Returning the children ‘powerful’ ceremony
The returning of the children ceremony on Treaty Day (July 6) was a very powerful and emotional ceremony for Lac Seul First Nation.
A group of drummers waited with their sticks at the ready, the sun was just coming out, and the Returning the Children ceremony was about to begin.
Chief Clifford Bull of Lac Seul First Nation and an RCMP officer began the walk towards the drummers, followed by about 100 residential school survivors.
The survivors formed a circle around the drummers, and the ceremony began.
Community members watched quietly as the ceremony continued with songs of healing, comments and testimonials from visitors and community members.
Organizer Garnet Angeconeb said the event was quite emotional, and that it brought back a lot of memories.
There was a sudden roar of a floatplane’s engine overhead.
Two planes flew over Archie’s Landing and landed on the right and left docks beside the causeway leading to Kejick Bay – one plane holding officials, the other held children from Lac Seul.
Angeconeb said the ceremony came as a vision to him years ago. He pictured a gathering at Archie’s Landing in LSFN, and a plane landed at the edge of the water.
Out of the plane stepped an Indian agent, a government representative and a member of the church. The chief and council greeted them, and the chief announced:
“They are bringing our children home!”
“Today we acted out that dream, it was very emotional and brought back some memories,” said Angeconeb. “When the children were reunited with their families, it was very symbolic of Lac Seul bringing its children home.”
Angeconeb said the ceremony was a way of teaching their youth the history of their people, about their resilience, and their victory.
“We want to start talking about our communities and the need to heal,” said Angeconeb.
“In many ways acknowledging the past and having the people become well is a positive way to address the effects of residential school.”
“Garnet’s returning the children was a very moving and very powerful ceremony,” said Bull.
He said it brought back memories of him coming back on the plane with his brown bag.
He recalled a feeling of exhilaration when he returned to his community.
Nadia McLaren, an artist and filmmaker, said that Angeconeb is a powerful, visionary man for arranging the ceremony.
“He’s a man who literally moves mountains with his kindness, a trailblazer,” said McLaren.
Terry Lynne Jewell, a member of the Sioux Lookout Coalition for Reconciliation and Healing, said it was a joy to be a part of the ceremony on treaty day.
“I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like having children being away from your community and what it must’ve been like when they were returned home on the planes,” said Jewell in a short speech addressing the community.
She said that it was important that all people in Canada understand the residential school story because it is “part of our Canadian story.”
“We all need to understand and be a part of the healing,” said Jewell.
Rotary exchange students from Europe were in attendance at the event, as well as a visitor from Australia.
Angeconeb saw this as a great opportunity for people to tell the story of his people.
“The message is loud and clear, and this ceremony was witnessed by so many that will spread the word that as a people we are coming back,” said Angeconeb.
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