Yellowknife has a new “legacy space” to honour those affected by the residential school system and educate people about the impacts the system has had on Indigenous communities.
The space, located in Scotiabank’s Yellowknife branch, was unveiled on Wednesday morning. It was created in partnership with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, a national organization – founded in memory the late Tragically Hip frontman and a young Anishinaabe boy who died after escaping residential school – that seeks to further reconciliation within Canada.
The legacy space is one of a series but the first to be established in Canada’s North. It features an image of Chanie Wenjack and paintings by Indigenous NWT artist Angus Beaulieu, alongside information about Downie, Wenjack, and residential schools.
Dettah Chief Edward Sangris attended the unveiling ceremony, cutting a ribbon alongside Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty.
Sangris said he felt the space “was a good thing to do.”
“In the past, Aboriginal people have taken a lot of abuse and mistreatment,” he said. “Through reconciliation … we reconcile with society and hopefully we can move forward and work together in the future.”
Alty said reconciliation is “about more than just governments.”
“It’s all residents being involved, and businesses,” she said. “It’s great to have this space … for people who are going about their daily business and taking that moment to pause and reflect on our history.”
The Yellowknives Dene First Nation is in talks with City of Yellowknife and territorial government to create a monument remembering residential school survivors and those who were lost, NNSL first reported earlier this week.
Erecting a monument would be a response to the 82nd of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.
The 82nd call to action states: “We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”
Dettah Chief Edward Sangris. Meaghan Brackenbury/Cabin Radio
Sangris, right, with Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty. Wednesday was Orange Shirt Day, recognizing the impact of residential schools. Meaghan Brackenbury/Cabin Radio
Chief Sangris said the city and First Nation are in the early stages of making arrangements for a monument. The First Nation has applied for federal funding to help cover projected costs.
“Every place where they had residential schools should have some sort of a monument to honour the people that were there,” Sangris said.
The city’s residential school, Akaitcho Hall, was established in 1958 and closed in 1994. It later became a dormitory for Sir John Franklin High School students who travelled from beyond Yellowknife to study.
“I don’t believe any capital in Canada has done that yet, so we’d like to be one of the first,” said Alty, asked about the plan to establish a monument.
“Future generations might not know anything about what our parents and our grandparents went through,” said Sangris.
“This is something that we need to do in order to reconcile with society.”