a dialogue in the good times and build those relationships, it helps during those tough times."

McFee said EPS is always looking to hire more Indigenous officers and is working to further understanding of generational trauma among all of his employees.

A complete list of events happening over the weekend is available here.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson, Alex Antoneshyn, John Hanson, David Mitchell, Jessica Robb and Jeremy Thompson

Edmonton police officers serve soup and bannock in Churchill Square on September 29, 2023 for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. (John Hanson/CTV News Edmonton)

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