Crow Shield Lodge Receives Community Donations On National Day Of Truth And Reconciliation

$1,610 will help local Indigenous lodge to continue its healing and educational work, says Kelly Welch

Kelly Welch (Muskwa Migizi Kwe) accepted community donations on behalf of Crow Shield Lodge. “I’m Anishinaabe Ojibway, with British and Irish ancestry as well. That mixed ancestry, to me, is reconciliation. Just existing is part of that reconciliation.”

Kelly Welch (Muskwa Migizi Kwe) accepted community donations on behalf of Crow Shield Lodge. “I’m Anishinaabe Ojibway, with British and Irish ancestry as well. That mixed ancestry, to me, is reconciliation. Just existing is part of that reconciliation.”

A local Indigenous healing and education centre received donations totalling $1,610 on Sept. 30, the inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Kelly Welch accepted three cheques on behalf of Crow Shield Lodge from the Canada Day in Wilmot committee chair, Angie Hallman. $600 was gifted by Quick Wick Fire Starter, $710 came from M&M Transfers and Design’s Every Child Matters orange t-shirt fundraiser, and $300 was donated by Canada Day in Wilmot.

After Welch mentioned her Canadian name, she added, “I’ll introduce myself as I’ve been taught in my language: Muskwa Migizi Kwe. What I shared with you is my Anishinaabe spirit name, which is Red Eagle Woman. I’m Crane Clan from Flying Post First Nation, in Treaty 9 territory. I’m Anishinaabe Ojibway, with British and Irish ancestry as well. That mixed ancestry, to me, is reconciliation. Just existing is part of that reconciliation.”

She spoke of her personal connection to the lodge’s founder, Clarence Cachagee.

“My grandmother and his great uncle were in the residential schools together. They survived, they came out, and then we are those next generations, still carrying on.”

Welch’s grandmother attended Chapleau Indian Residential School from the age of five, leaving more than a decade later at 16.

“Those intergenerational traumas have affected my family,” said Welch. “I didn’t know my culture. My healing journey brought me to healing lodges, and that has been life-changing for me.”

Canada Day in Wilmot is funded by local businesses, government grants, gate donations, and a community breakfast. Mother-of-three Hallman has led the local celebrations since 2016.

“Family, gratitude, and thankfulness are the reasons behind the volunteers of Canada Day. It’s a whole day focused on spending time with loved ones and being thankful,” she said.

Thousands usually attend the annual celebrations in Norm Hill Park, but this year’s planned events had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 restrictions that were in place in July. Indoor activities were forbidden, and no more than 10 people were allowed to gather outdoors, which ruled out the morning breakfast and fireworks finale in the evening, as well as the vendor market, bouncy castles, and live entertainment.

On May 27 came news from Kamloops, B.C. that 215 Indigenous children’s remains had been found in a burial site close to a former residential school, the first such announcement.

About 1,874 remains have been discovered so far in unmarked graves near 10 former schools. First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend one of Canada’s 139 institutions, the last of which closed in 1996.

The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report revealed that the Department of Indian Affairs didn’t return children’s bodies to families because of the expense, so they were buried near to the schools instead.

On June 17, the Canada Day in Wilmot committee said in a statement that it was unsure how to proceed, so it consulted local Indigenous residents. “They asked (us) to celebrate this year in a way that shows respect for Indigenous families during their time of mourning. Unanimously, we agreed.”

The committee created a public art display close to Hartman Bridge, with wooden maple leaf shapes that were decorated by local children.

New Hamburg’s Kristi Wagner, who attended the cheque presentation, said the May announcement was extremely distressing. She and her husband own N.W. Roofing, one of the businesses that provides financial support to Canada Day in Wilmot, and she’s also a French Immersion teacher at Sheppard P.S.

“I couldn’t even teach that day. I was in a stage of grief, and I feel like Canada needed to go through that.”

“It reminded me of the Holocaust that I learned about in Grade 7. I had no idea there was something that was parallel here in my own country. We definitely hadn’t learned about it in school.”

She supported the committee’s decision to tone down this year’s celebrations in light of the Kamloops news.

“I felt like the country was in mourning. It wasn’t time to have a birthday party for how long Europeans had made their mark here. Canada Day should be about the truth of our history and not just be about celebrating the 150 years since confederation. It should be about the people that were here, the people that were pushed away to make room for others. Canada Day now needs to be about recognizing what has happened here, and what we need to do to make amends.”

Local MP Tim Louis, who also attended the presentation, acknowledged the challenges of staging Canada Day celebrations in the wake of Kamloops.

“This year, those two worlds collided. Maybe there’s a way of marrying those two things. You can celebrate, and you can commemorate at the same time. People found respectful ways of doing things, but now we have time to have a discussion, nation to nation, and find out how we can work together.”

He welcomed the community’s donations to a local Indigenous organization.

“I think that’s just the nature of Canadians wanting to help each other and share,” he said. “Crow Shield Lodge is such an amazing place that’s very spiritual, very meaningful. I think it’s only fitting that as Canadians, if we’re going to celebrate, then we can share culture, and also funding as well.”

Welch explained the importance of the financial gifts.

“It’s where I came home, where I found my family, myself, my place. I’m really honoured that you want to help us continue that work.”