National Day for Truth and Reconciliation events well received by West Lake residents

Staff provided presentations and traditional First Nations food to everyone Sept. 30 in honour of the day

West Lake Terrace residents are expressing their gratitude to the Prince Edward County long-term care home’s staff members for hosting events in recognition of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honours the people of Canada’s First Nations who survived the residential school system. The day also serves as a reminder of the children who did not return home from residential schools.

As part of the day, West Lake Terrace residents were introduced to contemporary and traditional First Nations food and attended information sessions focused on First Nations traditions and culture.

Residents enjoyed a lunch that featured three sisters soup, which contains squash, corn and beans, as well as fried tacos and sweetened bannock with berries for dessert.

Life enrichment co-ordinator Janie Denard and life enrichment aide Elaine Goheen delivered a presentation to residents about First Nations cultural traditions that included videos of dancing and powwows.

The video presentation also featured an interview with a residential school survivor.

Residents say they enjoyed the food and the presentations.

Resident Doris Woodall says she was “thankful to be able to taste and experience some traditional Indigenous food.”

Another resident, Shirley Ball, thanked Janie and Elaine for their presentation, noting “it was a good learning experience for me.”

In fact, the day brought back some fond memories for Shirley, whose husband was of Mohawk ancestry, Janie notes.

“She said they used to do smudging in their house and that it was great to think about those times she spent with her husband,” Janie says.

Smudging is a rite practised by many First Nations communities. During a smudging ceremony, smoke from burning sacred plants, such as cedar, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco, is used for purification.

The day was also informative for West Lake Terrace staff members, Janie notes.

“They were very supportive; they thought it was a great idea that we involved the residents in honouring this day,” she says.

Before changing the name to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Sept. 30 was called Orange Shirt Day.

The colour orange has significance. In 1973, Phyllis Webstad, a then-six-year-old First Nations student from B.C., had an orange shirt taken from her by teachers at the residential school she attended.

Orange Shirt Day was first acknowledged on Sept. 30, 2013, to raise awareness of the injustices First Nations, Inuit and Métis people faced in residential schools.

Orange has been designated as the colour of remembrance of the children who didn’t return home from residential schools.

Residents and staff members were encouraged to wear orange shirts in recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Nearly all staff members wore orange shirts, Janie says.

“Staff members across all shifts participated and wore their orange shirts and were very supportive of the day,” Janie says.

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